Newcastle United – Who Needs Modern Technology?
From missing late goals and early goals to almost missing an entire game.
Tuesday 1st January 1991 – Oldham away
In 1991 you didn’t need a ticket (usually) so a few of us decided a couple of days beforehand that we’d go to this game and I’d drive, hangover permitting. It should have been straight forward really as no SKY television back then to cause chaos with fixtures and given we were in Division 2 (The Championship, young un) it wouldn’t have interested any TV execs anyway.
So New Year’s Day morning arrives, maybe about 10 o’clock, and with not too much of a thick head I check the teletext given that NUFC.com hadn’t yet been invented. All I wanted to do was double check the game was still on. Imagine my surprise when I look down the fixture list and next to our game are the dreaded digits ‘1.30pm KO’ and not the expected 3pm. To say panic set in, would be an understatement. A couple of quick phone calls using an old fashioned telephone attached to the wall in the house, no speed dial or fancy ring tones, and I’ve rallied the lads who can’t believe the schoolboy error we’ve made.
I’d had to get from Blaydon to Kingston Park first and the A1 didn’t go that far at the time, so what would now take about 5 minutes took about 15. By the time I’d sorted myself out and picked everyone up it would have been well after half eleven before we’d even hit the Western By-Pass. As we arrive at Boundary Park there’s an air of quiet in the surrounding streets, so much so that I’m able to drive the car straight onto the wasteland behind the away end, doubling as a car park, and leave it literally 20 yards from the turnstile.
Somehow we’d managed to only miss about the first 20 minutes or so but the drama wasn’t over. We then discover the game had been made ‘All Ticket’, so not only have we misjudged the KO time but we don’t even have tickets.
This is where lady luck briefly shone down from the heavens, which unfortunately didn’t last until the final whistle – more of that to come!! It seemed we weren’t the only ones to have been caught out as there were half a dozen kiddas talking to a steward next to an exit gate as we approached the ground. I had absolutely no idea how we were going to blag it as bullshit is not my strongest attribute.
I still cannot explain why or how this happened but the gate opened and the other lads and my own posse just walked straight in, up the stairs and found ourselves stood at the back of the terracing where the Newcastle fans had been housed just in front of a seated area. The people controlling the gate just allowed us to push past and in, free entry, happy days.
So there we were, Toon fans behind the goal to our left and we were along the side of the pitch maybe level with the 18 yard line. I have a vague recollection of Micky Quinn slotting home a goal in front of the Newcastle end although I could be wrong, so it must have been a second half opener. The reason I suspect that, is the following is as vivid as my balding head is now.
Newcastle had played on a plastic pitch many times before but as yet had never won. The closest to that being 4-0 up at half-time at QPR and somehow managing to go on to draw 5-5. This was possibly our last chance to win on plastic as rules were going to be implemented to ban them. 89 minutes are on the clock when the ball falls to Mark bloody Stimson, his blonde hair standing out like a beacon at the far end of the pitch. Time seemed to stand still as he threaded a back pass (which goalies were allowed to pick up in them days) just out of the outstretched reach of that midget 40+ year old keeper of ours John Burridge (he was rubbish and I never liked him) and into the corner of the net, 1-1 and followed swiftly by the final whistle, bollocks!!
Looking back to days before the internet, mobile phones and SKY television, it’s amazing we managed to plan anything that didn’t coincide with 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. I also remember bumping into my future match day mate while celebrating Quinn’s goal on that New Year’s Day in 1991. I knew him from work and within a couple of years we were inseparable match day buddies. In my next instalment I’ll explain the rationale behind the living legend that became Bilbao!!
PS Yesterday my mother happened to comment to my sisters about my manicure, “I’ve never known your nails be so long”. It was at this juncture that I pointed out it had been almost 4 weeks since Newcastle’s last competitive match. I rest my case your honour!!!
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