Alessandro Pistone recalls the good, and not so good, times at Newcastle United
Alessandro Pistone arrived at Newcastle in summer 1997.
Signed from Inter Milan, the defender was brought in by Kenny Dalglish for £4.5m as he brought changes to the team inherited from Kevin Keegan.
The previous season had seen Dalglish come in mid-season after Keegan resigned, Newcastle finishing Premier League runners-up for the second time in a row.
I remember on first look, Alessandro Pistone impressed as a stylish left-back, but after a handful of games I seem to recall he filled in at centre-back against Wimbledon. After getting a bit of a going over by the very physical Dons, I think fair to say he maybe never ever recovered from that experience.
Pistone went on to make 46 appearance for Newcastle and shared the distinction of being one of those sidelined by Ruud Gullit, alongside the likes of Alan Shearer and Robert Lee.
Talking about his time on Tyneside he says the 1998 FA Cup final (Newcastle 0 Arsenal 2) was one of his ‘best memories’.
He later went on to spend some seven years at Everton after a loan spell at Venezia.
Not drinking alcohol was a barrier to mixing socially with the majority of the squad and he didn’t appreciate the weather much – but despite this he loved it in England and especially at Newcastle, saying ‘Weather apart, it was beautiful. Newcastle is a very nice city, with clubs, pubs and restaurants. It’s a university’s city so the lifestyle was good for a 22-year-old guy.’
As for the Newcastle supporters, Alessandro Pistone (pictured above attempting to restrain Ketsbaia after his infamous assault on the advertising hoarding) describes them as ‘special’ and sums up the one club/one city intensity we have on Tyneside when declaring ‘I’ve never met a Newcastle citizen who was not a Newcastle fan.’
Alessandro Pistone taking to Planet Football:
“At that time (1997), only a few Italian players had left Italy to go abroad, I was one of the youngest, but I always wanted to play abroad so Newcastle was a big opportunity for me.
“In those years Newcastle had one of the best teams in the Premier League and the year before I arrived they’d only lost out on the title in the last few matches.
“It was a big team with great players so I couldn’t miss the opportunity but living there was not easy for me.
“It was cold, rainy and windy most of the time, and when I moved there was I alone, because my girlfriend, who is now my wife, was still a student.
“I didn’t speak English and I drunk, and still drink, only water, so even the pubs were not the best places for me.
“It was OK but I never felt part of the group, it was much easier going out with the other foreign players as they experienced the same problems. But I don’t blame the English players, it’s just normal it to be that way.
“Weather apart, it was beautiful. Newcastle is a very nice city, with clubs, pubs and restaurants. It’s a university’s city so the lifestyle was good for a 22-year-old guy.
“Then there are the fans, who were and still are special. They live for Newcastle United. I’ve never met a Newcastle citizen who was not a Newcastle fan.
“The mood at the club was wonderful, we were convinced we could do something great and we started really well, but during the season we had some problems. Still, we reached the FA Cup final which is one of my best memories of being in England.
“We (Pistone and Ruud Gullit) didn’t like each other but I never understood why. Generally speaking, I think he was a good coach, but when he arrived he picked up more than 10 players and cast them aside without a word.
“He left out Shearer. Imagine that. In January I needed to play and there was an opportunity to join Venezia, but in a normal situation I would never have left Newcastle because I was living my dream.”
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