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Opinion

Do you remember the first time…

4 weeks ago
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Before kick-off on Sunday, I was in a rush of dealing with my newborn son. Keen to settle in and show him his first Newcastle United game….albeit on TV.

At a few days old I’d given him a brief football experience when we sat through an early hours BT Sport showing of Newcastle v Barca from 97.

I’d been whispering to him we’ll never see the like again at least until he reaches my age!

Back to Spurs and just as it kicked off, I reminded him not to expect a similar performance to 1997’s heroics, against last season’s champions league finalists…although one similarity being we did have a South American talisman.

I was met with a doe-eyed stare of trust.

Whilst for me the turmoil of the summer and opening games had already penetrated my usual early season enthusiasm.

From moment one, the match settled into a familiar pattern of Newcastle away games. Geordies with backs against the wall, playing a top six side, in a style we’d got so accustomed to under Rafa Benitez.

Although I’ve told him about Rafa, I’ve made sure I’ve haven’t said the unspeakable FCB’s name around my newborn yet! Hopefully FCB will be a distant memory by the time my son is speaking.

The first early warning that this might be our day came when Longstaff slipped through and didn’t half lash a shot…only a firm hand from Lloris kept the Geordie lad at bay. I had my son resting between my knees and had to fight every instinct not to strain up and almost celebrate…he would have remembered that goal had it gone in. And I would of been told off by the Mrs…as it happened I got a scolded look that gave way to amusement. Mental note not to get carried away.

When Saint-Maximin went off I told him this is what happens with Newcastle…we sign flair players then they get crocked a-la Siem De Jong and Luque. I was wary of my negativity rubbing off on him at a week old. But alas Saint Maximin’s departure meant the arrival of Atsu and I’m sure we all had a collective sigh. The son had one but that may have just meant time for a new bottle.

We couldn’t have been more wrong…Atsu was brilliant, he was a great outlet and seemed stronger and quicker than the Spurs players, the same for messrs Joelinton and Almiron. That moment when Almiron absolutely rinsed Danny Rose for pace running off the pitch to go around him and made him look like a hungover Sunday league player…

All over the pitch there were little signs that our boys were starting to link up nicely, more triangles than a tin of Quality Street.

The Joelinton goal…lovely work by Atsu and our South American talisman was in! Unusually for an under pressure Newcastle striker he absolutely buried it. Cue another jump up but this time I’d prepared and the baby was in my arms. We sat back down and waved arms (well I waved his) but what a moment. He’d just seen his first Newcastle goal at seven days old…of course he’ll remember it!

We made it to half-time and thought no doubt Spurs will come out fighting the next 45, wary of what they did to Villa from a similar position last week (1-0 down, 3-1 up). My pub level analysis aside, I said to my boy this is where Bruce earns his money. I got a smile but it was probably only wind rather than an endorsement of Steve Bruce. Probably the same for the rest of us.

The tension grew and minutes seemed to pass in an age but the Newcastle line was holding firm against the cockney onslaught. I was nervously dancing my legs…the little one was calm and nodded off…clearly he didn’t know that Newcastle always throw it away.

Then the penalty decision. I mean it probably was a penner but we were saved by VAR. I mean that kind of luck never goes our way. This little one was surely a good luck charm.

Only the 200 miles away the orange-clad Geordies were putting in a Herculean shift. Joelinton held off several cockneys at a time sending them rolling to the ground. He looked more and more able to fill the Rondon gap. Bruce in contrast to the ice cold Pochettino looked like he was melting. Like a replay of the Father Ted over 75 priest football final, one side cool calm and a pulse under 50…the other…well maybe Bruce has fake arms and a mind like Dougal.

It was crawling by. Tick tock tick tock…no last minute surprises either on the pitch or in the nappy….the only one to wet themselves was me at the indication of six minutes of stoppage time! Surely that was where Newcastle would cave…Christian Eriksen was prowling but our outlet of Muto and Almiron kept Spurs on their toes.

The glorious final whistle blew and the away end went into raptures with  ‘who’s that team we call united’ ringing out. I looked down and told him, don’t get used to it..just enjoy your 100% record for the time being.

I could let my son pick his own team to follow, he has been born in Manchester after all – but where’s the fun in that?

I loved sharing this with him, I want to share many more. Can’t wait to take him to St James Park or get him his first kit and find out who his favourite players are.

We loved the match and it really put the fun back into football. The season is up and running and enjoy the win.

There’s one more member of the toon army!

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