Celebrate good times – Newcastle United
Be it Shearer’s raised arm salute, Bellamy’s expletive laden rants, big Dunc’s clenched-fist war dance or Lua-Lua’s gymnastics, it’s safe to say we’ve been treated to some iconic celebrations over the years with Newcastle United.
In the absence of any live football, I have been having a look at some of my most (and least) favourite matches supporting the Toon.
I’ve enjoyed reminiscing about special games and looking back on the highlights, remembering good times and the friends I enjoyed them with.
Almost any other sport has numerous ways to get points on the board, the beauty of football though is that it just has the one.
Scoring a goal is the only way to take the lead and sometimes when the ball hits the net it can lead to expressions of unbridled joy and delight. Whilst the fans go collectively wild (both in the stadium and watching on TV), these experiences can sometimes get the better of the players too!
Let’s take a look at some of the more extreme (and bizarre!) celebrations we’ve seen down the years. There really is only one place to start:
Saturday 17th January 1998
Newcastle 2-1 Bolton
When Newcastle kicked off against Bolton, the big talking point was the return of Alan Shearer from a long-term injury. We had no idea that by the end of the match, another striker would well and truly have stolen the limelight.
The match actually kicked off with both Shearer and Ketsbaia on the bench. Having seen a dreadful run of form through December, United were desperate for goals and points to breathe a bit of life back into a stuttering campaign.
Things started well with John Barnes lobbing the ‘keeper to put the Toon 1-0 up. The moment the fans had been waiting for came with just under twenty minutes to go when Alan Shearer was poised and ready to come on. This was somewhat dampened however when Bolton’s Nathan Blake chose that precise time to fire home an equaliser.
Shearer came on to great applause (led by current Bolton player Peter Beardsley) and the crowd roared him on hoping our talisman could inspire the team to victory. What we weren’t aware of at the time was a certain Georgian international was sat on the bench seething that he hadn’t been brought on first. He was made to wait a further seven minutes to make his appearance and by this point he was pumped up and ready to prove a point.
With the clock ticking past ninety minutes and the crowd in a state of frenzy, praying for a late winner, Alan Shearer won a header across the face of the box. Bolton had plenty of defenders back but Darren Peacock did enough to force the ‘keeper into a save and the ball ran loose to Kestbaia. What happened next has gone down in Geordie folklore.
After burying the rebound to secure the win, our Georgian Geordie embarked on one of the most eccentric celebrations St James Park has ever seen. Ripping off both his shirt and vest to chuck into the crowd, this lunatic then tried to do the same with his boots before being partially restrained by both Pistone and Peacock whilst belting the advertising hoardings, launching three kicks towards them in an expression of pure anger.
My own personal highlight of Temuri Ketsbaia’s Tyneside tenure will always be his extra time winner against Croatia Zagreb to send us into the champions league, his celebration against Bolton however will live equally long in the memory.
Tuesday 3rd December 1996
Newcastle 2-0 Metz
Tino Asprilla is remembered most fondly for his European goals, including a hat-trick against Barcelona. He netted nine times in European Competition for the Toon in just eleven appearances. Five of those strikes came in the UEFA Cup as United progressed to the quarter final having seen off Halmstads (5-1), Ferencvaros (6-3) and Metz (3-1).
The second leg against Metz saw the tie deadlocked at 1-1 with United marginally ahead due to scoring an away goal in France. The second half saw a nervy performance, almost punished on three separate occasions as Metz pushed for the goal that would send them into the next round.
With just ten minutes to play, Darren Peacock chested the ball down in the area and smacked it across the face of goal for Tino to stoop and head the ball into the bottom corner. What happened next was truly a one-off!
Running to the corner, in a moment of madness he took his top off, uprooted the corner flag and fashioned a makeshift Toon Army flag out of the two items. With the crowd lapping up this performance, the unimpressed referee promptly booked our hero for ‘over celebrating’.
What people forget is that Asprilla had already collected a yellow card in Uefa competition and this further booking saw him suspended for the first leg of the quarter-final. In fact, Asprilla had started the match with Keegan’s warning ringing in his ears “don’t do anything stupid, don’t get booked”. Glad to see he heeded the advice! This celebration was to have personal ramifications for me when we lined up for my first ever match, without a striker, in a narrow 1-0 defeat at home to Monaco.
Sunday 24th February 2002
Sunderland 0-1 Newcastle
Derby day never fails to get the blood pumping.
In 2002, both teams needed to win this one for very different reasons. Three points for the Toon would see us move up to second behind only Manchester United, whereas defeat for Sunderland would see them dragged deeper into a relegation dogfight. Recent derbies had not been kind to those of a black and white persuasion who’d waited six long years for a victory over their arch rivals. One man was on a mission to change that and he was determined to score the winning goal.
The first half had been a scrappy affair where United were left ruing an early offside flag denying Craig Bellamy an opening goal. The second half however belonged to just one player, our man of the match, Nikos Dabizas.
The Greek God thought he’d opened the scoring when he steamed in at the back post to fire a shot across goal that Sorensen did well to save with his leg. He must have thought it wasn’t going to be his day soon after, when he turned and cracked an effort off the crossbar with the ‘keeper beaten. Not to be deterred though, on sixty four minutes a Laurent Robert free-kick was allowed to bounce in the area and Dabizas was on hand to slam a header into the top corner.
This goal sparked ecstatic scenes amongst the three thousand Toon fans behind that goal, lavish celebrations that Nikos fully indulged in. Ripping his shirt off (which seems to be something of a theme amongst these celebrations), he embarked on some kind of strange belly dance before being mobbed by his jubilant teammates. An oft-used photograph shows a shirtless Dabizas in front of the away end with nothing but pure joy on his face whilst the rest of our outfield players rushed to join him. This one goal (plus a fine save from Shay Given) was enough to ensure derby delight for the Toon. It was a celebration and result that would prove to be the toast of Tyneside.
Monday 31st January 2000
Blackburn 1-2 Newcastle
Everyone knows the iconic Shearer celebration. After belting the ball in the back of the net, our number nine would run off with one hand aloft. This was the most replicated celebration on my school playground. We’ve all seen it so many times before, two hundred and six times to be precise, right? Wrong!
Shearer deviated from his usual celebration on two separate occasions, both in the same match. In 2000, Bobby’s boys were on their way to Wembley for the third successive season. A night game at Ewood park saw six thousand away fans make the journey despite it being live on Sky.
With just over twenty minutes played, those away fans were treated to the sight of Shearer breaking through to smack an effort home opening the scoring. Rather than the arm going up though, he seemed to stop completely still and do a ‘Saturday night fever’ dance pose. Blackburn equalised soon after and both teams spent the rest of the match scrapping it out for the goal needed to take them into the quarter final.
With just over ten minutes left, Domi burst down the left wing and crossed into the box for Shearer to force the ball past the ‘keeper. For some reason he indulged in a full on Klinsmann slide in front of the delirious away support. Both of these celebrations were never seen again and to this day, have never been explained.
Saturday March 6th 2010
Newcastle 6-1 Barnsley
Jonas Gutierrez is a modern day legend amongst Toon fans for what he achieved both on and off the pitch during seven years at NUFC.
His inspirational comeback from battling cancer to score the goal that kept us up in 2015 should never be forgotten and has perhaps provided the ‘highlight’ of Mike Ashley’s disastrous thirteen years in charge.
His trademark celebration had been set in stone long before his move to Newcastle and fans couldn’t wait to see it. After scoring a superb goal at home to Barnsley, Jonas pulled a spiderman mask out of hi shorts and wore it whilst pretending to sling webs over his make believe enemies. One of the most enduring celebrations of recent times.
Whilst I loved the celebration (and the player) I should hasten to add that pulling any items from one’s underwear to immediately place on one’s head is maybe not doctor recommended for hygiene reasons!
Absolutely hilarious though and one of the many reasons why this adopted Geordie should never want for a pint when he visits his second home. Marvellous!
Wednesday 29th November 1995
Liverpool 0-1 Newcastle
Steve Watson (and Lee Clark)
Newcastle’s league record at Anfield over the past thirty years is absolutely dreadful. We have however enjoyed dumping them out of the league cup courtesy of Steve Watson in 1995.
When Les Ferdinand was subbed off, defender Watson was pushed forward into an unfamiliar forward role. With just under a quarter of an hour to go, Steve was surrounded by four Liverpool defenders with seemingly no options. A bit of trickery and a chipped shot later however and Toon were on their way to a 1-0 victory and a place in the next round.
The joy on Watson’s face was plain to see as he was embraced by celebrating teammates. One of them however had a less than friendly way to congratulate his friend. With a group of players enjoying a huddle, Lee Clark (for some reason) ran up behind him and full-on slapped the back of his head! An unusual goal but an even stranger way to celebrate!
Thursday 23rd November 2006
Newcastle 2-1 Celta Vigo
Local lad Steven Taylor grew up supporting the Toon. When the opportunity came along to score for his boyhood heroes the outcome was always likely to be special.
With the scores locked at 1-1 and just four minutes left to play, a corner was whipped into the box and Taylor got his head on the end of it to win the match. He seemed as amazed as the rest of us to get his first goal and sprinted off to celebrate. So far so good.
Unfortunately, young Steven didn’t know when to stop sprinting! If he hadn’t been mobbed by the celebrating United bench, he’d probably still be doing laps of St James Park now! This earned him the nickname ‘Forrest Gump’ from his teammates who followed him round shouting ‘Run Forrest, run’. It really was a true expression of ecstasy from a fan living the dream, great stuff!
Monday 10th March 1997
Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle
Warren Barton didn’t score many goals in a black and white shirt and once revealed that his teammates would make fun of him on the rare occasions he did score, as he then didn’t know what to do!
This night at Anfield had it all and Barton was seconds away from being the hero who salvaged an unlikely draw, 3-0 down near the end, goals from Gillespie and Asprilla dragged United back into the match and with just two minutes to play, Barton nutmegged David James to equalise. Striding towards the away fans, arms aloft, he thought it would be a good idea to boot over a Sky microphone. Unfortunately, this ended up causing significant damage, Newcastle lost the match 4-3 and Barton was handed a hefty invoice from Sky Sports. Doh!
Sunday 20th March 2016
Newcastle 1-1 Sunderland
Not the first time things have got out of hand on derby day.
Both teams were desperate to win this one as a three-way relegation dogfight with Norwich City was going right to the wire. Newcastle had lost the previous six derby matches (the worst run in our history) and looked on course to make that seven when nemesis Jermain Defoe put Sunderland 1-0 up on the stroke of half-time.
Newcastle hadn’t played well in the first half and the second wasn’t going much better until Wijnaldum picked up the ball on the right wing with just seven minutes to go, beat his man and got a cross in. Mitrovic was on hand to nod home the equaliser and went nuts!
Not only content with swinging his shirt round his head, he then tumbled over a pitch invader before celebrating with him! He was clearly overjoyed to salvage the draw but was unfortunately injured soon after, which curtailed any chance of us grabbing a late winner.
Saturday 5th February 2011
Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal
Cheick Tiote (and the entire team!)
WHAT. A. MATCH!
Last but certainly not least, the scenes of utter euphoria when our fourth went in, is every bit as wild as anything above!
A quite simply staggering afternoon with Arsenal racing into a 3-0 lead inside the opening ten minutes and adding a fourth before half-time. When they had a man sent off on fifty three minutes, it didn’t seem likely to make any difference whatsoever. Newcastle pulled one back from the penalty spot soon after and then had a goal wrongly disallowed but anything more than a consolation still seemed wildly optimistic.
When we got it back to 4-2 with fifteen minutes left, belief began to whip round the stadium that this could turn out to be a truly remarkable day. Another penalty made it 4-3 and by then it was only a matter of time. With just three minutes left, a free kick was cleared as far as Cheick Tiote who blasted a rocket into the bottom corner to send the incredulous home fans into raptures!
Ecstatic at scoring his first Toon goal (especially in these circumstances), Cheick sprinted to the other end of the pitch screaming in delight before an epic knee slide ended up with a mass pile on.
Amazing scenes but then something downright crazy happened. Goalkeeper Steve Harper ran up to the pile-on and performed a wrestling move on the person at the top. For some reason he elbow dropped Leon Best, causing a temporary injury to one of our own players! There was still time for Kevin Nolan to smack a shot narrowly wide and God only knows how we would have celebrated if that had gone in.
Rest in peace Cheick, your place in all our hearts is secured for eternity.
Having embarrassed many of the above players, it’s only right that I poke a little fun at myself too.
On many occasions, Newcastle United has got the better of me and important goals have been met with some rather insane behaviour of my own.
A personal demon for me came on August 20th 2011 when Ryan Taylor scored the winning goal at the Stadium of Light. I saw the ball hitting the back of the net and the next thing I knew I was outside topless in broad daylight yelling my head off in front of my new neighbours. I never lived that one down.
What’s your favourite celebration, are there any I’ve missed? Perhaps you too have overreacted when NUFC have scored a winning goal. Hopefully with new owners, there’s many more celebrations to come.
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