‘It just felt like we were on one big Newcastle United magic carpet ride…’
It was Grand National day 1993 and Cambridge United away.
Newcastle United were top of the 1st Division, with Portsmouth (who we had dramatically beaten nearly 12 months earlier to help preserve our second tier status) beginning to breathe down our necks…..
Their talisman, Guy Whittingham, had been breaking all sorts of goalscoring records.
However, Newcastle United had been buoyed in March by the record signing of Andy Cole from Bristol City, plus the capturing of the mercurial Scott Sellars from Leeds and Mark Robinson from Barnsley, as John Hall kept good on his promise to back King Kev all the way to the Premier League.
I had hired a small Luton van and it was Wor Young un’s turn to drive. His big mate Jimmy jumped in the front with him….and me, Johnna and my workmate ‘Ashington’ Mick who was, and still is a Jackie Milburn lookalike (I’m sure everybody is related up there), hoyed some foam cushions in the back.
Just Wor Neale to arrive then, but he eventually made it with minutes to spare….guzzling a bottle of a new drink called 20/20.
So off we set through the Tyne Tunnel and it wasn’t long before the cràic was in full flow as well as the alcohol. One of the stand out memories was when Wor lad’s karaoke song – Lovely Day by Bill Withers – came on the radio. He is the only man who I have ever heard sing the famous “lovely daaaaaaa….yyyyy” lyric from the song and hold the note as good as the original artist. It had the lads in stitches and set the tone for the day.
On reaching our destination we had picked out our horses and headed for the bookies before hitting the boozers. At the first bar we came to, the popular Toon busker of the day, Harry Palmer, was entertaining the troops and locals alike in his unique and inimitable way. As we got talking to local fans we were left under no illusions that John Beck had assembled an uncompromising team that would give us a good game (they also had a highly rated young lad called Dion Dublin leading the line).
As 3 o’clock loomed, everyone I saw was in good spirits, and as I looked across the Abbey Stadium I had a feeling that this would be one of the most pivotal games of our season. Cambridge were initially game but it was obvious that we were far more accomplished as the first half wore on.
Half-time and the “National that never was” began and we huddled around a Walkman passing an ear-phone around so we could all have a little listen. We soon became aware that a b.llock had been dropped but by now the teams were coming out for the second-half.
Newcastle United eventually took the lead through Steve Howey just before half-time, David Kelly scoring a minute after the break and Newcastle suddenly 2-0 up.
It was great to hear everyone talking about Andy Cole, who as far as I was aware was only our fourth ever black player after Howard Gayle, Tony Cunningham and Franz Carr, the “Andy Cole” chant in full swing and he duly obliged, scored on cue, his first away Toon goal, having already scored in both his St James Park appearances.
Back to the bars and there were doorman being deployed early in some, but there never was going to be any bother, and we mingled with the students passing on cap badges, scarves etc.
It was pushing on 9 o’clock by the time we left Cambridge and a couple of hours later we ventured off the beaten track looking for a late pint or two.
After entering a bar in Worksop that looked like the Slaughtered Lamb in the film ‘American Werewolf in London’ right on last orders…..we couldn’t believe our luck when after a couple of pints the manageress invited us to stay for a lock-in.
The regulars seemed fascinated by what Kevin Keegan was saying and doing at Newcastle United… with him being a “Donny lad”.
At 3am when it was time to leave they all came outside and gave us a nice little send off…. and not a werewolf in sight!
At this time I had never felt prouder of my team, our hero of a manager, my mates and all of our supporters and it just felt like we were on one big Newcastle United magic carpet ride.
Nostalgia is a wonderful tonic and it is sometimes easy to embellish details to make times sound better…..but the 1992/93 Newcastle United season really was unforgettable and made me feel on top of the world.
I long for the day when we shall become Re-United once again, because as we all know it’s understood….and of course there is another great song in there somewhere isn’t there?
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