This was the day of our lives….David Kelly plus Mackems amongst the Pompey fans
It was the back end of the 1991-92 season and Newcastle United were literally facing the final curtain.
Promotion chasing Portsmouth were striding into town and I couldn’t sleep in the run up to the match.
You see, I had been one of “The Gloaters” as the Northumbria Police had labelled us….who were afforded our very own terrace at Roker Park, on the glorious day that Gillingham’s Tony Cascarino had relegated the Mackems to the third Division with the last kick (header haha) of the match in their play-off in 1987.
Me and my best mate Johnna headed for St James’ together, hardly speaking and maybe just reflecting on our folly five years earlier.
After a pint in the Labour Club we then met Wor Lad who was worse for wear in the Strawberry and the atmosphere was tense.
We got into the Leazes with a minute to spare and maybe the moment we had all been dreading had arrived?
The first half was a nail-biting affair with Pompey pressing, and the best player on the pitch…Alan McClaughlin, missing a sitter for the visitors.
The second half became a stalemate and with the end of the match getting ever closer, the ball ran out in front of us for a home goal-kick. The crowd had gone silent… but this was interrupted by a kerfuffle in the Pompey terrace next to us. Had it had come back to bite us on the jacksy…there were Mackems within the Portsmouth legions.
It was at this point I heard a sniffle next to me and turned around. A bloke about 50 had started sobbing and as I tried to comfort him he said these words that have stuck with me for 29 years….”Has it really come to this son?”
As Tommy Wright picked up the ball from behind the goal a few of the lads who weren’t choking back emotion yelled out inspiration to him.
The next four minutes became history and poetry as Tommy took a short kick to Ray Ranson who took the ball 10 yards before launching a 60 yard diagonal pass to the edge of the D of the Portsmouth penalty area. The Great Micky Quinn killed the ball with a deft first touch, teeing it up for our our very own Ned Kelly to steal the game with the most precise of half-volleys.
Bedlam and relief and absolute tears of joy broke all around me and grown men were unashamedly sticking the lips on one another. The Portsmouth fans stood in shock and the few Mackems in their ranks became silent. As the final whistle blew, I knew this was the most emotional match I had ever been to.
I still believe that David Kelly goal is the most important ever in our history.
Who knows what would have happened if we had lost and went down the previous path of the sad Mackems (we were £6.5m in debt – massive then).
Our great club kicked on after that, just as the Messiah had predicted when we were fighting that potential relegation to the third tier in 1992….”We will beat Portsmouth and Leicester, stay up and win the league next season.”
Oh how I wish we could have bottled that spirit and passed it on to the current generation!
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