The life of Brian…A black and white legend
In 2016 after Pavel Srnicek’s memorial service, I was standing with my little dog Edd in the churchyard outside St Andrews.
It had been a very solemn occasion and Pav’s former teammates and fans mingled freely together.
Steve Harper had finished the service with a wonderful eulogy to his great friend, and I wondered to myself what our celebrated “Geordie from the Czech Republic” would have made of the turnout, as well as the outpouring of love and admiration that showed how much he had meant to everyone.
I was standing close to Big Darren Peacock and John Beresford, whilst Sir John Hall and Freddie Shepherd were talking gently just to my right. Steve McClaren more or less walked and stopped right beside me and smiled politely, to which I offered my hand and wished him all the best. He had just that week signed Andros Townsend and Jonjo Shelvey…and would be our manager for only a matter of weeks longer.
It was then that a colossus of a man stepped out from the chapel, that everyone instantly recognised and all seemed to know well. Our former captain was standing like a Viking King who had came back again to conquer the North East coast. There were a few smiles as those Brian Kilcline eyes twinkled towards everyone and he joined the respectful throng.
My mind was immediately transported back some 24 years to when Kevin Keegan made what he later described as…. “his most important signing ever for Newcastle.”
Five years beforehand in 1987, Brian Kilcline had skippered unfashionable Coventry City to F.A Cup glory at Wembley, after a thrilling 3-2 victory over the much favoured Tottenham Hotspur with Hoddle and Waddle and the rest of their diamond lights (forgive the pun).
Brian had joined Oldham Athletic at the beginning of the 1991/92 season, presumably for an easier life in the twilight of his career.
Newcastle were having a wretched time in the second division,and in early 1992 after a 5-2 defeat at Oxford United, Ossie Ardiles was finally shown the door. We were second from bottom and relegation to the third tier for the first time in our history looked odds on.
Sir John Hall then shocked everybody….fans and pundits alike, by announcing that Kevin Keegan had been appointed manager, almost eight years after he had left us as a player.
This was never going to be a smooth ride and after a few decent results KK was getting agitated by Sir John’s apparent reluctance to strengthen the team. As Kevin later said….”it wasn’t turning out like it had said in the brochure.”
Things came to a head, and after nearly turning his back on Newcastle after a home win against Swindon, Keegan was encouraged to return to the fold…. and according to Sir John it was at this moment that it was decided to raid his wife’s (Lady Mae Hall) piggy bank.
The first player Kevin Keegan brought into the club was the man who he truly believed could rally our players and help them regain their lost confidence.
Brian Kilcline couldn’t resist a challenge and the supporters were genuinely happy when “Killer” swaggered into town (His nickname on top of the way he looked, convinced many that he was the man for the job, before he had even kicked a ball).
He was quickly joined by another classy veteran…Kevin Sheedy from Everton, and this gave us all hope that we would make a fist of staying up.
Straight away “Killer” made his mark. He had a phenomenal physical presence and calm assurance. He seemed to be thriving on the responsibility and it soon became noticeable that the players were responding to his influence.
Kevin Scott was transformed from the nervous wreck he had been previously. Ray Ranson started to push a little further forward at right-back, whilst Liam O’Brien wasn’t having to come as deep to retrieve the ball from defence. Just little adjustments but the team were definitely playing with more confidence and fewer inhibitions.
It was a tedious few months but we eventually pulled the Great Escape off.
Brian Kilcline only ever pulled our famous black and white shirt on 32 times in his fifteen months on Tyneside but in that time we went from avoiding relegation in 1992, to going up as First Division Champions in 1993.
Brian also didn’t hang around long at St Andrews in 2016. A few firm handshakes with his “Thor-like” right hand…..and he was soon off after a wink and a beaming smile. It actually felt like an honour to have stood in the company of the man, if only for a few fleeting moments.
Looking back, I too believe that this was an importantly crucial signing that proved pivotal within the context of our overall history. Some say that mighty oaks sometimes come from little acorns. Well in Newcastle United’s case all of the little acorns, namely Scott, Howey, Watson, Clark etc…. flourished under the Mightiest Oak of the lot.
Thank you for your efforts and the memories Brian…..it was an honour and a pleasure to have you with us back in the day.
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