Paul Cannell – Captain America
As I have been singing the praises of former Newcastle legends in articles this week, I thought I would lower the tempo a bit and write a little piece on one of my good friends……the one and only Paul Cannell.
After attending Heaton Grammar school, Paul joined up with Joe Harvey’s swashbuckling Magpies in 1972, after a spell as a youth team player at our rivals Sunderland.
At the time he had just completed his A’ levels and was set to study Law at Durham University – but wily old Joe had other ideas and convinced Paul (top left in team photo above) to join the Toon on £30 a week.
Now I have to say that this was a brave move to say the least, especially with Supermac and John Tudor regularly terrorising First Division defences.
Paul Cannell was a patient lad though and eventually started to get little snippets of game time where he showed he too knew the way to goal.
Instantly recognisable with his mop of black hair and impressively thick moustache, Paul became a bit of a mini cult-hero, helped by the fact that he had came into the frame at the same time as other talented local lads, Irving Nattrass and Alan Kennedy.
After the arrival of Gordon Lee as manager, it seemed that Paul would become a first team regular as he seemed highly rated by Lee.
John Tudor then left for Stoke City and Gordon Lee recruited former Busby Babe Alan Gowling. This proved to be an inspired signing and Gowling went on to become our topscorer ahead of the great Malcolm Macdonald.
Paul Cannell was our substitute for the League Cup final in 1976 and this was as close as he would ever come to glory in a black and white shirt. He did have an uncanny knack of sticking it up the mackems though during this period.
In the long hot summer of ’76, Paul decided to venture over the pond and try his luck in the developing soccer league in the United States. He enjoyed his loan at the Washington Diplomats and adapted to life well in America.
Paul then became more of a fixture and scored away against Bastia in our little UEFA Cup adventure in 1977/78, before Johnny Rep gave the knockout blow at St James Park.
After Newcastle’s relegation in 1978, Bill McGarry decided to sweep the decks somewhat, Paul joining the Washington Diplomats in a permanent deal. He was made club captain and he has told me that this was awkward, as one Johann Cruyff was in the side.
Paul Cannell became a fully-fledged Cult Hero in his second spell in America. He even dated President Ford’s daughter Susan as his celebrity soared, plus he was the first footballer to sign a sponsorship with Nike.
Paul returned to England in the early 80s and had a spell at Mansfield Town under former Toon skipper Stuart Boam, before playing for Berwick Rangers and finally North Shields.
He settled in Shields and became a pub landlord before retiring three years ago.
Paul Cannell is a proper “Jack the Lad” and it is always a pleasure to be in his company, enjoying a pint and a whisky.
If anyone out there hasn’t read Paul’s book…..”F****n Hell, it’s Paul Cannell” they don’t know what they have been missing.
(*Washington Diplomats supporters contacted Paul and flew him over for a reunion a few years back. When he came back and showed me all the pictures of the occasion, I could see he was so proud that they all still remembered him.)
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