Sunderland derby memories - 24/04/2003
18/10/92 v Sunderland (a) 2-1 Division One
This was my first derby game and I'd not been in Newcastle for that long. The build up before the game was something I'd never expected or experienced before. All week people kept coming up to me saying, "Don't lose this one, whatever you do." I spoke to Kevin Ball just before the game and he said exactly the same had happened to him - I knew Kevin well from my time at Portsmouth. We even spoke as we went onto the pitch but for the 90 minutes of the match we became deadly enemies - you had to - the fans wouldn't tolerate anything less.
In derby games sheer determination and guts wins the game and skill only comes into it if both teams are equally committed which happened that day. "I had a great view of Liam's free-kick - I was standing just behind when he hit it. In fact, I've got a great picture of it on the wall in my office. On the photo it shows that I've got a hold of Liam just after it went in with Barry Venison and Steve Howey not far behind.
I got awarded Man of the Match for that game which I was really pleased about. I got a big bottle of champagne and was clutching it as I left the ground. At that time I was still living in a hotel in Durham and Barry Venison said he's get us a lift back. He said he knew a short-cut out of the ground, away from any fans that might still be hanging around. We went out of a side door - me with my big bottle of champagne under my jacket - and as soon as the door shut behind us a load of Sunderland fans appeared. With Venners' distinctive hair we were obviously spotted straight away. They started giving us some real stick, especially Barry, with "Judas" and "traitor" taunts and a few more of them spilled out of the pub. It was beginning to turn a bit nasty until a police car and then the timely arrival of our lift saving us. At one stage I thought I'd lose my champagne but I managed to hang onto it but as we drove off a pint glass smashed off the car."
25/04/93 v Sunderland (h) 1-0 Division One
"In between the two games that year I remember the Sunderland players got into a bit of trouble at their Christmas bash in Newcastle. They went to Jimmy's and one of the younger players let off a stink bomb. This didn't go down too well and I think Don Goodman ended up being laid out on the floor. I asked Kevin Ball how bad it got and he said, "Put it this way, as I picked Don up off the floor I got a cracking volley in the face...". Lee Clark said he knew the bouncers on the door were United fans and that they'd been hoping something would go off that night....
The Sunderland players would often come to Newcastle for a night out but it was never the other way round. I only went there once for a couple's night out with Steve Howey and his missus and we took a load of abuse. I think it was only because we weren't on our own that we didn't get into real trouble but I never went again. United players regarded it as a no-go area.
This game was the one that was a real washout, it rained heavily both before and during the game. I think one of the reasons Keith Hackett gave it the go-ahead was because the police didn't want the two sets of fans milling around the city centre all afternoon. Terry Butcher had been telling the press how his side would come to St.James' and grab the points in a SAS-type raid. I don't remember much about the game but I don't think they ever got anywhere near our goal. A great Scotty Sellars free-kick won it for us."
04/09/96 v Sunderland (a) 2-1 Premiership
Away fans weren't allowed this year and so our memorable win was greeted with silence. "I was with the team that day and sat on the bench. We fell behind when Robbie Elliott brought down my old mate, Steve Agnew. When Pedro and Les got their goals it was weird. Of course, we all jumped up and celebrated when the goals went in but about ten or fifteen of us couldn't make much noise. Their fans thumped the back of our dug-out which made a bit of a din but it was clear to me that day that football is dead without the fans."
05/04/97 Sunderland (h) 1-1 Premiership
"I was injured for this one and I don't remember that much about it. I know Chris Waddle pretty well now, but I never really knew him when he returned as a Sunderland player. I think Alan was pleased to score against them that day but a bit disappointed we didn't beat them.
Two other Sunderland stories...
I covered their game at Spurs a couple of seasons ago and as I left the ground to find my car I was aware of footsteps behind me. Three Sunderland fans suddenly grabbed me and pinned me up against a wall. I could smell a load of drink on their breaths and I was absolutely bricking it. I was just about to clench my fist and wait for the worst when they all started laughing and said, "Ah, we're only joking, man." I can't describe the relief. Some police came running round the corner and I told them everything was OK. I actually had quite a good laugh with them and they were fine but it was a bit of a bad moment for a while there.
I was filming Cafe Sport at ITV a couple of years ago during the build up to a derby game. The ideal is to remain impartial, but when presented with a question whether Newcastle would win or not, I was caught off guard slightly. I thought Newcastle would win and without thinking I said, "I hope so." Apparently the programme had a load of people phoning up to complain afterwards. Well, I couldn't help telling the truth...."
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