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It’s all about winning - 13/08/2003

It’s all about winning
Man of the match for me
   Shay Given
   Nolberto Solano
   Olivier Bernard
   Sir Bobby Robson
 Leagues & Cups:
   Champions League

I’ve been in the Tyne Tees studios tonight, with one eye on the Newcastle game and the other on the Sunderland match against Mansfield – which is the feature game in tonight’s show. The easy conclusion to reach is that tonight’s respective performances were to be judged not on the quality of football, but on the results. So both teams will be happy – and relieved that lady luck played her part!

This was a tough game for Newcastle, don’t make the mistake of thinking that qualification was a given! And even with the 1-0 victory in the bag, the tie isn’t a foregone conclusion. A Partizan goal at St. James will cause big problems, and whilst we all expect Newcastle to go through, you fans have a role to play in not having unrealistic expectations. Ask Bobby Robson if he’d accept a 0-0 draw in two weeks time and he’ll reply with a resounding ‘yes’. So if it’s the 85th minute and there’s been no goals, don’t expect the team to be bombing forward. The prize of qualification dwarfs the desire and need to entertain.

Shay Given was probably Newcastle’s man of the match, his late save followed up by a header which fell past the post was an incredible feature within a game where we rode our luck. We defended a little deep for my liking but hey, we went abroad in a tight Champions League fixture and kept a clean sheet – enough said! The goal may not have been spectacular bit it took a player like Solano - with such fantastic technical ability to make it look so easy. Believe me, that was a superb goal! If it hadn’t have gone it, I’d have looked for the referee to be pointing to the spot as Shearer was clearly impeded. Olivier Bernard also got up well on occasions and his late nearside shot was well saved by their keeper – even though two Newcastle players were waiting unmarked by the back stick. In conclusion; don’t celebrate yet, but we’re close to the league stage….and the big money!

As for Sunderland, Mick McCarthy will be a relieved man. He’d have taken a last minute winner off the backside of the referee if were going to bring a victory for his Sunderland side. Well, it wasn’t far off! Two shared own goals were all to be shown for 90 minutes of football, then Kevin Kyle managed to hit a decent shot into the back of the net during injury time. If the cameras had focused in on McCarthy, I bet you could have seen the weight lifting from his shoulders!! Whether that was the break that Sunderland needed, or just the provision of some temporary respite, only time will tell. But although my good mate Kevin Ball might not like it, I’d be inclined to believe the latter. Saying that though, if I were to bet on one man getting them out of a hole, Bally’s the man to do it. Millwall at home on Saturday, they had a good 2-0 win against Wigan, then blew it against Oxford in the Carling Cup – who knows what’ll happen when they meet?

Anyway, I came through a successful trial match last Sunday and now I’m off to London tomorrow to sign for my new team…more of that later.

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