As the decade draws to a close, I thought it might be fun to take a look back over the last ten years of the soap opera that is Newcastle United. There’s been some incredible highs and some lows that make me feel sick to my stomach – but in this one, I’ll concentrate on the best moments. Let’s dive right in with this one:
10: Newcastle 3-2 Chelsea – “He’s magic, you knooooooow”
This is a game I remember very fondly, having been stood on the terraces in the Leazes Corner. Looking back on it, there was a few factors that, at the time, didn’t really mean anything, but mean a lot today. For example, this was the last time Rafael Benitez would sit in the away dugout at St James’ Park, three years before he would eventually become the manager of the Magpies.
As well as that, I very much like to look back on the opening goal, which saw Geordie hero Jonas Gutierrez head NUFC into the lead. It was quickly cancelled out by a Frank Lampard scorcher and beautiful curled effort from Juan Mata. Making his home debut, a young Moussa Sissoko made a massive impact as the Blues just could not live with him. He bundled home an equaliser on 68 minutes before hammering home the winner in stoppage time – sending SJP into a state of sheer pandemonium.
The game also saw former Newcastle striker Demba Ba, who had only just vacated SJP in favour of a move to Stamford Bridge, be subbed off early on. He was greeted back to the North East with a powerful kick to the jaw from then skipper Fabricio Coloccini – something which the Geordie faithful very much enjoyed given their stance that he was a “money-grabbing b*****d!”
9: Newcastle 1-0 Anzhi – “Rocking aaaall over the world”
This one is on the list because I felt I had to commemorate that Europa League run somehow and for me, this is my favourite memory from that period. Having gone over to Russia and held a then star-studded Anzhi to a goalless draw, NUFC welcomed them back to SJP as they scrapped for a place in the Europa League quarter-finals.
I remember sitting by the touchline in the Milburn Stand, staring up the line and gawking in sheer disbelief as one of my childhood heroes, Roberto Carlos, stepped out of the Anzhi dugout. Carlos had recently joined Anzhi as a coach, and wasn’t the only big star in the side as Champions League winner Samuel Eto’o lined up in attack.
Ultimately, the game belonged to the Toon as Pappiss Cisse bagged the winner with his head in the dying embers of the game to send the Magpies through to the quarters. In the last eight, Newcastle played Benfica but were on the wrong end of the aggregate score in a very memorable two legged tie.
8: Newcastle 5-1 Spurs – The day the fans sang Rafa into staying
This one was slightly bitter sweet at the time but looking back on it now, I only remember it for the good it brought. Rafa Benitez had been in a job for a solid nine games but unfortunately, couldn’t undo all the damage caused by Steve McClow… *ahem*, sorry, McClaren.
The last day of the season arrived but as Sunderland had beaten Everton a few days earlier, it didn’t really matter as Newcastle had already been relegated. But, the fans turned up in their thousands and roared the team on to a resounding 5-1 defeat over title challengers Tottenham. The main story of the day though was whether or not Rafa would commit his future to Newcastle and ignore the relegation break-out clause in his NUFC contract.
The fans, knowing full well the likelihood was that a manager of his calibre would never manage in the second tier, made their voices hoarse with 90 minutes of sheer noise. Rafa based songs and chants were constant, interrupted only by five goal celebrations, and guess what? They bloody worked. The NUFC fans can have an enormous influence – and it’s about time they started remembering that…
7: Newcastle 3-0 Manchester United – French connection
Right at the start of the French takeover on Tyneside, a high-flying Newcastle side welcomed Manchester United to St James’ Park on a bitter-cold early January evening. Man United’s title chances had already suffered a severe blow a few days prior when they lost to Blackburn on New Years Eve, but things didn’t get any better for Sir Alex’s side at SJP.
Newcastle took the lead in the first half through Demba Ba, who hooked a headed knockdown from Shola Ameobi into the back of the net. In the second half, Yohan Cabaye scored an unbelievable 30 yard free-kick and a comical Phil Jones own goal added the cherry on top for the Mags. I remember the game very well, but not as much as I remember nearly being blown off the Redheugh Bridge on the way home…
6: Cisse wonder-goal at Stamford Bridge
I mean, this goal was just ridiculous wasn’t it? I don’t need to tell anybody which one, but I’m going to anyway. The game saw NUFC visit Chelsea in a midweek clash – but for fans like me who couldn’t get down there, it was a radio only affair. Television broadcasters had instead opted to show Bolton v Spurs as Fabrice Muamba made his return to the DW Stadium for the rearranged fixture in which he had suffered a cardiac arrest a few weeks earlier.
At Stamford Bridge, Papiss Cisse cracked home a thunderous volley in the first half as NUFC took the lead. In the second half, Chelsea pushed for an equaliser but just couldn’t find one. Eventually, the game reached stoppage time – which was ten minutes long due to the late, great Cheick Tiote being stretchered off. Newcastle won a throw-in just inside the Chelsea half, which Ryan Taylor launched up the line. Shola Ameobi knocked it down into the path of Cisse who unleashed a gravity-defying, laws-of-physics-breaking thunder-b*****d past Petr Cech and wrapped the three points up.
Goal of the decade without a doubt. Not just for Newcastle, but in the entirety of the Premier League.
5: EFL Championship 2016/17 – Securing the title
Throughout the Championship season in 2016/17, Newcastle and Brighton battled for top spot all the way through the season. For the most part, it was clear who the two automatically promoted sides would be – but the order in which they would go up, wasn’t so simple.
It was looking as though it would be Brighton who would take the title as with three games to go, they secured promotion and sat seven points above NUFC in the table. Newcastle secured promotion themselves days later, but the title went down to the wire as Brighton went winless for their last three matches. On the final day, Newcastle took a routine 3-0 home win over Barnsley, but it looked as though it wouldn’t be enough as Brighton lead at Villa Park.
However, down in the second city, ten man Aston Villa rallied with the now skipper Jack Grealish leading the charge. In the 89th minute, the mercurial midfielder unleashed an effort from 30 yards out which beat David Stockdale and thus, won the title for Newcastle. The news slowly trickled into St James’ Park as fans started to receive calls from loved ones to tell them the news. A slow cheer went up around the ground as everybody realised what had happened. A truly great day all around – which saw Grealish (temporarily) lauded as a Geordie hero.
4: Rafael Benitez announced as manager
I mean, if this wasn’t just one of the best days of your life as a Newcastle fan then you’re just made of stone. Steve McClaren was EVENTUALLY sacked as he Newcastle kept dropping down the league, despite having a very decent team that included the likes of Gini Wijnaldum and Andros Townsend. Then came the rumours – Rafa Benitez to Newcastle…
“Hahahahahah don’t be silly.” “Yeah, OK then..” “LOOOL – delusional if you think that’s happening” are just some of the few things I said to my Dad in the first hour after the rumour broke. Mags everywhere did exactly the same thing – I mean, he’d just left Real Madrid for Christ sake. When the news broke and Rafa posted the now famous, “C’mon Toons” update on his social media pages – my jaw hit the floor. WHAT a move that was! The best coach to sit in the home dugout at SJP since, well, John Carver…
3: Newcastle 5-1 Sunderland – Halloween battering on Tyneside
One of the most famous days at Newcastle in recent history saw Newcastle record one of their greatest ever wins a Tyne-Wear derby. Kevin Nolan was the hero of the day as he bagged a hat-trick and debuted the chicken dance celebration. As well as KNo’s treble, Shola Mackem-slayer Ameobi dispatched a penalty before slamming home a flying volley to wrap things up for NUFC.
There was a late consolation goal from Darren Bent but it wasn’t enough to stop Newcastle fans from enjoying one of the best days in recent memory. Annoyingly, Newcastle have only won one Tyne-Wear derby since, but hey, it could be worse… *wink*
2: Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal – Premier League’s GOAT comeback
This is a tough one to talk about since the passing of Cheick Tiote, but still, it’s well worth it’s place at second in the list. I remember it like it was yesterday, but that’s probably because I watched the highlights for the 7,979,927th time yesterday. It’s a day that will live long in the memory of not only Newcastle fans, but anybody who saw it.
It took only nine minutes for Arsenal to race into a three goal lead that day, with RVP adding a fourth after 26 minutes. After the break, everything changed. Abou Diaby saw red for a pushing Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan, and Newcastle took advantage. In fact, it was Barton who began the comeback when he calmly beat Wojciech Szczesny from the penalty spot after Laurent Koscielny had brought down Leon Best in the area.
Leon Best was then denied a goal of his own when he put the ball past Szczesny, only to be incorrectly flagged for offside. However, he wasn’t to be denied a second time as moments later he beat Gael Clichy to the ball and hammered home an effort from eight or so yards out. Then, Koscielny gave away yet another penalty as he tangled with Mike Williamson in the air – another penalty which Joey Barton buried.
BUT, the moment that we all remember, the moment that we’ll never forget, came with just three minutes left on the clock. Barton lifted a free-kick into the area from wide right, it was immediately headed clear but it only got as far as Tiote who unleashed a quite frankly unbelievable volley which arrowed into the bottom corner. Cue sheer chaos! Cheicky doesn’t know where to go or what to do but eventually drops to his knees in the middle of the pitch and is immediately piled on by the rest of the squad.
That’s what football is all about. Those are the moments we live for.
1: Jonas Gutierrez goal v West Ham – “The man who knows the true meaning of survival“
Throughout life, there are certain things that happen where years later, people will ask you “Oh, where were you when this happened?” This goal was undeniably one of those moments for anybody who hails from the Tyneside area. For me, the answer was Level 7, Leazes Corner, Block C, Row L, Seat 328.
Jonas Gutierrez is a folk hero on Tyneside. He played for the club for seven years between 2008 and 2015 – with this game marking the conclusion of his time at the club. In September 2014, the Argentinian revealed to the world that he was suffering from testicular cancer and had one final round of chemotherapy to go through. It was said he had experienced pain in the testicular area following a game against Arsenal a year earlier. After several misdiagnoses, an ultrasound scan revealed a tumour in the area and Jonas opted to have his left-testicle removed in October 2013.
In January 2014, a couple of months after the procedure, he was loaned out to Norwich City for the rest of the season. Throughout all of this, he kept his condition private with only a few close friends, including Fabricio Coloccini, having known his true condition. After the season had ended, Jonas had been experiencing more pain in his liver – so he began a course of chemotherapy.
Then, in November of 2014, Jonas was discharged from hospital and began his recovery. He eventually rejoined the NUFC squad in March of 2015, and made his return to action at home to Manchester United – much to the relief of everybody. However, while Jonas had been fighting his own battle for survival, Newcastle had been fighting one too as the club slipped further and further into trouble under John Carver.
The relegation battle went down to the final game of the season as Newcastle hosted West Ham United in a must-win game. Carver and his Newcastle side knew that victory would be enough to secure their survival, making the result in Hull’s tie with Manchester United irrelevant. The atmosphere around the ground was tense with every fan in the ground keeping one eye on events down at the KCOM Stadium.
Early in the second half, Moussa Sissoko powered home a header from a cross from the main man Gutierrez and as one, the whole of St James’ Park let out a huge sigh of relief – but it wasn’t over yet. West Ham pushed for a goal but in the end, it was United who would get the second goal courtesy of Jonas. He picked up the ball on the left, took a touch to set himself and fired a thunderous effort past a helpless Adrian in the Hammers goal.
“Could there be a more popular goalscorer? The man who knows the true meaning of survival!” Jonas whipped off his shirt and used his celebration to protest against Mike Ashley, who hadn’t been anything other than himself (an absolutely minging human being…) during Jonas’ cancer treatment. The club’s treatment of him was so bad that Jonas’ own mother said that it nearly drove her to “commit suicide”.
One thing is for sure, the love of the fans for Jonas never waivered and neither did his for the fans. Not content with smashing his own battle for survival, he came back and won ours for us too.
He’s a true inspiration to all of us and truly deserving of my number one spot. Jonas – if for some reason you’re reading this, I bloody love you.