Monday, October 27, 2014


Wednesday 30th November 1994 and Wednesday 22nd December 1994. Coca Cola Cup 3rd Round -- Newcastle United.


~ thoughts the notoriously boisterous Geordies may have had of raising the roof on their arrival for the League Cup tie at Maine Road in 1994-95 would have been quickly put on hold, as the away fans were being housed on a desultory looking single tier of what would eventually become the New Kippax. At this stage of proceedings it was a damp slab of concrete where the away fans could spend 90 thrilling minutes getting absolutely soaked. Two more floors would be added by the end of the season, but the view across the pitch from the Main Stand at this point of construction offered the familiar tenements and alleyways in unfamiliar nakedness.
Newcastle under the embrace-all leadership of Kevin Keegan were a breath of fresh air in 1994, with a typically unbalanced side featuring the mercurial Peter Beardsley, the subtle feet of Philipe Albert, Rule Fox and Scott Sellars, plus the flapping ponytail of Darren Peacock. Ex-City prospect John Beresford was at left back and future City striker Andy Cole partnered Beardsley in the goal-getting, whilst a Londoner by the name of Rob Lee was sowing the seeds of a wonderful love affair with the black and white legions. This Newcastle vintage was still uninhibited and free from the grave title jitters which would line everyone's faces a year hence.

Fresh from being knocked out of the UEFA Cup by Athletic Bilbao (after a promising start to the campaign had included a thrilling away pummeling of Antwerp and - at one point - a three goal lead over the Basques), Newcastle had hit something of a mini barren spell, losing consecutive games to Manchester United and Joe Kinnear’s Wimbledon.

City, meanwhile, in the grip of a Brian Horton-led crusade for unhinged wing-play, had the likes of Quinn, Rosler, Walsh, Summerbee and Peter Beagrie, sometimes all at the same time. The latter, a capture from Everton, was proving to be an old-fashioned flankman of the most exhilirating kind and had pulverised a weak-limbed Tottenham side in a highly acclaimed 5-2 league victory at Maine Road. 

This was to be an old fashioned coupling of two sides that didn’t really care too much for defence, the Blues revealing this trait admirably in a 0-5 roasting at Old Trafford that has lasted the test of 20 years as a permanent stain on Horton’s good work whilst at the club.

With the visitors crippled by a growing injury list, most home fans foresaw a chance to progress, but what transpired was an attritional evening for the Blues, spent trying to keep up with a very lively Newcastle side. The visitors were ahead inside eleven minutes, when a diagonal ball from Beardsley found the City defence admiring life with gentle detachment from the noise and spray around them. Nielsen headed back and Jeffrey hooked in. The stone blocks of David Brightwell and Steve Lomas hardly twitched as the North Stand behind them rose to attempt a wake-up call before it was too late.

With Andy Hill injured and Cole smacking the bar, City were in danger of capitulating in the same dreary way they had to André Kanchelskis three weeks earlier in a nightmare evening at Old Trafford. The first half substitution of the limping Hill for yet another striker in Uwe Rosler  would be the key, however, as the German bravely forced in Niall Quinn’s flick after 68 minutes, bringing the tie nicely to a raucous boil.

No more goals were scored, necessitating a replay on Tyneside three weeks later, by which time the draw for the quarter finals had been made. That memorable smell of the Wembley urinals was beginning to play on everyone’s nostrils as the numbered balls came tumbling out of the velvet bag:.
Bolton Wanderers v Norwich City; Swindon Town v Millwall ;Liverpool v Arsenal 

Crystal Palace v City or Newcastle

With Liverpool and Arsenal being paired together, every other club left in the draw could now really start attempting to replace hope with focus.

By the time of the replay, some three weeks later, the two sides had managed this in the League:

  •  Ipswich 1 City 2; Tottenham 4 Newcastle 2
  • City 1 Arsenal 2
  • West Ham 3 City 0;  Coventry 0 Newcastle 0

Despite shaky form, Newcastle were 3rd and City 8th as they squared up to each other at a freezing cold St James’ Park on the last Wednesday before Christmas. As Rob Palmer’s ITV commentary would successfully fail to avoid saying, someone was in for an early Christmas present and the recipient of Santa's seasonal hug was not to be who most were expecting.

This was a match that Newcastle might readily have reached double figures in, such was the weight of chances created, but sterling work at the back by youngster John Foster and the slightly unusual defensive bulwark created by a Kernaghan-Brightwell-Vonk axis of blunder kept the rampaging home side out. With Andy Dibble brave in between the posts and the St James’ fates remaining fickle, City not only survived, but ventured forth to seize the moment.

Rosler, obviously liberated by the arrival of part-time car dealer and countryman Maurizio Gaudino, pilfered a first goal, as bodies fell in the Newcastle area like skittles in a wind tunnel. When Niall Quinn’s comical airshot flicked the ball gently into the path of Paul Walsh off the giant's flailing thighs later on, the diminutive Londoner only had to tap in to complete an astonishing and unlikely win.

As sometimes happened during Brian Horton’s goal-strewn reign at Maine Road, City had prospered despite themselves, with a patched up team and seemingly against hopeless odds. The home crowd filed out unable to believe what they had seen, whilst City prepared  for a triumphal march on the semi finals. All that stood in the way now was a brittle and eminently beatable Crystal Palace. 

The story of that particular night, a 4-0 drubbing, Steve Lomas out sprarko in the mud and the longest trip home ever would - like those ever-fragrant Wembley urinals - have to wait for another time.

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