The real-life tales of a football writer
“That’s our left-back,” announced the puzzled Newcastle fan 90 minutes before Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby. We were walking past a pub on the way to St James' Park when Michael Martin, the editor of the excellent Newcastle fanzine True Faith, spotted a suited Jose Enrique standing in front of his 4x4 Porsche looking flustered.
The Spaniard, who joined the Geordies from Villarreal for £6m last summer, kept saying: “I don’t know where they are, I’ve lost them,” to whoever he was calling on his mobile, while passing fans admired his motor. Or took photos of him. The pub's half-dozen bouncers knew who he was but couldn’t communicate with him.
“I don’t think he speaks English,” said Michael (a fact later confirmed by Kevin Keegan after Newcastle’s 2-0 win over Sunderland). I told Enrique that I spoke Spanish and asked if he was OK. “Not really,” he replied. “I’ve run out of petrol. And I needed the toilet so I went in the pub and I’ve managed to lose my car keys.”
“I’m ringing my girlfriend, who has another key for the car, but there’s no petrol and I’m already late.” He looked like a little boy lost as he undid his collar.
Newcastle's Spanish left-back Jose Enrique: a key player
I explained the situation to Michael, who rang two contacts within the club to explain the situation; Terry McDermott immediately dispatched two security lads to sort the problem out. Enrique looked relieved when I told him that help was on the way and I assumed all was speedily resolved as he played 90 minutes - and played well.
Word of the events got through to the man who plays the music over the public address system and in among Geordie standards like Dire Straits’ Local Hero and The Blaydon Races, they thanked Michael by playing Love Will Tear You Apart by Joy Division, a band he adores.
Ian Curtis brings Joy to Enrique's saviour
I spent three nights in Newcastle around the derby, meeting all kinds of interesting souls as well as witnessing FC United beat Newcastle Blue Star 4-0 on Saturday. Blue Star – once the team of the famous brewery which stood next to the Gallowgate End - are one of the top non-league teams in the region, but they struggle on gates of less than 150 and seem lost in the 13,000-capacity Kingston Park home they share with Newcastle Falcons rugby union team. Travelling costs appeared to have taken their toll and, despite playing well this season, they had asked for voluntary relegation back to a league which involves less travelling. They’ve changed their mind, but geography always works against them and other semi-professional clubs in the North East. At least they’ve got a considerable pool of local talent to draw from.
After that game, I watched Carlos Tevez rescue a point for Manchester United at Blackburn in Rosie’s Bar, which was full of Newcastle fans. I was alone but couldn’t contain my emotions as the little Argentinian netted. A Chinese man on the other side of the bar punched the air too, before coming over and shaking my hand. We didn’t even speak. Such is the power of football to unite, as well as divide.
Andy, it's Love Will Tear US Apart, mate. There'd be some proper berks on at you if they saw that. They'd call you all sorts of traitorous things, crimes so horrid and vile against all that it is to be a "Manc" that you'd be afraid to show your face anywhere near OT again.
You have rose so much higher in my estimations as a result of this wonderful transgression. And the funniest thing of all? It's pretty much the only ^&*%$#@ Joy Division tune I know the title of! Jeepers, life's funny, innit?
But to more important things. I know you must have been there tonight, and I hope you'll agree when I say we were absolute garbage. OK, we "defended" and they didn't score, but is "defending" putting fourteen men behind the ball and knobbing it up the park at all kinds of ludicrous angles much to hard for anyone (had there actually been anyone up there to receive it) to control? We'd have needed six blokes with kangaroo legs bopping that pill about tonight judging from the rate at which they were kicking it AWAY from themselves. I saw someone on the UWS forum earlier, trying to put some spin on it, and he said it was better that we drew like this, cos the pressure in the second home leg will force us to attack - which is what we do best. It has to be the most intelligent forum going these days. He was of course being a little sarcastotronic.
But they took Deco and Messi off. They strolled around like they owned the pla-, er, like they were miles better than us. Us. The best football team in the world. What a trip...
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