What The North East Has Given To Football
This weekend will see the Wear-Tyne derby as Sunderland and Newcastle look to grab local bragging rights once again. The last derby game, at St. James’ Park, ended up with Sunderland on the end of a 5-1 drubbing and although that was considered one of the most anticipated derby games in recent seasons, Sunday’s game should be just as heated for much different reasons. Newcastle have decided to rock the boat once again this season and Alan Pardew will take control for his first local derby, coming off a terrible 3-1 defeat to League Two Stevenage. Sunderland were just as disappointed at the weekend as they lost 2-1 at home to League One Notts Country and it would appear that for one side the misery is about to carry on that little bit longer. Sunderland will be hungry for revenge after the first derby defeat and Newcastle will hope they can continue their wonderful record of playing Sunderland, with only one defeat in the last 12 against their bitter rivals. The North East had a disappointing week in cup competitions (even Berwick Rangers, from Northumberland, lost in the Scottish cup!), so I thought I’d go some of the great things that the North East has given the game of football (cheer us all up a bit, I guess!).
Sir Bobby & Jack Charlton:
Born in Ashington Northumberland, the two Charlton brothers are some of the most recognised and celebrated footballers in English football history. Their most notable achievement was winning England’s only World Cup in history, yet both have distinguished playing careers for rival clubs. The younger brother, Bobby, is heralded as a hero at Manchester United and one of their greatest ever players, whereas Jack made his name at Leeds United; at the time some considered him the best centre back England had ever produced. Bobby is the all time leading goalscorer for his country and will forever be remembered for his blistering long range efforts that used to terrify opposition goalkeepers. Jack Charlton is known as a hero in the Republic of Ireland after leading them to the World Cup finals and bringing glory to a country that had been known as a footballing minnow previously, with the public forever being grateful for his no nonsense style. Unfortunately, the two brothers are no longer on speaking terms after a falling out that related to family issues as many back in local Ashington champion Jack as a local hero whereas there is a lot of detest for Bobby. When their mother got sick, Bobby never came back to visit her in hospital which angered many in the community, most prominently Jack who became upset at Bobby’s actions. Jack still looks to help the local area where he grew up in; he even recently performed the ribbon cutting for the opening of the new Ashington ASDA supermarket!
The Milburn family and Jackie Milburn:
Bobby and Jack Charlton are also part of this unique North East footballing dynasty, yet many within the game are unaware with how well one Ashington family served the early years of the professional game. Jack and Jimmy Milburn, who both played for Leeds United and Bradford, George Milburn, who played for Leeds United and Chesterfield and Stan Milburn who played for Chesterfield, Leicester and Rochdale. Family members were overshadowed however by the softly spoken and modest Jackie Milburn, who became a hero at local Newcastle United. The English football hall of famer played for the Toon between 1943-57, becoming Newcastle’s all time record goal scorer until Alan Shearer recently broke the record. Despite being a prolific goalscorer for Newcastle and leading them to many title successes, he only played 13 times for England, scoring an impressive 10 goals in that time. At one point, Milburn used to play for Newcastle while also keeping his job down the local coal mine. Milburn used to learn greatly from another Newcastle number nine, Hughie Gallacher and the impact he had on the local area is clear to see, with a statue of the man in local Ashington as well as Newcastle itself. The most noticeable sign of his impact however can be seen as the St. James’ Park tribute to the great man, having a stand named in his honour.
Although you may hear Newcastle and Sunderland fans chant “you’re just a small town in Yorkshire” to their Middlesbrough counterparts, ‘Boro produced one of the most loved and exciting English managers of the 20th century, who recently had his life dramatised in “The Damned United”. Not many people realise how impressive a footballer Clough was, having a great goal scoring record for both Middlesbrough and Sunderland, although a serious injury meant his career ended prematurely. His efforts as a manager left many to label him as the “greatest English manager that never led his country”, with Clough brining success to Derby Country and Nottingham Forest, even managing to retain the European Cup with Forest; something that has been very rare in the competition’s great history. Clough will always be known as one of the greatest and most interesting characters of the English game and he is sorely missed.
A name that will be familiar to many Liverpool fans, Bob Paisley was born in Sunderland yet will be remembered as a one the greatest parts of Anfield history. The only manager to ever win three European Cups, Paisley is one of the reasons the trophy cabinet at Liverpool is so full. Under his stewardship, Liverpool became one of the greatest sides in the world and one of the greatest squads World football has ever seen. Much like the previously mentioned Clough, Paisley was somewhat of a character, giving great quotes such as: “Mind you, I’ve been here during the bad times too. One year we came second”. Paisley filled the gap left by Bill Shankly’s retirement and gave Liverpool its most successful spell in history.
Sir Bobby Robson:
It goes without saying really. One of the nicest men in football, the day Bobby Robson died was mourned by many across the world of football. Robson gained great respect for his refusal to back down to the English media while he controlled the national side, the comedy movie “Mike Basset: England Manager” is loosely based on his troubles at the time and how the press hounded him to leave. Instead, Robson gave England one of its proudest moments in history, by reaching the Semi Finals of Italia 90, only narrowly missing out on penalties to the Germans. Robson had a successful playing career, but his impact as a manager can be seen across Europe. A statue of Robson stands in Ipswich to mark his success of winning the UEFA cup for the Tractor Boys, with Robson going on to have a wonderful career in other European leagues, winning trophies at PSV in the Netherlands, Porto in Portugal and Barcelona in Spain. Robson fulfilled his boyhood dream however, by managing Newcastle United and leading them to much success, with a memorable Champions League campaign that saw Robson’s Newcastle side become the only ever team to lose their opening three group stage games and still qualify. Some of the world’s greatest players, such as Figo and Ronaldo credit Robson for the impact he had on their career, Ronaldo in particular worshiped the ground Robson walked on, which even saw Robson table a cheeky £18m for the Brazilian to bring him to Newcastle. If you need evidence of how much love there was for Robson in the modern game, after his death Sunderland fans chanted “there’s only one Bobby Robson” at a pre-season friendly against Celtic, being one of the few people in football to bridge such a heated football rivalry. The picture above is only a small section of the tribute fans gave to Robson, as many tributes being give in one stand of St. James’ park, with Barcelona, Porto and PSV fans even making the long journey to show their respect.
Northumbrian born Bob Stokoe is another that managed to bridge the gap, but unlike Robson he had a direct impact on both Sunderland and Newcastle. A player that made over 250 appearances for Newcastle United, Stokoe’s appointment as Sunderland manager may have surprised many, but he gave the English game one of its greatest ever giant killings as second division Sunderland, with no internationals in their side, beat Leeds United. At the time, Leeds were arguably the biggest club in England and were dominating the league and although many were hopeful that second division Sunderland could get a result in the final, the task of the mighty Leeds may have been one too far for the Black Cats. Sunderland triumphed however and gave one of the great stories of the FA cup that is still remembered today. A statue of Stokoe stands outside the Stadium of Light for all to see, depicting the moment when Sunderland won the cup and there was jubilation all around. Not too sure about the red pants though, Bob…
Alan Shearer is the modern hero for Newcastle United and is one of the greatest strikers the world has ever seen. Shearer broke record after record and dedicated the majority of his career to his hometown club, despite not actually winning any trophies in the process! Shearer’s greatest success was probably in Kenny Dalglish’s (yes, he has experience!) Blackburn side which saw him and Chris Sutton form a lethal partnership, nicknamed ‘SAS’ (Sutton and Shearer). Alan Shearer was always a stubborn character, rejecting the chance to join Man Utd so he could realise his dream of playing for Newcastle, as well as often rejecting the calls for him to reverse his decision to retire from the English national side, where he had a great goal scoring record and was even named in England’s all time greatest XI. If you look at any of the English league scoring records, it is more than likely you’ll see Shearer’s name and it is usually on the top, he was a consistent performer and Newcastle really struggled when he retired. He attempted to save Newcastle from relegation with a brief stint managing the club, but they were instead relegated and when he isn’t watching his home town team play, he is sitting in the Match Of The Day studio admitting he knows nothing about Hatem Ben Arfa.
It may be somewhat of a controversial choice for this list, but for those that only know Gazza as that guy who tried to calm down criminal Raoul Moat (or “Moaty” as Gazza knows him by, apparently) with a fishing rod, a few beers and a bag of chicken, should also know that many consider Gascoigne to be one of the most naturally gifted footballers to ever be produced by this country. An exciting player that scored what I consider to be the greatest ever England goal in history (as seen above, against bitter rivals Scotland), the Gateshead born midfielder never did manage to settle down at one club. Sir Alex Ferguson said in an interview once that Man United almost signed Paul Gascoigne, only for Tottenham Hotspur to buy his parents a new house in the North East which swayed Gazza’s decision. Ferguson believes that if he had signed for Man Utd, then Gazza would not have the problems he did today, as living in London created many of the problems we see in Gazza today. He gave us many great memories over the years and it upsets me in many ways to see what has happened to him now. A troubled genius, but a great footballer.
The Future? Andy Carroll, Adam Johnson and Jordan Henderson?
The English national team is going through a bit of a crisis at the moment, but there are three lads from the North East that could be a big part of the nation’s future. If you ignore the ridiculous fees that are banded around for these three players, Sunderland Jordan Henderson, Newcastle’s Andy Carroll and Man City’s Adam Johnson have all caught the eye this season and if nurtured the right way could fantastic players in the future. Carroll has taken the league by storm this season, ever since being handed the Newcastle No.9 shirt he has been a goal scoring prodigy, improving with every game he plays; even being hailed by some of the greats in the European game. Jordan Henderson has been linked with Man Utd recently, but his eye catching displays have seen him become an important part of the Sunderland midfield in their successful season and although he had a difficult England debut, he will only improve and get better. Adam Johnson at Man City has riled many die hard England fans, as he has spent a lot of time on the bench this season despite looking like a livewire on the pitch, an exciting winger that has scored some great goals this season. Only time will tell if they can carry on the North East tradition of producing great footballing icons.
Follow me on Twitter @Clusks.