NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD - HEAR THAT TRAIN A COMIN, A COMIN DOWN THE TRACK
By Brian Hall
Thursday 01 Dec 2011 13:20:00
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A politician once said in the booming early 60s that the British nation had never had it so good. That phrase applied to the Geordie Nation between the years between 1992 and 1997. In that dark February of '92, a certain man returned to the North East for a Second Coming. Back to the land of his Stanley Grandad, the hero of a pit disaster in times long ago. King Kevin Keegan was back in town, brought in by Sir John Hall, to deal with a potential disaster of epic proportions. Between them, they gave birth to The Entertainers.

 

Schooldays are the best days of your life, so they say. Bollocks.  Not for so many of us who followed the Keegan-Hall Wonderland in those years. We all walked into Wonderland.  The potentially epic crisis had to be overcome at first, and it was - just - with the help of a goal from David Kelly against Portsmouth, which led me into a semi-concussion state, as a result of my brother hurling me down the Gallowgate. Relegation to the old Third Division was avoided, ably assisted by the presence of Brian Killer Kilchline - not an Entertainer as such, but equally vital as as an engineer on what was to follow.

 

And then? We saw the construction of a Geordie Express. It sped  out of Division Two, entertaining on the way. Already, the small, decrepit SJP, due to the non-building activities of crap boards over previous years, was packed, and it was soon all ticket games only as Our Nation's hordes tried to cram themselves in,  to watch the train being assembled. Ten wins off the trot to start with at the beginning of the season. Ten out of Ten, as the old video reminds us. The Entertainers' engine steamed its way out of the Central Station and into the Premiership. It was hardly noticed on its arrival, nationally that is, but we all knew it soon would be. Rapidly, SKY and all the rest became on black and white alert, watching the goals rain in, not least from Andy Cole.  Gets the Ball, Scores a Goal, Andy, Andy Cole, The first station stop was the first season amongst the elite. The statistics say it all. Finished third, and 82 goals scored. Check up the rest over those years, and they would astonish many footy readers of such data.

 

 It is naturally a very hard task to list all of those characters who wore that strip ripping aside teams for the fun of it. Or worse, list all of the memories associated with them. On the domestic front, they often came out onto the pitch like some modern day military battering ram - about to batter with talent, skill, and genius, whoever got in their way. One day at the ranch saw the Mags have 42 goals on target - on target - but we only scored 3 against West Ham. The Little Gem, Mr Beardsley, was naturally involved in such an affair, and he continued to dance his way across Premiership defenders like Billy Elliott on a West End stage. Andy Cole was eventually dropped off at a station, only to be replaced on the train by the Knight of All Knight Strikers - Sir Lesley Ferdinand.

 

Wingers clearly helped on the Entertainers' Express.  David Ginola, a later arrival, bending and curling balls into the penalty area for a black and white head to put in the net, or sometimes just bending and curling a ball straight into the net by himself. Others included Ruel Fox and Keith Gillespie. As we know, any train needs an engine room though, making sure that the fuel was checked and supplied. King Kev made sure he had them in abundance. Barry Vennison, a Stanley lad, and Lee Clark, a Wallsender. Lee did us proud in that room, and also, just after the Entertainers had more or less left toon, turned up at Wembley to watch the Mags and was photographed with an anti-Mackem t-shirt. Nice one, Clarkie

        

 

 Last but so very far from least, in that midfield room was General Robert E Lee, there since the days of the birth of the Project, ,   marshalling, tackling, shooting. Who can forget his entry into the Premiership elite?. One early memorable occasion at Anfield. Our Kid, Bryan Williams - the latter sadly deceased- and Ian travelled down for our first away visit there for a long time. And the General scored the first goal in the 2-0 away win. This was good enough. But even better for Ian had who backed him to score the first goal!!

By the way, to any Liverpool readers, we did the Double on you that first season!

         

Anyway, nobody should forget the defence of that Entertainers' Train, a' running down that line. Myths emerged that it was hopeless - actually, stats prove otherwise. Sure, they all used to run down from the back of the carriage to the front. Barton. Bomber Beresford, belting into defenders and then belting down the wing. And of course, the graceful and elegant  Philippe Albert- Everyone Knows His Name - and he loved his chips, did Philippe. He gave us the best chip we ever saw...5-O against Man United. Amongst that lot was a lone Guardsman, Darren Peacock, often standing at the back and watching the charge of the rest of the cavalry surge forward.     

 

Not to be forgotten either are the many journies across Continental railtracks.The very first station was at Antwerp in Belgium, and shock broke out after a 5-0 away win for the Entertainers. They continued to travel, to places such as the Basque Country in Spain, where they represented the Basques of England. The Geordie Country. And they moved on to other sites, never winning a trophy out in Europe, but remembered by many - my older Spanish friends still talk about them.

 

The incredible journey reached its climax, or, as it turned out, the worst anti-climax ever felt. Certainly by many of the Black and White tribe anyway.  The season of 95-96 when that squad landed at their final destination, to claim the Pot of Gold at the end of the Rainbow. There was no gold or pot,  as that 12 point lead over the Mancs painfully, oh so painfully, declined. Liverpool helped, of course, in that process, with that injury time goal from Collymore in the 4-3 Anfield disaster. Looking back, only one consolation springs to mind - Liverpool actually helped Man United win the title!!

 

King Kev, now a very tired engine driver, tried one more journey, and Mr Shearer came to toon to help. He's Coming Home, He's Coming Home, Shearer's Coming Home. It was not to be for the Geordie Nation Entertainer Express. One person never forgot the final trip though.  Our Claire, aged 6,  saw them blast off early season at her first ever match.  4-3, it was, against Aston Villa, and that result kind of sums up what we had seen over those years. She remembers it to this day

 

And aye, we all remember that era in all our different ways. It was worth it, despite winning nowt, just to be a small part of it all. 4 songs spring to mind.

 

Memories,, Sweet, Sweet Memories You Gave Me. Dean Martin

 

Thank You for the Days, Those Endless, Endless Days You Gave Me. The Kinks.

 

And...A' Heard a Train A'Comin, A' Comin Down the Tracks. Jonny Cash..

 

And the 4th?  That's Entertainment....the Clash.

 

Brian Hall - author of Life of Brian in Black and White - 50 Years Following Newcastle United ( since birth that is)

 

A vital ps to Kevin. You once said, to massive acclaim, heard by me in a pub full of Washington Mags, that you would just love it. Love putting one over on the Mancs and Ferguson. Kevin. Dont worry. We loved it all, despite that title loss. Thanks to you and the players you brought to us, mate.

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