By Brian Hall
Tuesday 22 Oct 2013 18:30:00
Browse all Brian Hall articles



I took my oldest daughter to a special occasion on Sunday – or rather, she took me to it, as she is the car driver.  The event was called the Mackem Slayers, but I should add that there was no medieval ritual taking place involving any SAFC fans being put to the sword.


No. The event was a fund-raising exercise for the Joe Harvey Appeal, which seeks to raise money for a fitting memorial plaque at St James Park for one of the finest and most loyal servants that our club has ever seen.

We had the privilege to hear a range of NUFC players, from different decades, who had all put the ball in the Mackems’ Net in the most passionate and intense of all English football’s derbies. Sure, all of the impressive list of speakers mentioned their goals against the SAFC, and their feelings when they managed to do us all such a favour.

But I was far more interested, and far from disappointed, about what they had to say about their times at our, and, it seemed clear, their football club. NUFC.  Some, like Vic Keeble of the 50s, spoke of an era when they played 2 matches in 2 days – Xmas and Boxing Day. Can anybody imagine asking most current day professionals to do that!!? Ron McGarry suggested that the game was slightly rougher when he played against the likes of Charlie Hurley, the then SAFC captain – Ron did not totally go into all the gory details, which was just as well, as there were children present, and some others were still eating their dinners!

Tommy Craig, scorer of a brilliant free kick just outside the box at Roker Park in 1977, certainly reminded me of a very painful moment. Not the goal itself – I was in ecstasy – but rather of its immediate consequences. It had taken me some time to get off the concrete ground . complete with badly bruised head and body, in the Roker End after that ball had flown into the net.

And Tommy nearly brought some tears to my eyes again when he added, at one point – “...how lucky I am to have played for Newcastle United”.  If only a canny few more of the many privileged footballers who have landed at SJP shared that sentiment over the years.

Anyway, no Mackem Slayers occasion could occur with Liam O’Brien, and when he stood up, the place erupted to the sound of .....you guessed,   Any, Any, Any,........ O’Brien! For a brief moment,  I  thought that I was on the way to the Stadium of Light with the Mag hordes!!

All spoke with obvious pride and passion about this club.  Alan Shoulder, Scott Sellars, Michael Chopra.  Amongst all these contributions – I should stress that in the typical story of my life , we had missed Big Al himself, as he had to speak early – it was Nicos Dabizas who got to me the most.

Nicos had flown over from Greece, with the permission of his club, Panathanakios, where he is a lead coach. They had a game on Sunday, but they understood that he just had to return to this event at the Lancastrian Suite, in Dunston, Gateshead. That Mackem Slayer, the man who waved his toon top like a wild man, after putting the ball in their net, had explained to his club in Athens that he HAD to return.  To replay the fans. And he added that he has a framed giant picture in his house of his goal celebration.

You see, for Nicos, and all those other players there on Sunday, Newcastle United Football Club, and above all, its fans – the very heart of the institution – clearly means one helluva lot. And for those from various generations, so does the name of Joe Harvey.

Thanks to all those who worked so hard to put the day itself on. More funds were raised. For the Joe Harvey Memorial Plaque. And even my oldest daughter learnt a bit more about our history – obviously, she has been studying the subject since the age of 2 or 3, due to the influence of her Dad who feels education is an important thing!


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