Newcastle United 0 - 1 Everton
Half-time: 0 - 0
FA Carling Premiership 2000-01 Game #10
3pm Saturday 21 October 2000
St James' Park, Newcastle
|« Southampton (h)||Ref: Mark Halsey||Liverpool (a) »|
|[ Matchday Calendar ]||League Position: 14th||[ Results & Table ]|
Abel Xavier returned to provide some much-needed strength at the
Walter Smith blooded one of his new boys, Idan Tal, in a 4-4-1-1 formation
with Gazza playing behind Kevin Campbell.
You could understand it if the players actually look forward to getting away from Goodison Park after the pain and embarrassment of the last two wholly inadequate performances. And their efforts seemed to confirm this with an organised, professional, almost team-like display against the Geordies.
David Unsworth and Gary Naysmith then came on to strengthen the defence for the last 20 mins as Pembridge and Tal were sacrificed in a conservative move by Walter Smith... but it soon turned into a masterstroke as Naysmith got on the end of a great move started by Gascoigne's back-heel, setting up a cross for Kevin Campbell to score just 10 mins before the end! His first Premiership goal since February.
Credit should also go to Paul Gerrard, who made a number of stunning saves to keep the Toonies at bay and chalk up only his second clean sheet of the season, with a fit Tommy Myhre perhaps breathing down his neck.
What a great way for Gazza to come good on his promise to cocky Bobby Robson, who would have none of it when Gazza told him Everton had come for the win. And all those sad Toonies... makes yer heart go worrooooaar!
|EVERTON:||Campbell (80')||Tal; Sub: Naysmith|
|LINEUPS||Subs Not Used|
|Newcastle United:||Given, Barton (23' Gallacher), Domi, Goma, Lee, Dyer, Shearer, Speed, Solano, Cordone (60' Lua-Lua), Hughes.||Bassedas, Harper, S Caldwell.|
Gerrard; S Watson, Weir, Xavier, Ball; Nyarko, Pembridge (68'Unsworth), Gravesen, Gascoigne, Tal (68' Naysmith); Campbell.
Unavailable: Alexandersson, Cleland, Ferguson, Gough, Jeffers, Pistone (injured).
|Simonsen, S Hughes, Cadamarteri.|
|Newcastle United:||Black & white shirts; black shorts; white socks.||4-4-2|
|EVERTON:||Royal Blue shirts; white shorts; blue socks.||4-5-1|
|Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|Newcastle United:||Domi (10')|||
|EVERTON:||Ball (42'), Pembridge (65'), Gravesen (77')|||
|Sports.Com||Detailed Match Stats|
|REPORTS BY EVERTON FANS|
|Mickey Blue Eyes||Jean-Paul Sartre meets Les Miserables|
|Rob Burns||Unto us is born Xavier|
Everton savour benefits of travel
by Derick Allsop
|THE SUNDAY TIMES||
Campbell's strike gives Everton win
by Ron Clarke
Frustrating end to Gascoigne's perfect day
by George Caulkin
|LINKS TO NEWSPAPER REPORTS|
|THE INDEPENDENT||Link to Match Reports|
|THE OBSERVER||Link to Football Unlimited|
|THE GUARDIAN||Link to Football Unlimited||Very little about Everton|
|DAILY POST||Link to Daily Post Report||
|LIVERPOOL ECHO||Link to Echo Report||
|LINKS TO OTHER INTERNET REPORTS|
|EVERTON FC SITE||Link to Official Match Report||
|BBC SPORTS||Link to BBC Sports Match Report|
|SKY SPORTS||Link to Sky Sports Match Report|
|SPORTING LIFE||Link to PA Sports Match Report|
|SOCCERNET||Link to SoccerNet Match Report|
|FA PREMIER||Link to FA Premier Match Report|
|Jean-Paul Sartre meets Les Miserables|
|Mickey Blue Eyes|
The early morning jog was accomplished. So was the work-out with hand weights. The match against the Toonies forced its way into my thoughts, an albatross following the ship. Oh well. Why not consult the Frog Jean-Paul and see what he had to say at times like this. I’ll have the shower afterwards, or maybe that’ll come at Newcastle, cold.
I consulted the library. Being and Nothingness? Er, no. Too near the existential bone. Existentialism and Humanism? Definitely NOT! What’s happening at the moment is inhuman and shouldn’t happen to a dog. Hang on, this one’ll do……Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions. Oh aye, YIS. Every Blue Belly’s full of theories as to why we’re almost weeping after every game. I’m no exception. Avid with intellectual hunger before breakfast, I read the opening words of chapter one:
“…..How can we admit that ordinary organic reactions suffice to render an account of distinct psychic states? How can quantitive and, by the same token, quasi-continuous modifications in the vegetative functions correspond to a qualitive series of states irreducible to one another? For example, the physiological modifications which correspond to anger differ only by their intensity to those which accompany joy (somewhat quicker respiratory rhythm, slight augmentation of muscular tone, increase in biochemical exchanges, of arterial tension, etc.) For all that, anger is not a greater intensity of joy; it is something else, at least as it presents itself to consciousness. It would be useless to show there is an excitation in joy which predisposes to anger, citing the case of lunatics who are constantly passing from joy to anger (for instance, by rocking to and fro on a seat at an accelerating rhythm). The idiot who has become angry is not ‘ultra-joyful.’ Even if he has PASSED from joy to anger (and there is nothing to justify our affirming that there has not been a number of psychic events meanwhile) anger is irreducible to joy.”
Oh. That’s alright, then.
I went and had my shower while the words sank in. Then I went to meet The Bus and left J-P’s words in the existential ether. We filed into The Bus silently. I felt like I was getting on board a tumbril. Everybody was glum, probably an ordinary organic reaction to a distinct psychic state.
It was an absolutely gorgeous English day. Bright sunshine, cool, Autumn leaves everywhere. I brightened up. That’s it! We aren’t existentialists! We are LES MISERABLES, about to man the barricades and die gloriously like all true revolutionaries! We will nourish the tree of freedom with our sacrifice! I suddenly had a quicker respiratory rhythm and felt a slight augmentation of muscular tone. But it might have been a bout of wind...
We were on the A1 when somebody remembered one of the reasons we were travelling. “Ey bollocks. What ale ‘ouse’re we stoppin’ at?!” I immediately felt an increase of biochemical exchanges and said, “Fuckin’ right la. I’m dyin’ of therst.” The driver took the next turn-off.
We had arrived unerringly at Chevy’s Bar, one of those incredibly awful places the English fondly imagine as “American.” It was a purpose-built structure glazed top to bottom at the front, pointy roofs, and inside… all chrome, pink strip lights, pink velvet wallpaper and a couple of fat peroxide “blondes” at the bar. It was empty. Kenny Fogarty would have loved it. Opposite the entrance doors was a pool table covered in red baize. My arterial tension was palpable. We had three pints each, watched the remnants of the Mancs murdering Leeds on the box and got back on the road.
Alcohol loosens tongues. So I presented a thought to the consciousness of The Bus: “What d’yiz think then? How’re we gonna gerron?” Three narrow, furrowed brows turned around in perfect unison at the front seat, shaved heads bristling like loofahs. “Gonna WIN of course” came the syncopated reply and a rapid turn back to the front. The word “…dickhead…” hung briefly in the air and then flew out through the open quarter light, thus showing an excitation in joy which predisposes to anger. Shit, I thought, maybe we HAVE got a chance. I rocked to and fro on my seat at an accelerating rhythm as Newcastle hove into view...
It’s a small place completely dominated by the football stadium up on the highest hill. The new cathedrals of English society. The stadium has only been half rebuilt. Spatial restrictions make it look as though the other half will never proceed. The result is a somewhat half-cocked appearance… the new twice as high as the old. Given it’s exposed location and the materials used, it is highly likely to weather badly. I forecast it will be full of black pattern stains in about four years time. Make it look like a Toon shirt in fact. Maybe – haha – it’s a deliberate architectural ploy! The new bit isn’t at all bad, though, and the roof is particularly impressive viewed from the inside… looks like it’s about a hundred metres span right out to the touch line. The roof's transparency has been really well handled too.
All of which was fine if you discount the fact that we were allocated seats right at the back of the uppermost tier. I stopped counting the stair flights at eleven. Not funny if you’re on the heavy side. Me, fit as a fiddle and twice as musical, I sped up the stairs in no time. Cost me a quicker respiratory rhythm though. I settled down in me seat and began to watch a game of Subbuteo. Honest, that’s how far away we were. Had I known, I would have brought my Swarovski opera glasses.
The Performance - Act I
Abel was back. This time at centre-back. As I watched the opening exchanges, I felt an excitation in joy which predisposes to anger. We were doing well but how long would it last? I ransacked my memory. No, Sartre had no words for The Charlton Syndrome.
I waited for us to implode. Instead, we began to give the Geordies a hard time, especially when it quickly became obvious that their full backs were having a bad-hair day and all you needed to do was drop an accurate ball behind them and they were basically fucked. Pembo was having another terrific little game in midfield and Gazza was clearly up for it in a BIG way. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
The whole team was playing like they actually knew each other. Sometimes as many as five players passed the ball accurately all at once. Jay-SUS! What had Walter said to them during the week?
Shearer was his usual fractious self but Weir-Xavier were rock solid. Nobody went AWOL, including, so help me, Bally! Up front, SuperKev ploughed his usual lonely furrow and understandably still looked a half-metre short on pace.
The Toonies were restricted to one clear chance in the first half. Otherwise they made a couple of breaks down the wings when we were caught square but they too got snuffed quickly. The Geordie fans were clearly predisposed to anger and began to grumble audibly and had equally clearly passed from joy to anger. It was all very satisfying. In midfield, even Nyarko was able to indulge himself because we had five strung across. This suits him because he doesn’t have to tackle so often. Half time arrived with us looking solid and certain.
But wait. We’ve seen this before. I contemplated the past and equated it with the present. Yes, Jean-Paul was right after all. We have seen previous physiological manifestations. And it hurt!
The Performance - Act II
The second half started and I sat back, left thumb in mouth, chewing at the ends of my thumbnail. I had a slight tensular augmentation of my muscle tone. The Toonies were all over us like a cheap suit. I knew Jean-Paul would have liked the analogy except he would’ve wanted to know who made the suit and how much was it?
Play continued as the Bar Codes surged forward. Paul made a couple of absolutely stunning stops from well struck shots. It was noticeable though that Newcastle were largely neglecting high balls into the box. Christ, maybe we’d get a point out of this after all. If only we could stop the reappearance of The Charlton Syndrome.
Then, gradually, glory be, we DID! The midfield got a grip again and the Geordies were snuffed good and proper. We were still dropping murderous passes behind their full backs, particularly Gazza, who was still motoring and mixing it.
A Gravesen cross zipped in from the right, took out the entire Toon defence and left SuperKev with a tap in, right post, and us out of our seats with our hands in the air. He miss-hit it wide!!! My respiratory rhythm went through the roof and my muscle tone felt like rods. Kev! My HERO! You fucking WANKER! How could you MISS! But he was down, injured by a hapless Toon defender after the ball had gone. I could have wept. It looked bad until at length he got up after off-field treatment and trotted back on.
Naysmith came on but I’m fucked if I could recognise any features in the boy. We were too far away. Then we attacked down the left, he crossed and, carbon copy reversed of the missed chance, there was SuperKev at the far post again. The world stood still. Then he side footed it in and the World of Evertonians went mad. Behind me, two Bellies in KevMasks, wearing pink kitchen gloves, were dancing on somebody’s shoulders. Jean-Paul where are you, you bastard, when I need you most? I never did find out the significance of the kitchen gloves. I was too busy standing on my head augmenting my respiratory rhythm.
In truth, self-imposed arterial tension aside, it was all over from there on in and the Geordies knew it. The whistle went and SuperKev rightly milked it for every second, right over to the fans, arms pumping up and down. We crowded down the stairs rocking to and fro in an accelerated rhythm.
Triumphantly, I realised we had fucked up Jean-Pauls’s thesis. Anger was reduced to joy in a psychic event. Just goes to show that old saying is true: An Englishmen has two enemies. His wife. And the French.
|[ Up to Reports Index ]|
|Unto us is born a Xavier|
We travelled in hope rather than expectation. As I made the trip north
on Friday, the talk was of what we might get out of the game... IF we were
lucky. A suspect defence, shored up with midfielders, to try and hold
back the certain tide of the Toon army attack; a forward line decimated by
injury and showing little form in recent matches. The writing was on
The newly built stand occupied by the Everton masses towers high above Newcastle, and the look on the fans' faces as they reached the top of at least 10 flights of concrete steps showed that a combination of Bally's drinking habits and a level of exercise equal to Duncan's training for the season was why WE were in the stands and THEY were out on the pitch.
A view equivalent to Sky Digital's "Zeppelin Cam" coupled with extreme temperatures brought on by the sun through the glass roof certainly helped to dull the pre-match enthusiasm – although it at least looked as if we could be comfortable with Walter's team selection as he lined up with a 4-5-1 formation: Ball, Weir, Xavier and Watson in, for once, their correct positions. The absence of Alexandersson forced Gravesen to the right wing, debutant Tal on the left, Pembridge, Gascoigne and Nyarko in the middle. Campbell was worryingly, given his lack of form and confidence recently, alone up front.
Everton started brightly, playing passing football that we haven't seen at Goodison at all this season. Slow and composed build-up and quick changes of pace from the likes of Tal, Pembridge and the Prodigal Son, Gascoigne, in the middle caused the black & white midfield problems. Acres of space appeared on the right time and again, and Watson and Gravesen combining well left only the accuracy of the final ball lacking from otherwise good penetration.
On the opposite side, Tal looked bright and confident. Getting on the end of a seemingly lost ball, he played a superb first-time volleyed cross which was just cut out by the defender. Nyarko seemed completely at home as one of the three middle-men and a good run from midfield saw a blistering right-to-left shot from 15 yards which was palmed away by Given.
Campbell struggled as a lone front man, Gascoigne the elected supporter just a yard too slow to hit the front early enough for the Number 9 to make best use of the ball. Newcastle always looked dangerous as they attacked quickly, and the lack of real experience in the Premier League for Idan Tal left Ball exposed several times as he tried to pick up two men. Crosses rained in but Gerrard showed confidence and (possibly?) authority in the box.
Watson's flank was adequately covered as he enjoyed a game befitting of the ovation given for his return to Tyneside. Gravesen was solid in the tackle and relieved the pressure by holding the ball up front. Ball showed a black streak just before half time as he needlessly fouled Cordone from behind when all that was required was to hold the man against the touchline and force the throw. A yellow card was the reward.
Solano and Speed headed over and Shearer had a direct free-kick saved well by Gerrard. Funniest moment of the half was a free kick that even fooled the men taking it as all three ran over the ball.
The second half was a rather different story as Newcastle attacked in droves. Pembridge was industrious in the middle and again took pressure off his defenders with cutting passes that gave the defenders something to worry about, making the tackles and seemingly coming out of every ruck with the ball. Unfortunately, Everton just couldn't get anywhere near the goal, and the pressure became relentless as they sat in their own half and bowed under the strain.
But the story of the match has to be the way in which Everton did defend. Xavier played with style and thought. Dominating the aerial battle, he was constantly buffeted by Shearer but never gave an inch. He calmly swept up mistakes and distributed the ball superbly causing danger on the counter-attack. Even his defensive headers were placed to a man or an out-of-danger space – a level of thought and reason which has been missing since the departure of Gough.
Alongside Xavier, Weir showed composure and came out of defence strongly – he had the new-found confidence of a man alongside him who really ran the back-line. We had regained the water-tight hold of last season despite the problems with injury and the departure of the prospect Richard Dunne.
The Newcastle attacks became less and less, but an inspired substitution brought in Naysmith and Unsworth, to left wing and centre midfield respectively. Naysmith's initial contributions looked good, defending well in front of Ball and carrying the ball forward, linking with the midfielders inside him. His confidence was high and he made a pacy run down the left, then threw a crossed ball to the far post that was volleyed home by Campbell. Evertonians danced in delight, and disbelief, Campbell celebrated finally getting off the mark. Confidence was suddenly abundant.
Naysmith again raided the left, pushing a ball past the defender and chasing to get onto the end of it was the cheekiest play of the day. Unsworth kept it simple, anchoring the midfield and joining the defence when retreating, making a valuable contribution.
Gazza attacked the corner flag; as they tried to run down the clock, Campbell and Nyarko found fresh legs and made dangerous attacking moves. The whistle finally blew as the Geordies were already leaving. A fitting finale was Speed's poor shot wide which was the icing on the cake as the blue fans jeered. KC showed his obvious joy as he stood to celebrate with the fans that weren't obscured by cloud cover. Strangely there was none of the shirt kissing from the hero of the day like that seen at Middlesbrough a few weeks ago.
The singing continued as we left the ground via the lines of police and dogs, but there was little chance of trouble as Evertonians walked away struggling to believe their luck with what they had got away with – but not even contemplating the idea of pushing it.
Walter has a firm base to build on now. If the back four can stay injury-free, we can begin to develop some shape, players can get back to their positions, birds will sing, and money will grow on trees. There is a chance that our favourite centre-forward can start to build on his quota for the season and at last we can begin to take some heart from the team's performances. However, I am sure the Bible says somewhere that as Evertonians we must go into the derby devoid of confidence and low on luck – and after this afternoon you have to be worried about our chances. Bring on the redshite!
|[ Up to Reports Index ]|
|Everton savour benefits of travel|
|Derick Allsop, Electronic Telegraph|
EVERTON BRIDGED almost the length of the Premiership to revive a little faith back at Goodison and stifle optimism in these parts. A goal by Kevin Campbell, 10 minutes from the end, confirmed this improbable result, yet, it was no more than Walter Smith's hitherto disjointed team deserved.
Perhaps it was the escape from the pressures of playing at home that released some of the tension in Everton's play. Cohesion and confidence returned to their game in equal measure. Newcastle, too, have found wins more difficult to achieve in front of their own. Their last league success here was in August.
They may point to the excellent goalkeeping of Everton's Paul Gerrard, who produced three acrobatic saves, and the course of the match might have been different had Gary Speed converted an early opportunity.
However, Everton had to endure frustration before Campbell's decisive lunge. The striker spurned an opportunity in similar circumstances, Alex Nyarko was denied by Shay Given's athleticism and Mark Pembridge had a strong case for a penalty rejected.
Appropriately, Paul Gascoigne, who emerged as possibly the most gifted English midfield player of his generation in this arena, made an impudent contribution to the goal. His back-heel instigated the move which involved Nyarko and Gary Naysmith, one of the club's new acquisitions. The Scot arrived when the Israeli, Idan Tal, departed, and both helped breathe new life into Everton.
Once Newcastle's predictable early onslaught had been repelled, Everton produced the more assured, purposeful football. Gascoigne was the catalyst for much of the more inventive play, but the entire midfield rose to the challenge.
Nyarko was unfortunate not to claim the personal reward of a goal, Thomas Gravesen provided guile as well as wit, and Pembridge ensured the honest endeavour.
Newcastle, devastatingly fluent at Middlesbrough last Monday, stuttered through the game, rarely confronting Everton with the conviction of a team in the top three.
Bobby Robson, Newcastle's manager, was unavailable for comment after the match because he was reportedly in conversation with his chairman, Freddy Shepherd, about a possible return to England management duties.
However, Robson's right-hand man Mick Wadsworth was adamant the conjecture surrounding the manager had not had a detrimental effect on Newcastle's performance. He said: "That's not an excuse the players or I would want to use. It was a frustrating performance. Of course we are concerned with our home form. It needed a bit of inspiration to break them down and it didn't happen."
A relieved Smith said: "For the first time this season we played consistently throughout the match. We've played better away from home, not just today, but in other games.
"I was pleased for all our players today. Although we made it difficult for Newcastle, I don't think anybody could begrudge us a win."
The fruit of that better play came after Gerrard twice saved superbly from Alan Shearer and again from Speed. Campbell failed to turn in Steve Watson's cross, but atoned to haul Everton away from the dreaded relegation zone.
|Report © The Electronic Telegraph|
|[ Up to Reports Index ]|
|Campbell's strike gives Everton win|
|by Ron Clarke, The Sunday Times|
NEVER mind the caretaker role for England, the talk on Tyneside last night was the need for Newcastle United manager Bobby Robson to get his own house in order first. His team have failed to score at fortress St James' for three games and have lost consecutively here to Charlton and now Everton. The visitors, in a slump themselves, packed their midfield with five players and invited the home team to find a way through. The fact they did not, and left Everton to grab the breakaway winner in the final minutes, did little to dampen the discord of discontent over Mr Robson's rumoured short-term move back to international duty.
After a frustrating afternoon in which Newcastle never showed glimpses of the form that recently saw them rise to third in the table with maximum points from their travels to Manchester City and Middlesbrough, Kevin Campbell nipped in on 80 minutes to latch onto new signing Gary Naysmith's cross ball and slide it into the net.
Delighted Everton manager Walter Smith, ending five games without a victory, said: "We stuck to our task. It was a terrific win."
It had all looked so promising in the early exchanges as a lively Kieron Dyer combined well with Alan Shearer for the retired international to supply a tempting cross. Gary Speed sent the header spiralling over the bar.
It was preceded by a comic interlude when Speed, Dyer and Nolberto Solano all left the ball to each other in a faltering free-kick manoeuvre. Despite some early scares, Everton were soon beginning to find plenty of wide open space with alarming ease.
Didier Domi pulled down Thomas Gravesen en route to goal and the Everton man nearly got his revenge by supplying the perfect through ball to the free running Paul Gascoigne.
The former England international, a surprisingly slimmer version from the last time he played in a competitive match here 12 years ago for Tottenham Hotspur, just failed to connect by the width of a boot lace. On 22 minutes, the decision to recall Warren Barton backfired on Newcastle when he pulled up with a recurrence of a groin injury and was replaced by Kevin Gallacher.
The substitute nearly had an immediate effect as he swung in a perfectly dipping cross only for Dyer to nod the opportunity just over the bar. Prior to this, Alex Nyarko was allowed plenty of time to test Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given with a long-range effort. He passed the test comfortably but again there were signs that Newcastle could concede at any moment.
On the stroke of half-time, Shearer, still to score a goal at this marvellously redeveloped 51,000-seater stadium, forced a fine save from Paul Gerrard. The last action of the opening half saw Michael Ball booked for an industrial challenge on Gallacher.
Newcastle's Daniel Cordone, nicknamed the Fox, spent all afternoon as if he were being pursued by a pack of hounds and had nowhere to run. It was a relief to both him and the crowd when he was eventually replaced by Lomanu Lua Lua on the one-hour mark. The man from Zaire bought an air of the unexpected to the proceedings, as even he admits he really does not know what he is going to do with the ball. But yesterday, like many of his colleagues, it was not to be his day as he failed to create any openings.
With Everton comfortable to the challenge, they restricted the home team to mainly long-range attempts. The best saw Gerrard dive to his right to tip away Shearer's fierce shot. The goal that was always lurking finally arrived with a late Campbell strike, leaving a delighted Gascoigne to jump up and down in sheer joy in front of his manager and the nearby Bobby Robson.
It was not exactly the reunion the Newcastle manager must have envisaged since that infamous tears-in-Turin moment during the World Cup in 1990. But Gascoigne is nothing if not irrepressible and he even had the audacity to phone up his former international manager during the week and warn him that Everton were on their way to Tyneside to take all three points.
Robson failed to turn up to the post-match press conference and it was left to his chief coach, Mick Wadsworth, to explain his absence by saying he was in a meeting with the chairman: "But he asked me to send you a message. He has not been contacted by the Football Association. He has said that categorically."
Admitting that his manager was a "prime candidate" for the England managerial position on any sort of basis, Wadsworth hinted that Newcastle United could ill afford to do without him even for short periods: "This is a huge club with huge expectations and huge demands on the manager. It is a heavy load. His wisdom and experience are much needed. He has turned this club round."
Those thoughts were probably echoed by the thousands of frustrated supporters who witnessed yesterday's events. Never mind the tears in Turin – with this result and the added rumours, the only tears being shed last night were those on Tyneside.
|Report © Times Newspapers Ltd|
|[ Up to Reports Index ]|
|Frustrating end to Gascoigne's perfect day|
|by George Caulkin, The Times|
IF THERE were tears from Paul Gascoigne, they were shed in frustration. Almost everything about the friendly prediction he had delivered to Bobby Robson the previous week — an Everton victory, a man-of-the-match performance — proved accurate. And, as a bonus, all of it was unveiled to the perfect audience; a Geordie, his mentor and the next man to lead England, all rolled into one.
Yet by 6:40pm on Saturday evening, when Freddy Shepherd, the Newcastle United chairman, was bundled into a taxi, it was pretty apparent that, aside from inspiring an important three points, Gascoigne’s efforts had been in vain. Shepherd and Robson had been locked together within St James’ Park, discussing the club’s refusal to let their manager answer the FA’s call to lead England on a temporary basis. Both left without comment. As did Gascoigne, whose lingering dreams of an international recall were burst yet again.
When the Newcastle manager met his former protégé at a recent reserve-team match, Robson almost failed to recognise the sprightly, rake-like man-child who stood in front of him. On the pitch, too, there have been revelations. “He’s almost back to his best — and his best was outstanding ten years ago,” Robson said. It was quite an endorsement.
But there are differences now. Rather than attempting to beat his man, Gascoigne may choose to tackle him. Effectively. The full range of passes is still there, but now complemented by a stamina that took him from box to box for a relentless 90 minutes against Newcastle. And he was last off the pitch, applauding the home-town crowd which, 12 years ago, had showered him with Mars bars.
The deflation was to come later. “Gazza is still stuck on the roof and I’m sure he won’t be down for a while,” Steve Watson, another Geordie at Everton, said. “Even at his age, he gets nervous about every game, but this was something different. It was particularly special for him.
“The way he’s playing at the moment, England can’t be completely out of the question. He hasn’t missed a single day’s training while I’ve been at the club, he wants to repay the manager’s faith in him and although he’s coming to the end of his career, he wants to get the most from it. He’s a great character — he makes everybody buzz.”
Everton hummed around him. While Paul Gerrard was responsible for a string of important saves — beating away shots from Alan Shearer, twice, and Gary Speed — and David Weir a resolute presence in defence, Gascoigne was the adhesive. By way of contrast, Newcastle had no seam, emerging with one of the most sullen performances of Robson’s tenure.
Gascoigne even played a small, if suitably lordly, role in Everton’s 81st-minute winner, backheeling the ball perfectly into the stride of Alex Nyarko, who played it out to Gary Naysmith. The substitute crossed to the far post where Kevin Campbell pounced for his second goal of the season.
Gascoigne looked down at his right boot and smiled, but there were no histrionics. “He has been relatively low-key,” Watson said, “and there haven’t been any pranks or practical jokes. But he’s got his feet under the table now and anything can happen.” It is the same hope that Gascoigne clings to.
|Report © Times Newspapers Ltd|