Monday 10th November, same venue , different competition ,
Newcastle United Reserves v Hartlepool Reserves
Yes folks, last night it was the turn of Hartlepool United's reserves to face our unbeaten squad in the Pontins League Cup. After last week's soaking your reporter took the precaution of changing into jeans, boots and stadium jacket (with hood - no wet napper for me this time) before setting off for Kingston Park.
It was going to be interesting to see how the players reacted since inclusion in this starting lineup probably precluded any involvement in Wednesday's game or Saturday's game against Wednesday (eh? Sounds like one for Derek Fowldes). Arrival at the ground was somewhat surreal since two new stands have appeared as if by magic opposite the main clubhouse stand. Closer inspection revealed that they are aluminium, temporary affairs, so either the stories about the Falcons coming home to roost since they can't fill the Gateshead Stadium are true, or my red-hot tip that it is in preperation for Del Piero's appearance as our new signing at the next Reserves fixture :-)). Whatever, the new stands acted as a wind tunnel to concentrate the icy blast right up my nostrils (wherever I went) resulting in tar stained cheeks and constant dew-drop.
The idea that the side would consist of Yesterday's Men and Tomorrow's People was confirmed by the naming of only 3 substitutes while even the Monkey Hangers had 5. Toon lined up as follows:
1 Lionel Perez - thank God he won't be standing in for Given!
2 Paul Arnison - he does exist!
3 Paul Talbot
4 David Beharall
5 Philippe Albert - everyone knows his name.
6 Jamie McClen
7 David Burt - he'll be next one to break into the 1st Team.
8 James Coppinger - fun-size Barton but with ball control
9 Terry Burghall
10 John Barnes - Haway Digger!
11 Gary Brady - I'm sure the loss of form is only temporary, we have 650,000 reasons to hope
12 Steven Caldwell
13 Peter Keen - Just how bad does Lionel have to be for this chap to get a start?
14 David McMahon
Right from the off it was clear that the atmosphere is automatically improved by closing the ground in on two sides, since what noise was made was at least reverberating back at you. A small group of lads started a chant in one corner which soon petered out, but the girls behind the Toon goal kept singing "Phillipe, Phillipe Albert, everyone knows his name!" when he touched the ball, which was nice.
The play was also pretty one-sided in the first half which was good to see with so many unfamiliar faces, particularly up front. No more Dags Jnr, Guivarc'h, Robinson (apparently away with suspected appendicitis, ouch!) or Ketsbaia. Terry Burghall was certainly full of good running while young James Coppinger took the starring role. To look at him, you'd think he was Warren Barton's illegitimate son; he has the same stance with the uplifted head and bobbing blonde hair, but the similarity ends there. For the first few minutes the hulking Hartlepool players were able to buffet him off the ball, and I am sad to say that a couple of idiots in the stand decided to "encourage" him with shouts of "How many times, man? You're useless!", which is obviously the way to instill confidence in a 17 year old.
Fortunately he paid no attention and buried two goals which came from crisp passing around the box which caught out the defenders and left the keeper with too much goal to cover Words of advice were also being bandied about on the park, and I am pleased to be able to inform you that we now know where young Carl Serrant picked up all those naughty sailor words; it was from that old England war-horse John Barnes. Now I can only imagine that one of the reserve team coaches must be called Mr Ffoulkes, because Digger was obviously trying to engender in Paul Talbot a sense of responsibility towards said gentleman, by reminding him of the lessons he had been taught when he screamed ,"For Ffoulkes' sake go and dig the bastard out if you want the ball! Don't just look at me like that." I think it's wondeful to see all that invaluable international and European experience being passed on to a new generation.
It was quite neat that the two goals from our youngest player were capped by a third from our oldest when Digger knocked in a cross from Gary Brady, who appeared to still be suffering from the shock of being valued at £650,000, since this was one of his few positive contributions of the night. Our play seemed to bypass him much of the time, since we concentrated on pushing up the right with David Burt who had another fine game in midfield. If you miss seeing Toon midfielders bringing the ball forward at pace, then you should either get down to Kingston Park to watch him, or wait until his First Team call-up, which can't be that far off.
The announcer ushered in half time by telling us that it was Newcastle United 3 - Hartlepool 3, before the laughter of his comrades in the sound-booth informed him of his slight miscalculation. Gibbo sorted out the confusion by informing us that Hartlepool had had 3 goals disallowed for poor announcing.
In the second half, it was soon apparent that it was past Jamie Coppinger's bedtime, so he was substituted, and we had moved round behind the Hartlepool goal expecting the scoring to continue. This looked like a canny move when Burt broke through and narrowly missed the far post with Burghall sliding in. The Hartlepool keeper, Simon Miotto, grinned at the shouts of "Dodgy keeper!" and called back "I had it covered," with a sheepish expression. Someone predictably responded with "Monkey hanger!" Almost straight from his kick upfield, however, Hartlepool scored, and Mr Miotto singlehandedly regaled us with a solo of "It's all gone quiet over there!" as he pointed at us. This was met with general good humour, which was harder to sustain when they scored another one a few minutes later.
Needless to say, all this was happening down the wrong end for us, so I can't really comment (although I seem to remember shouting that coach's name at the time). Apparently, the chap causing us all the problems was a 32 year old Norwegian triallist called Asbjorn Helgeland, and I dare say the chants of "There's only one Asbjorn Helgeland!" will go largely unchallenged this season. The last few, nervous minutes were endured before the final whistle blew and the announcer told us that there had been only 1,353 in attendance. This was even less than last week when torrential rain might have excused the poor turn-out, but unless SJP is heaving on Wednesday, questions need to be asked about our legendary "fanatical" support. One man who certainly was there is none other than Ruud Gullitt, who is certainly not living up to Ken Bates's accusations of having no interest in doing his job. The fact that none of those players can expect to play this week shows some pretty decent man-management on Ruud's part by bothering to watch the players who failed to make the cut. It certainly compares well with giving fans a lifetime ban for showing their disapproval at an extremely well-paid player who doesn't want to play for your club anymore. 3-2 was a result in this cup competition which is the all the more commendable considering that only Albert and Barnes have been in the 1st team before. We seem to have a good group of youngsters if we can completely change the lineup each week and still walk away with the points. We still have Scarborough and 'Boro to play in our group, but I will be tickled pink if we win this competition.
For more info on the reserves, Visit the Young Magpies Zone