I sometimes get requests to answer questions about football, strange as it may seem, and just last week I got such a request from a sixth form student – Lewis Stubbs – who is studying Media Studies, and it was related to his post production work.
The first question sent me into a bit of a loop, because I was at Newcastle for a couple of seasons from the time I was 15, but I had no ambitions in professional football.
I’ve never been shy in giving my opinions - as you may have noticed – so here we go.
1. Why do you think your Newcastle career didn’t work out?
I never saw myself as a future professional footballer when I was 15 – so I wouldn’t say it didn’t work out. I was on the books at Newcastle for two years but I always wanted to get educated as far as I could possibly go.
I joined as an amateur because i stayed on at school until I was 18 and then went to University – I didn’t want to sign professional forms at 15 – and I didn’t.
2. Who was your childhood idol in the football industry?
Pele was the greatest player I ever saw play the game. I watched him on TV score two goals in the 5-2 win in the 1958 World Cup final in Sweden against Sweden.
Probably Bobby Charlton, who was from Ashington and one of the very best players England ever produced. When I was young I also though Duncan Edwards of Manchester United was a great player but he was killed in the Munich disaster on 6 February 1958 – he was just 21.
3. Who do you think is the best current youth academy player at Newcastle?
There are two of them, both local lads who are coming through nicely – North Shields born 17 year-old striker Adam Campbell, and South Shields 17 year-old Remi Streete, the center-back who is just recovering fully from the injury he picked up earlier in the year. Both seem fantastic prospects for Newcastle.
4. Who do you think has been the best NUFC youth academy player ever?
Probably Paul Gascoigne and we won the FA Youth Cup with Paul in the side back in 1986. Paul went onto have a glittering career – but I still don’t think he reached his full potential in football.
5. Who has been NUFC’s best ever player?
Jackie Milburn as far as I am concerned – and a close second is Alan Shearer – two of the greatest strikers England ever produced and 406 goals between them for Newcastle – and both local lads.
6. Who is NUFC’s best ever manager?
That’s a tough one, because in the olden days we had Stan Seymour and Joe Harvey who were successful and Kevin Keegan and Bobby Robson. I would say Bobby Robson, and it’s just a pity he couldn’t have started managing Newcastle when he was a lot younger – he was a fantastic man manager and one my real heroes in the game.
7. If you could pick any player to sign for free who would it be and why?
Cristiana Ronaldo because he’s a great player, can score goals and has already proved he can perform at the highest level in the Premier League. And to think we were interested in signing him when we brought Hugo Viana to the club under Bobby Robson. My son Neil named his cat Hugo – he was a big fan of Vaina when he was Newcastle.
8. If you could pick any manager to manage Newcastle who would it be or > would you stick with Pardew?
Alan’s done fantastic since he arrived and he knows the Geordie people, and he’s done fantastic in the short time he’s been on Tyneside – so I’d stick with Alan.
As far as an up and coming manager Paul Lambert now of Aston Villa seems to be a great young manager coming through.
9. Do you think NUFC would have been better now if we were bought by Qatari or Saudi owners rather than Mike Ashley?
I think we would have been more successful because they would have thrown the money around like at Manchester City or Chelsea. But at some point clubs need to balance their books via the Financial Fair Play rules and we are very near to that – while still having built a good team over the last couple of years.
10. What is the best match you have ever seen?
The England vs West Germany World Cup final at Wembley in 1996, because we won the World Cup – the game wasn’t all that good but it’s the one I will always remember, when my Dad and I had to hold off on the vodkas when West Germany equalized in the last minute of the game to make it 2-2, but two goals from Geoff Hurst saw to it that we won the thing. A World Cup final wa snot too big for our players in those days, unlike today’s players.
11. When did you first go to a match and who was it against?
I was four years old and it was in December and snow covered the St. James Park pitch completely and I remember the ball was a bright orange. Don’t know who the team was. My mother went with my Dad to looks after me and she kept saying – what number 9 – that’s Jackie (Milburn) – he was lightning fast.
12. Do you think Newcastle have any chance of winning either the Europa League, FA Cup or the League Cup?
Yes – we are getting closer and when we have all our top players in the side we can beat anybody – so maybe we can win something this season? I sure hope so.
13. Do you think Newcastle have a big enough squad for the tough season ahead?
No – and I think the Newcastle Board would agree – we made a big mistake by not bringing in at least one defender (preferably two) and an experienced top striker.
The squad is too small and after just three weeks we are already struggling with injuries – because of the extra games we will be playing in Europe.
14. What are your opinions of the current team?
Very good side, but not sure that Ba and Cisse play well together up front – we need another center-back and a full back and a striker.
But the team is probably the best one we’ve had since Bobby Robson ran the club.
15. What do you think Newcastle will get from the upcoming match with Everton?
Everton is always a tough place top go so I really don’t expect anything – although we won 1-0 there two years ago with a great goal from Ben Arfa. Obviously I hope we can pick up some points but Everton look to be in top form at the moment.
16. What is the best goal you have ever seen?
It’s got to be Ben Arfa’s goal against Blackburn when he got the ball in his own half and ran through their defense – magnificent goal by a wonderfully gifted Newcastle United footballer.
17. Which is a better partnership, Maradona and Pelè or Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi?
I would probably rate those four individually in this order – Pele, Messi Ronaldo (Cristiano) and Maradona. It’s difficult to pick who would be best because they have never played together.
18. Do you think England have any chance of winning anything in the upcoming years?
No – England will never win anything until they toughen up mentally – and we’re a long way from being tough enough to win any competition at the moment. When they go into big games it seems it’s just too much for too many of our players. It wasn’t like that in 1966.