United’s Juniors Were A Class Above

Thommo, Watto and Howey who, alongside Clarkie and Elliott, were the boys of yesteryear done good; Ossie’s Boys who made the grade and went on to become Newcastle stars in their own right, after a baptism of fire that is.

During the early nineties the Magpies were on the blink of oblivion, staring relegation to the old Third Division point blank in the face and, with then manager Ossie Ardiles having blooded the kids into the St James Park cauldron, the onus was on them to get United out of a very fine mess.

Something had to give, and, unfortunately for Ardiles, it was his job that was sacrificed, in came Kevin Keegan and the rest is, as they say, pretty much history.

The first of the Magpies ‘famous five’ to debut was Steve Howey, wearing the number seven, on May 3 1989, some 27 years ago, at home to West Ham. It would be mid-way through the 1990-91 season that Lee Clark (vs. Bristol City, as a sub for Neil Simpson) and Steve Watson (vs. Wolves) made theirs.

Come March 1991 Robbie Elliott would come on a sub against Middlesbrough and eight months later the fifth, and final debutant from the United Youth ranks, Alan Thompson, would make his bow away to Swindon, coming on a sub for Andy Hunt – it’s certainly a bygone era for the stars of yesteryear and for the three of them, Steve Howey, Steve Watson and Alan Thompson, they wouldn’t change it for anything.

“I made my debut way back under Jim Smith in 1989, playing three times at the end of the season (against West Ham, Millwall and Manchester United),” began Howey.

“However, I didn’t play the following season and had to wait until August 1990 to pull on a first team jersey again. By this time Ossie (Ardiles) was in charge and, although it was actually difficult to play the game with kids and struggled, he was actually brilliant in other aspects and brought us on really well.

“I can actually lay claim to having played in three decades at Newcastle, the eighties, nineties and noughties under managers who liked me and thought that I could play football.

“Having started as a junior with the club I’ve played under (Jack) Charlton, (Jim) Smith, (Ossie) Ardiles, (Kevin) Keegan, (Kenny) Dalglish, (Ruud) Gullit and Sir Bobby Robson before moving to Manchester City, coincidentally under Kevin Keegan.

“Keegan kept the likes of us kids when he joined the club (towards the end of the near disastrous 1991-92 campaign) and went on to bring in stronger players, building up the club up with us as foundations.

“He did the same with City as well (also winning the Championship title), forging a great set of players who could match others around them. We had some really good players in both sides and it showed – the commitment and effort shone through with both sides.”

If Howey was at the forefront of United’s younger generation, Watto can lay claim to being the youngest, when on November 10 1990, he burst onto the scene away to Wolves, at the tender age of 16 years, 7 months and nine days, a record which still stands today.

For Watto, the dark days of the past are a time which are levelled by the success they achieved, just one thing they believe they could have done better with.

“It is a pity that we never managed to win a title for all else that we accomplished during that period,” added Watto.

“The famous example of what can be achieved was the Man. United class of ’92; us, at Newcastle’s School of Excellence, had been at school together since we were six and we always hoped that things would get better, be successful and there was plenty of dark days and you have to learn from those experiences and take it forward into what you do next.

“What Keegan did though, the impact he had during those years, was unexpected and the club has been up and down since then. He was one of several, high profile managers that I enjoyed playing under, some good people irrespective of club but the memories, they stay.

“Highlights, then there’ll always be making your debut at St James’ back in November 1990; that along with the games against Man United, Barcelona, both the Liverpool games, and of course winning promotion – that was special.”

The last of the five, Alan Thompson, was shorn of luck during his spell with his hometown club but went on to win honours galore north of the border with Glasgow Celtic in the Scottish Premier League.

He also went on to enjoy coaching spells with both clubs between 2008 and 2012 but being at Newcastle United is an opportunity too good to turn down, in any capacity; those and testimonials play rise to similar feelings of satisfaction.

“It was a great opportunity for the younger lads and, although it wasn’t ideal where the first team were placed at the time, to pull on that jersey, in front of those fans, was absolutely amazing,” Thommo continued.

“My chances though were limited so ended up moving to the North-West and Bolton where there was a completely different feel, a change compared to what life was like at Newcastle.

“When I moved onto Celtic (after a spell at Aston Villa), I was involved in what was probably the most successful period in their modern history (European Cup in the sixties aside). At a club like Celtic, it’s all about the winning.

“I then came back to Newcastle for a spell on the coaching staff which I absolutely loved although going back to Parkhead was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse.”

Three of United’s ‘famous five,’ Steve Howey, Steve Watson and Alan Thompson, will be appearing in the ‘Entertainers 20th Anniversary Game’ at Kingston Park in aid of the Alan Shearer Foundation between Newcastle Legends and Manchester Select.

Around the Region’s Music I

Sponsored by EGH Radio Rocks, the home of unsigned rock music, 24/7 and the home of Anne’s Rock Show, Monday’s from 9pm.

County Durham rockers, Twister, recently announced an O2 Academy headline gig set to rock the ages in Newcastle on May 21 for their ‘Combined State of Mind: The Collection.’ The quartet fronted by founder, Stevie Stoker, released the first part, ‘Designed State of Mind,’ late last year at Academy Two and will add ‘Refined State of Mind’ for the combined collection.

Four days later, at Wylam Breweries, indie stars, The Longsands, play their final gig as Trevor Cox, Ian Barnes, David Stanyer, Paul Stephenson and Callum Thompson roll back the years one last time with tracks from both ‘Meet Me In Spanish City’ and ‘Us & Them,’ which was released last year, are set to bring down the house; meanwhile Sunderland’s indie newcomers, Social Room, will support From the Jam on the Academy main stage in mid-September as they look to take this year by storm.

Regional rock legends, the Tygers of Pan Tang, will see their latest offering and self-titled album, released in North America as they themselves embark on their ‘Only the Brave’ European tour throughout March, April and May along with a new single (look out for an upcoming feature next month).

Teesside powerhouses, Cattle & Cane, fronted by siblings Helen and Joe Hammill, performed four incredible dates at the start of the year whilst supporting The Head and The Heart’s Signs of Light tour. Now, starting at Stockton Calling in mid-April, the siblings will embark on a twelve-date spring tour which will also see the launch of their new album, ‘Mirrors,’ along with a date at The Sage, Gateshead on May 4. Another Teesside native, singer-songwriter Samantha Durnan, will be supported by James Gray Robson & the Lonely Burn at Stainton Hall on June 24 as she releases her album ‘want to Wander.’

Gigs to look out for include both Geoff Mull & Friends, and One Man Revival with Black Nevada, Saints of Arcadia, and The Firelight Opera are playing at the O2 Academy; Fatherson, can be seen on both Teesside and Tyneside; Jarrod Dickenson and Nine Below Zero have outings at the The Cluny; and internationally-acclaimed artist, Caro Emerald, plays at The Sage for a date long since sold out.

Worthy of a special mention is the upcoming event at Preston Hall Museum on the evening of March 31 for the inaugural Watermill Sessions Live. Acoustic-based performers from alternative country, Americana, and folk music sees Elaine Palmer, James Gray Robson & The Lonely Burn, Tom Joshua, George Boomsma and People Poems all make an appearance. Palmer brings with her some fantastic stock to the Watermill stage with a just as equally impressive roll-call having shared with the likes of KT Tunstall, David Gray, Emmylou Harris, King Creosote and more.

Scottish indie stars are an Open Book

Glaswegian indie-rock trio, Fatherson, released their second album, ‘Open Book’ to mass acclaim towards the end of last year, eclipsing the initial success that was created from their debut masterpiece, I Am An Island which came out two years prior.

Fronted by Ross Leighton (guitars and vocals) alongside Marc Strain (bass) and Greg Walkinshaw (drums) the trio, along with session guitarist Chris Platt, are presently embarking on a European tour which takes in Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, France and Austria before a multi-date UK run that includes hitting Teesside in mid-March and Tyneside at the end of March.

With singles which include the debut First Born back in 2012 through to I Like Knowing in 2014 and their recent offering, Just Past the Point of Breaking last year, the lads have seen an astronomic rise in fortunes after their debut album went into the UK indie charts top 40 and peaking at number five in the iTunes alternative charts; then, last year, Open Book peaked at number 46 in the official UK charts and ahead of the likes of Bon Jovi and Amy Winehouse, Taylor Swift and the Stone Roses, Michael Jackson and many more.

“The first album (I Am An Island) was pretty fun and, having released a few EP’s, felt we could release an album and it just worked itself from there,” said vocalist Ross Leighton.

“We were rather apprehensive to begin with but, when things go well, it dissipates all of that which is where it left us. Then, eighteen months or so after releasing the first one we were doing a second – it affords self-confidence to go on and do more.

“The focus has always been on making albums for where we are at specific times in our lives but never really intended any of it. It’s just crazy and it’s amazing at the same time that it’s gone through what it has. Considering how we started, in the streets and pubs of Kilmarnock, to get to this, is pretty phenomenal really.”

With plenty still to add to the second half of this year, their current tour sees them on the road until early April and regional, north-east dates holding special meaning to the lads.

On March 11 they are at the Westgarth Social Club in Middlesbrough for the Kids are Solid Gold anniversary gig, before a trip to Newcastle University’s student union on March 31; the band also, in February 2016, toured with Tyneside powerhouses, Boy Jumps Ship, taking in venues across Liverpool, Nottingham, Brighton, Manchester and Newcastle.

Leighton added: “We’ve always had an affiliation with the north-east as there’s a fine commonality with the way people are, there’s similar qualities amongst nice people.

“We love Middlesbrough and there’s a great vibe there. Andy Carr, the promoter there, is a great person and has a strong fan-base of his own which is amazing. We’ve also been on tour with the lads from Boy Jumps Ship for a fortnight last year.

“That was fun as we’ve known each other for years so it was fantastic that we were able to do that with them.”

The UK dates for Fatherson will see them being supported, on the final leg, by Cambridge alternative-rockers, Mallory Knox, who, as a five-piece have just released their third album, Wired after their latest single, Giving It Up, was first aired on BBC Radio One.

Tickets for any Fatherson tour dates are available from www.fathersonband.co.uk where you can also purchase their album on CD, vinyl or digital download.

Samantha Is On A Wander

With her upcoming album launch at Stainton Hall in late June already sold out, artist Samantha Durnan is quietly building up a nice package of dates to whet the appetite adoring fans prior to the occasion.

With dates that include an appearance at The Green Room (NARC Stage) at the annual Stockton Calling, and supporting Cape Cub at the 2nd Anniversary gig for NE Volume, Miss Durnan and her band are certainly keeping busy over the next three months.

“Stockton Calling will be the first time myself and the band will be performing the new material from my up and coming album,” began Samantha.

“It will be exciting to share that live with an audience.

“I’m also really grateful that my album launch has sold out in just a couple of weeks.

“I can’t wait to perform my new material for everyone who has purchased a ticket.”

Dates for your diary where Samantha Durnan will be performing are as follows –

April 15th | Narc Stage @ The Green Room | Stockton Calling


May 12th | supporting Cape Cub @ The Westgarth Social Club | Middlesbrough


May 14th | Hemelvaart Bier Cafe | Ayton

June 11th | Roofbox Stage @ Hash Bar | Music Box | Darlington

June 24th | ‘Want to Wander’ album launch @ Stainton Hall | Middlesbrough (SOLD OUT)


Follow Samantha’s journey on FACEBOOK and TWITTER

The Spartan Rises

April 22, at the Liverpool Echo Arena, witness the next phase in the rise of The Spartan, Paul Economides, as he begins his pursuit of world glory.

Under the expert guidance of manager Dave Coldwell, and erstwhile trainer Steve Goodwin, the Chester-based super bantamweight is now on the lookout for international titles, and a potential rematch with Sean Davies, over the next fourteen months.

“I do want to be fighting for titles this year,” stated The Spartan.

“Whether it’s a rematch with Davies (for the WBC International) or challenging for say the Commonwealth, or Inter-continental, or something similar. It has to be this year though and to then be challenging for a world title in around 14-16 months.”

Opposing Davies was performed at short noticed, coming days after the Spartan had dismissed Elvis Guillen on points on Merseyside before suffering a unanimous decision reverse, in Birmingham.

“I’d love a fair, proper shot at Davies and that WBC title,” Paul continued.

“I took that fight at short notice but I have trust in my manager, Dave Coldwell’s, decisions, he’s opened doors I’ve never had opened before and everything he’s said he do, he’s done.”

Now the fighter, described as being a front-footed, in-your-face, talented and exciting, is gunning for his fourth successive outing on an Eddie Hearn/Matchroom Boxing promotion, again on Merseyside, and Economides, who presently boasts a 20-6(4) record, who was brought up in Wales with Cypriot heritage, is preparing for the year of his life.

He added: “I’m never out of the (Chester Boxers) gym; I work there, and I train there.

“I’ve got great sparring with world calibre fighters in Jamie and Gavin McDonnell, among others, which is very competitive and I know I’ll be a tricky, difficult fight for anyone and I’ll continue to show that on April 22.”

Paul Economides will also now be sporting the ‘White Ribbon’ in future outings as support for The White Ribbon Campaign which champions men against domestic violence.

He is also looking for national sponsorship to aid in his title chasing progression for which further information is available from thespartan.sponsorship@outlook.com.