Category Archives: THE ENTERTAINERS

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.

Pav’s Brother, Milan Srnicek, To Play In Goal At Entertainers Game

The Entertainers Game next month will have an added, heart-felt feel to it with the announcement that Milan Srnicek, the brother of former Newcastle United goalkeeper, Pavel Srnicek, will take his brothers’ place between the sticks for the Newcastle Legends.

Pavel, who joined the Magpies during the early-90’s from Banik Ostrava, became a cult hero at St James Park, going on to make over 150 appearances for the club he fell in love with.

A Czech International, Pavel, who last year brought out under Mojo Risin’ Publishing ‘Pavel is a Geordie’ a matter of days before his untimely passing, would, without question, have played in goal on October 9 for the Newcastle Legends against a Manchester Select.

Now, his brother Milan, will share the goalkeeping duties with Pav’s friend and ‘keeper rival, Steve Harper, one of United’s longest serving player, himself a stalwart of some two decades with the Black & Whites.

Although not as experienced as his brother, Milan is scheduled to play the first half and will be replaced, by Harper, at the interval. He said: “I’m honoured and I greatly appreciate it!

“I’ve never been between the ‘sticks’ so I hope I will not disgrace the name Srnicek and I am extremely happy that I will be back among people who so loved my brother so much.

“I am taking the challenge very seriously and my brothers’ last club, Sparta Prague, have invited me to train with them. Dan Zidka is goalkeeping coach who worked with Pavel and will train me.”

Srnicek and Harper’s time with the Magpies overlapped during the halcyon days of the nineties with Harper joining from local non-league, Seaham Red Star, in 1993, as back-up to Pav – it would be some five years and five loan spells before he would make his first-team debut, coming on a half-time substitute against Wimbledon in 1998.

More out than in Harper is probably best placed to discuss Pav, and the Entertainers era, especially with his being back-up to that of Srnicek, Hislop and Given; but it was the former that struck a chord, with Harper and the Toon Army.

He added: “As someone who witnessed the Entertainers day in, day out, in the mid-90’s just prior to my breaking into the first team squad.

“I’m honoured to be asked to replace Pavel and to split the goalkeeping duties with his brother Milan.

“I can remember Milan regularly came to watch us training at Maiden Castle back in those days and hopefully he’ll have picked up some useful tips from his brother.”

Spoils Are Shared As The Alan Shearer Foundation Wins

It was one of those days at Kingston Park on Sunday afternoon as Alan Shearer’s Newcastle Legends took on Keith Gillespie’s Manchester Select in a game in aid of the Alan Shearer Foundation.

Shearer rolled back the years by playing the entire first half, as did the likes of Steve Harper, who pulled off some blinding saves, along with cameos for that of Beardsley, Sellars and Fox; even the Manchester lads chipped in with Lee Hendrie showing his youthfulness and running the show, as did Gillespie who put in a great shift of his own.

It would be the former Newcastle number nine who would open the scoring during the first half as well. Showing his usual predator instincts following a cross from the left by flying wing-back, Joh n Beresford – he celebrated in usual style with arm raised, celebrating with the 6,001 fans who turned out.

Hendrie and Ritchie were proving to be a nuisance up front as well for Manchester, testing the Magpies defence as often as possible but Harper was having none of it, even diving full length, across goal, to tip away a brilliantly struck free kick from Hendrie.

Referee Barry Sweeney even got in on the act when he waved away a ‘controversial’ decision towards the end of the first half after Tino Asprilla went down under a challenge in the box but it was waved away

Shearer snuck in at the back post following a cross from Alan Thompson but the shot was punched away from six yards out by Kevin Pilkington but, following a few substitutions by both sides the first half finished 1-0 to the Newcastle Legends.

Shearer and Ferdinand led the Magpies out for the second half but they remained on the bench, Ferdinand prowling the touchline and shouting directions with a smile.

Within five minutes of the restart there was a special substitution. Late last year former Magpies goalkeeper, Pavel Srnicek, sadly passed away, and his brother Milan, who had been training with Sparta Prague, made an appearance and he was immediately called into action making a couple of easy saves with chants of ‘Pavel is a Geordie’ soaring around the ground.

It wouldn’t be long before the Manchester Select levelled though, Keith Gillespie finishing well amidst a cacophony of boos. Bez (of the Happy Mondays) scuffed a shot as Hendrie still proved to be a thorn before Fox fired over the bar from the edge of the box.

After more substitutions Jamie McClen restored Newcastle’s lead after a shot from Beardsley rebounded back out but Manchester were soon level again with actor Ralf Little restoring parity in the latter stages, again to ‘boos’ from the Newcastle faithful.

As both sides hunted what would have been a late winner there was time for a disallowed goal, and Ruel Fox to show off some trickery on the edge of the bod but it was to finish level at 2-2 and the cup was shared.

Afterwards Newcastle manager Alan Shearer said: “The game was played in high spirits and in front of a great crowd which is just superb for the Foundation.

“Harps did really well and can still do a fantastic job as he proved and it was just right that we got Milan (Srnicek) involved, it was good for him and he got a fantastic reception.

“As for me, I didn’t think I’d last that long but it was good fun and it was a great finish from me as well.”

The game though was all about the Entertainers, and raising money for the Alan Shearer Foundation and Shearer added his thanks, not only to the fans, but to the lads for travelling.

He said: “I’d like to thank everyone for turning up , including Tino, who’s come from Colombia, and Les, who’s travelled up from London, lads have come from everywhere but I’d like to thank everyone for getting involved.”