During the week the Newcastle United squad had a special visitor. Last Tuesday, ex-Whitley Bay and FA Vase winner Mark Taylor was invited to Benton to meet the squad. Eddie Howe and the lads gave their time over to him, mentioning in the press conference what an experience it was for them as well. Mark was diagnosed with MND almost fifteen years ago, but has still been coming to work throughout that time. During a well earned coffee break and after a quick recap about Spurs, True Faith through colleague Stephen Ord spoke to him about the opportunity.
How did it come about that you were able to go and watch the lads train?
Two of my friends Martin Graham and Ben Dawson, who is Newcastle under 23 manager, were talking and Martin had the idea of me going to watch Newcastle train as part of my 40th birthday which is in a few months. Ben approached Eddie Howe with the idea telling him about my situation and he agreed to let me visit last Tuesday. I am very privileged that the club allowed me and my family to visit, it’s an experience I will never forget.
What was training like to watch? Any interesting bits you saw on Sunday?
The training was the first session back after two days off following the Villa defeat so the lads were clearly expecting a tough session. It was broken up into four different 30 minute parts. The thing that was obvious straight away is how quick, sharp and intense everything was done at. One of the sessions was patterns of play with an attacking focus. You could definitely see similarities on Sunday.
What were the lads like? Who most surprised you?
I can honestly say that every single player and coach were amazing and individually introduced themselves to me and my family. After training we had lunch and a lot of the players spent time with us. I briefly taught Paul Dummett so spent a lot of time with him, Sean Longstaff and Elliot Anderson being the local lads. Trippier, Pope and Botman were talking to me asking about what it was like moving to Newcastle. They were asking me questions about my playing days and condition. Everyone was so humble and welcoming.
How much time did you get with Eddie and what was he like?
Eddie Howe is the person who impressed me the most and you could tell that he sets the standard and ethos of the club. After training Eddie sat and had his lunch with us spending well over an hour talking to each member of my family. He was genuinely interested about me and my life discussing my life living with MND to before I was diagnosed playing non league football. He was refreshingly open and honest and you could tell that he is genuinely a good person.
Was there a great camaraderie between the group, without cliques etc. They seem really united as a group.
There was definitely a togetherness between the group and everyone got on well together. At lunch there was the Spanish\Portuguese table we were jokingly told not to sit at but there were no obvious cliques or anything.
You managed to get to Wembley for the Carabao Cup final. What was it like being back there with Newcastle after your own experiences with Whitley Bay?
I played there in 2009 and was there for the following two years, Whitley winning all three times. There were only 12000 people there then so being in a full stadium with 90000 people was something else. I honestly didn’t think I would ever watch Newcastle in a final and win a trophy. I know the result didn’t go our way, but the atmosphere was incredible and an unbelievable experience. Here’s hoping that we will be back soon.
Are you available to do the same thing again next week?
Ha ha a few of my friends said exactly that. I jokingly posted a picture of Eddie Howe looking at my computer discussing tactics. I very much doubt that I had any influence on the performance, more likely a reaction from Villa. But I would happily go every week it meant us playing like that.
Finally, Jacob Murphy says he scores goals like that all week in training, did you see him do it?
Funnily enough I mentioned a few players who stood out in training to sime friends, Bruno of course, Isak and Murphy. He is quickly becoming a bit of a cult hero because of his celebrations and his reaction to the Southampton red card in the semi-final. I hope that he continues performing like he is, as he’s been tremendous while Miggy has been injured.
STEPHEN ORD @smord84