Crystal Palace 1 (Shipperley 67’), Newcastle 2 (Ketsbaia 32’ Tomasson 62’)

Saturday 29 November 1997

Aged 10, this was my first proper away game.  I’d been at Maine Road for a drab 0-0 in April 1995, a game mainly remembered for City keeper – and ex-Mag – John Burridge, becoming the oldest player to play in the Premier League.  (He’s still the right answer to that particular quiz question, 25 years on).  I’d also been at a snowy Riverside in February 1996, that day when Tino cleared departures at Teesside Airport just in time.  But on both occasions, I’d been in the home end.

This time, it was different.  Dad and I had tickets in the away end.  We stayed down at my uncle’s house in Croydon.  The weekend had already got off to a cracking start.  My cousin Aidan had gone off to university and I had his room.  He had a coconut shy on his bedroom windowsill made out of cans of lager, a huge supply of FHM and Loaded, and one of those S-shaped CD racks.  It’s funny the things you remember, and – looking back – Aidan’s room almost sounds like a tragic parody of mid-90s lad culture, but there it was, and I thought he was the coolest guy in the world.  He works in I.T now.

Newcastle, under Kenny Dalglish, weren’t having a great season.  This was the match immediately after the wash-out at the Nou Camp.  It was the season of Rush and Barnes replacing Ferdinand and Ginola, and, with Shearer and Asprilla injured, it was Ketsbaia and Tomasson up front.  By chance, our seats were next to my mate Sedge from school, and his dad.  Sedge and I, all of four foot each, stood on our wooden seats for the whole 90 minutes so we could see.  I remember the match in snippets.  Bruce Dyer tripping over his own feet when through on goal for Palace.  Ketsbaia cracking a drive in at the near post just before half time.  And, most of all, Tomasson finally scoring his first “proper” goal in the League.  He had scored against Leicester a few weeks earlier, when a weak Des Hamilton header deflected in off his arse, but this one was with his feet.  He scuffed it, Kevin Miller got a hand to it, and it seemed to take forever to cross the line, but there it was.  I vividly remember a good 5 minutes of chanting: “Tomasson, Tomasson, John Tomasson! He gets the ball and scores a goal, John Tomasson!” and I remember a final whistle that never seemed to come.  Most of all, I remember that throaty roar at the final whistle, the players coming over to salute the travelling fans, and still being full of adrenaline by the time we got back to my uncle’s house.

Naturally, it was downhill from there.  We went on to lose 6 of the next 8 league games, a thoroughly miserable winter which – as well as seeing us drawn into a relegation scrap – witnessed an undignified war of words with Stevenage Borough, and the infamous Hall-Shepherd tape.  Also, this game started that awful run in London: we did not win in the capital for another 29 games, until the 3-1 triumph at Highbury in December 2001 which sent Sir Bobby’s team top of the league that Christmas.

But this was my first game in an away end.  I remember it fondly, and there is still nothing quite like an away win.  And I can always, always, say I was there on the one day when 3,000 Geordie voices put Jon Dahl Tomasson’s name to the tune of the Andy Cole song.

YOUSEF HATEM – @yousef_1892