Hillsborough has always been a great trip for United fans. With the FA Cup tie approaching, Scott Robson casts his mind back to one particularly strange game nearly twenty years ago. Happy Flashback Friday!
Friday 1 August 2003
Sheffield Wednesday 4-3 Newcastle United
Sheffield Wed: Tidman, Murphy, Lee, Geary, Smith, Cooke, Evans, Mustoe, Quinn, Grant Holt, Owusu (Kuqi)
Goals: Owusu 2, Smith 68, Armstrong 77, Kuqi 78
Newcastle Utd: Harper, Hughes, O’Brien, Robbie Elliott, Bramble, Lua-Lua, Viana, Dyer, Bowyer, Cort, Ameobi. No subs used (bizarrely!)
Goals: Dyer 20, Ameobi 47, Lua-Lua 65
We’ve had some crackers down in S6 over the years, usually involving some wildly coloured kits which were never to be seen again. Me being me, though, I’m going to go for a more obscure one, a friendly match from twenty years ago and our last class side, Sir Bobby Robson’s Champions League chasing team.
This was the early days of the internet and, having been successful in securing some decent hotels for gigs, I tried my hand at football as well. I also procured a decent first-class ticket on the train (change at York, or was it Leeds, who cares!). All really cheap.
In the taxi in Sheffield the driver said the hotel was used by snooker players when the World Championships were on. At this point I felt like I could do no wrong. Me and my brother hadn’t been to a hotel with a mini bar before, thought it was all included, and devoured everything from Stella to M&Ms.
Just like Alex Higgins would have done
The fingers were burned alright. You can take the lads out of Ashington, but…
Our trip was organised a few weeks before it was announced that Sir Bobby would be having another friendly at Hartlepool on the same night.
They got Shearer, we got Carl Cort.
Wednesday had more to worry about than that, having been relegated to the third tier and looking forward to playing Hartlepool in the league, not a frustratingly arranged friendly.
This was just before we imploded against Partizan Belgrade in the Champions League qualifiers. Many, like me, saw that result as the start of a decline for the club, culminating in our own relegation.
Buoyed by the gratis mini bar we made our way in heroic style to Hillsborough but, within 80 seconds, Hugo Viana gave the ball away and we were behind.
Victoria Park suddenly seemed the better bet. Kieron Dyer soon equalised though and, just as quick as we had conceded at the start of the first half, we made it 2-1 in the second. Ameobi at the second attempt. Just after the hour Lua-Lua scored a class free kick. 3-1, game over?
Well, no actually. Within 14 minutes, incredibly, we were 4-3 down in what can only be described as 14 minutes of defensive hell from the lads.
Ex-Villa manager Dean Smith headed in a corner, some lad from South Shields got another, before that football colossus Shefki Kuqi scored a brilliant volley on the turn. Strange to think within 10 years, Shearer would be our manager and Kuqi would have led the line. Them were the days.
Sir Bobby was livid at our performance and the home fans booing Bowyer. To be fair I couldn’t stand Bowyer either.
Livid doesn’t come close to it when the bill at the hotel came in, but in those simpler times this was nothing to the bill that the hostelries of Sheffield had that night.
You simply don’t get that sort of thing in Hartlepool.