No spiral staircases this time, but goals and plenty of them. Sam Dalling was in the away end for True Faith.
“I divvin’ nay think we’re ganna get wor ninth pet, but we’ve got eight.” Stop, what? Yep, you read it right. That is no typo. Lift it from the “you’ll never hear that watching Newcastle” list – which any human of good standing has – and place it ever so carefully alongside the other “words once spoken in the away end”.
Because on Sunday, clad as if plucked fresh from Stabilo packaging, an octet of goal getters highlighted their names as part of what the youth may (or may not) term an original boss performance. Sean Longstaff; Dan Burn; Sven Botman; Callum Wilson; Anthony Gordon; Miguel Almiron; Bruno Guimarães; and, finally, Alexander Isak. True Faith extends its thoughts to the scribblers with a mere 250-word print slot.
The San Siro was supposed to be the week’s highlight, an “I was there” moment. And it was. It really was. Yet in future days, one suspects the number who claim to have been present for this ruthless dismantling of Sheffield United will swell way beyond the actual figure.
Bramall Lane does not quite hold the same ‘fuck me, wow’ of Milan’s home but there is still a beauty to it. And behind one goal, in a snug away end, one where the back few rows sit in an overhang’s shadow and legroom is an alien concept, a party unfolded. The concoction was quite magical. A measure of disbelief here, a dram of delirium there. Shake it hard and don’t stop shouting until your voice is hoarse.
It is in the weeks like this that the unity at Newcastle United is evident. As players and staff gathered to receive their deserved post-match plaudits, the sense was that the gazes of admiration went both ways. There is no us and them; only us.
Eddie Howe not only cracked a grin but wore one for an extended period, bursting from his tracksuit (who is going to tell him?) as much from pride as chest muscle. He was first to complete the ceremonial high-fives and was itching to stride towards the away end. Naturally, he hung back. Eventually, Bruno joined him, and the pair merrily began the short journey, gesticulating, nattering – doubtless about momentary improvements to make – and slapping each other like old pals.
How will Newcastle cope with European midweeks? On first evidence, not half bad. Make no mistake, Sheffield United were poor. And that is doing them a kindness. Goalkeeper Wes Foderingham was comfortably their star performer. But for him, it could have gotten ugly. Oh, wait…
They snapped and snarled, they kicked and fouled. They started brightly and then fell off a cliff. This was losing ugly. Gaps? Huge chasms opened between defence and midfield. Never mind driving the team bus, planes take off with closer proximity than their three cumbersome centre backs. Our United, the United stood up to the wannabe bullies, and drowned them with quality.
Moments before his goal – the opener – Longstaff had been clattered and was left grimacing. But up he got. The words he soon exchanged with Gustavo Hamer as they trotted back for kick-off were doubtless expletive laden.
And after that, the passes were neat and crisp and even. And after that the fluency was back, the muscle memory-type performance of last season. Everyone knew where they needed to be and precisely when. And after that the goals flowed. Oh, how they flowed.
“For Christ’s sake…” came the anguished cry. “Short corners never work”. Except when they do, except when Burn is stooping low at the back post. Two nil to the Geordie boys.
There was a time when empires were built and fell between Newcastle set piece goals. Here the wait was just four minutes, Botman nodding in. He has waited for the moment, and as he was serenaded shortly afterwards, his lips clearly curled into a smile.
Social media had entered semi meltdown when, 24 hours earlier, Botman, had not boarded the team bus. No drama – he’d just snaffled the better half’s keys. Doubtless Mrs B will spend the next month dancing around Chez Botman furiously jangling an electric fob and taunting him with cries of “wheese are these keys”. Or maybe not.
The second half was a procession. Gordon – who might just become our best player, and quickly – zipped this way and that, missing one chance before curling in the next. Cut in from the left, whip one into the far corner. You know it is coming, but can you stop it? Seemingly not.
Bruno was the Bruno of old, roaming into pockets, completing both the simple and the elaborate with pizazz. Early on – before all the madness – a misplaced pass drew a cry of “nay-one is activating £100 million for that”. Nothing like the extremities of football fandom.
He set up Miggy with a delicious pass, and scored his own with the type of calmness that teams pay, well, an awful lot for. To celebrate, a ball pushed up his shirt and a baby announcement. And then, what looked to the naked eye, a scream of “I’m effing staying”. The Wolf of Forth Street?
Wilson’s goal was inevitable as it was superb. And yes, the author knows the chronology has been lost here. Eight goals, and all that. Anyway, Fabian Schär is roaming forward and, with his eye’s corner, spots something no one else clocks. He waits. He waits some more. And he gives it to Kieran Trippier on the overlap. From there it was elementary for Wilson.
Spare a thought for Harvey Barnes – had he not got injured early, it might have been nils each. Spare a thought for home fans – at six nowt Howe chucked on circa. £150 million quid of talent.
In amongst the joy, there was also tragedy. Sheffield United lost one of their own, their women’s team’s number eight, Maddy Cusack this week. And that means we all, collectively as football folk, lost someone. Death is never easy but 27 really is no age.
Outside the ground, Amanda Staveley laid a wreath she carried personally from London on Newcastle’s behalf. The tributes before the match were poignant and impeccably observed. One only hopes her family – including mum and sister who braved the pitch – her friends, her colleagues and her teammates can draw some comfort, some strength, from the affection with which Maddy was clearly held.
So, if you’re still reading, do us a favour: put down your phone, close your laptop, leave your study. Go and find your nearest and dearest and tell them that you love them. Because you just never know. RIP Maddy.