Following a disastrous season to forget at Newcastle United, thoughts among some might be turning to the European Championships starting tomorrow. Moussa Sissoko (France) and Rob Elliot (Republic of Ireland) will be Newcastle United’s only representatives there, though bearing in mind that this will be the biggest shop window for footballers short of the World Cup, this might be a good thing.
Some might wonder how Sissoko managed to book his place with one of the more fancied teams after some of last season’s performnances, some might praise Elliot for some good performances standing in for the injured Tim Krul despite everything. However, players like that will not be the focus of this piece. I’m sure that pretty much all of you will know what they have been up to, along with high profile ex-players taking part such as James Milner (England) and Yohan Cabaye (France). Instead, I will look mostly at the “where are they now” players who will be there who used to ply their trade on Tyneside. Of these, the majority of the players (three out of four) will be playing for the two Irish sides in the competition, and another will be managing the Northern Ireland team.
Back in the day, when all I had to worry about was hiding my hickies in a rollneck top, Jolly Ranchers were poisoning us with watermelon flavoured boiled sweets and a young Take That were barely a twinkle in the eye, a young man was trying to make his way in the hard knock world of professional football.
John Watson was an apprentice when I was a young whippersnapper following eagerly in his path at Wallsend Boys Club and trying to follow in his footsteps at the Toon school of excellence. John was generous enough to help out the younger lads and along with Lee Makel, Tommy Heron and Alan Thompson, he imparted his knowledge and experience on us and helped out with training sessions.
Some years later in the twighlight of his career and with me on my way towards my own premature retirement, our paths crossed again when he played in the same team as me at Annfield Plain in the Wearside League. Mine was but a fleeting pipedream but John Watson actually lived that dream of playing for his hometown club, albeit by his own admission, for a fleeting moment in time. But like Chesney Hawkes sang just as John was realising that dream, no matter how short a period it was, he played on that hollowed turf, in those famous stripes and ‘you can’t take that away from him’. (more…)