Newcastle 3-2 Southampton: Heroic NUFC hold on despite three injuries, red card & nine men!

Wow, what have we just witnessed?!

That was one of the most gutsy Newcastle performances we have seen in the Mike Ashley era. A game that had everything and showcased what this squad is capable of at both ends of the pitch! Take a bow, lads!

NINE man Newcastle dug in to defy the odds and hold off Southampton to fire us 11 points clear of safety (before Fulham’s 5.30pm clash with West Ham) and hand our whole fanbase a MASSIVE sigh of relief.

Debutant Joe Willock opened the scoring on 15 minutes before a Jan Bednarek own goal doubled our lead. Southampton’s own new boy Minamino pulled one back for the Saint’s before Almiron restored our two-goal cushion before the break.

Saints’ skipper James Ward-Prowse clawed one back for the visitors before a braindead moment from Jeff Hendrick reduced ourselves to 10-men.

Fabian Schar was stretchered off with 15 minutes to go, leaving us with just EIGHT outfield players, but Steve Bruce’s side showed nerves of steel and the heart of a lion to cling on for the victory.

There was further doom and gloom for Steve Bruce as Javi Manquillo and Callum Wilson were also forced off due to injury in the first half, with the treatment table starting to pile up with each passing week.

The opener arrived early when Schar weighted a beautiful pass over the Saints backline to Saint-Maximin. The winger charged towards the away goal and picked out new-boy Willock, who slotted home with ease from point-blank range.

The first of our injury woes came not long after when Manquillo hobbled off, with like-for-like replacement Emile Krafth coming on.

Karl Darlow was soon called into action twice in a matter of minutes, both times to deny danger man Danny Ings – a sharp reminder of the threat the visitors still posed.

Our nerves were soon eased, albeit momentarily, when a wicked deflection helped put us two-nil up. Once again Schar managed to find Saint-Maximin from deep, with the trickster this time teeing off Almiron. The Paraguayan’s vicious shot took a huge touch off Jan Bednarek to hand us a healthy cushion and very much in control.

It is never straightforward with Newcastle United, as we saw on the half-hour mark when our lead was sliced in half by a bullet from Minamino. Southampton’s new boy, on loan from Liverpool, killed Hayden and Krafth dead with one touch before rifling past Darlow with another.

More misery came when top goalscorer Callum Wilson was forced to limp off for the goal-shy Joelinton. This one certainly did not feel like an equal replacement, as the tone of the game began to change with Newcastle seemingly looking forward to the break.

However, against the run of play, we managed to restore our two-goal advantage. Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy’s wayward pass was intercepted by Almiron, who pounced on the mistake and tucked home to relieve the pressure on us at half-time.

It was a disastrous start to the second half as, within five minutes, we found our lead sliced in two yet again and a man sent off!

Saints’ skipper James Ward-Prowse found the top corner from a 30-yard pearler to kickstart a catalogue of chaos from our point of view. Seconds later, Hendrick stupidly pulled back Minamino’s shirt to give Craig Pawson no choice but to send him down the tunnel.

Hendrick badly let our side down here, with his idiotic decision making reminiscent of Ryan Fraser against Sheffield United last month.

Southampton swiftly took control of the game and begun an immediate onslaught on Darlow’s goal. Ings rattled the post and Che Adam’s thought he had equalised until the linesman’s flag went up.

Our challenge became even mightier whenFabian Schar was stretchered off following a thunderous collision with the Southampton wall after his free-kick was blocked. For the remaining 15 minutes, we had to endure a never-ending assault with just NINE men on the field.

Torrential rain made the St James’ Park pitch the worst it has been for decades, and if we were going to get a result some unlikely players would need to step up with some huge performances.

Every player remaining dug in deep, and a special mention must go to Joelinton, who had to fill in at right-wing back and worked his socks off to help see out the victory.

Willock promised in his first interview that he would score goals and fight for the NUFC cause, and he did exactly that in his debut when our club needed it most. For being just 21-years old, the youngster put in a display way beyond his years and a few more like that will certainly endear him to the Toon Army faithful.

Bodies, blocks, blood, sweat and tears from every surviving Newcastle player went into keeping the Saints at bay. Dummett, Hayden and Almiron ran their lungs into the ground to ensure a colossal home win, our first since December 12 against West Brom.

THAT is what a NUFC performance is all about. Fight, determination, teamwork and pride. Putting your body on the line for the cause and playing for the name on the front of the shirt – not the back.

This massive win takes us 11 points clear from the bottom three and although we all might be a nervous mess after that 90 minutes, once the emotions subside, we can all breathe a lot easier when looking at the Premier League table.

Let’s hope Fulham lose in the 5.30pm kick off and injuries to Wilson, Schar and Manquillo aren’t as serious as they look.

Howay the lads!

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122 thoughts on “Newcastle 3-2 Southampton: Heroic NUFC hold on despite three injuries, red card & nine men!

  1. Been off here a few days – my Gdad passed away yesterday.

    He was 92 and an absolute legend. He had dementia for the last 3/4 years and was pretty frail in the end. He got his COVID vax afew weeks ago now but about 7 days after getting it, he caught COVID. He went into hospital and back end of last week they said he’d be lucky to last the weekend. He lasted the weekend & they were talking about him getting out of hospital & into a home – but he passed away peacefully in his sleep.

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  2. Just catching up with some of the comments.

    The NHS parking one is pretty simple for me. Why are they charging staff as much as £500 a year?. If it’s the upkeep of parking then there should be some charge – in terms of secure, lighting, gritting in the winter and things like that – but I don’t believe that would amount to £500 per member of staff – especially when you consider how much visitors have to pay.
    But there have been less visitors this year with people not allowed to go in – so maybe that’s why they are saying £500. I’m not justifying it or saying it’s right, just trying to think of why?!.

    In my opinion though, the NHS is free to us all & the doctors & nurses in the main do a fantastic job.

    If politicians get travel expenses & meal expenses & add ons to their already substantial wages, then at the very least the frontline doctors & nurses should be subsidised.

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  3. SHARPY very very sorry for your loss no matter what age you are its hard on the family members may he rest in peace mate

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  4. Sharpy17:
    Just catching up with some of the comments.

    The NHS parking one is pretty simple for me.Why are they charging staff as much as £500 a year?.If it’s the upkeep of parking then there should be some charge – in terms of secure, lighting, gritting in the winter and things like that – but I don’t believe that would amount to £500 per member of staff – especially when you consider how much visitors have to pay.
    But there have been less visitors this year with people not allowed to go in – so maybe that’s why they are saying £500.I’m not justifying it or saying it’s right, just trying to think of why?!.

    In my opinion though, the NHS is free to us all & the doctors & nurses in the main do a fantastic job.

    If politicians get travel expenses & meal expenses & add ons to their already substantial wages, then at the very least the frontline doctors & nurses should be subsidised.

    got it about spot on mate

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  5. kimtoon:
    Sharpy, Sorry to hear about your Grandad, condolences to you and your family.

    Kim – he was such a top bloke, but the dementia took him years ago. It’s been hard to see him that way, so in some ways it’s a bit of a relief – but my Gma isn’t doing well. That’s the hardest bit now really – they were together 70yrs.

    This b@st@rd virus has meant that we haven’t been able to visit properly for nearly a year now – and still can’t be with family at a time like this, I’m bored to the back teeth of it now like.

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  6. icedog:
    SHARPYvery very sorry for your loss no matter what age you are its hard on the family members may he rest in peace mate

    Cheers ice 👍🏻

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  7. georgio:
    Dreadful news on the injuries. 6- 8 weeks for Wilson. Step forward Gayle and stay fit!

    I will be shocked if he plays Gayle ahead of Joelinton.

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  8. Sorry to hear about your grandad, Sharpy.

    Regards the parking this one Trust were charging parking for staff at the same time as pocketing money from the government to cover parking charges.

    I’d also say that the NHS isn’t free. We pay for it. We just don’t pay at the point of use. Personally I think we should all pay more but that’s not a vote winner is it?

    But I am with you on the whole situation. It’s gone in long enough. With every vaccine and with every reduction in cases it seems scientists put more hurdles in your way.

    Your grandad for instance has had his last year on earth on his own. Not being able to see his family or friends. That’s inhumane. He was lucky in many respects. He was 92 and had a illness of the mind. How many people who weren’t as old, frail or ill as your grandad have wasted the last year of their lives?

    As I said, inhumane. We wouldn’t treat animals like this. The whole lockdown it inhumane and diabolical.

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  9. Stuart79:
    Sorry to hear about your grandad, Sharpy.

    Regards the parking this one Trust were charging parking for staff at the same time as pocketing money from the government to cover parking charges.

    I’d also say that the NHS isn’t free. We pay for it. We just don’t pay at the point of use. Personally I think we should all pay more but that’s not a vote winner is it?

    But I am with you on the whole situation. It’s gone in long enough. With every vaccine and with every reduction in cases it seems scientists put more hurdles in your way.

    Your grandad for instance has had his last year on earth on his own. Not being able to see his family or friends. That’s inhumane. He was lucky in many respects. He was 92 and had a illness of the mind. How many people who weren’t as old, frail or ill as your grandad have wasted the last year of their lives?

    As I said, inhumane. We wouldn’t treat animals like this. The whole lockdown it inhumane and diabolical.

    Stu – I honestly don’t know mate, I’m still processing it really.

    He wasn’t alone this year, he lived at home still with my 88yr old Gma – but only really in body for the last few years. But that didn’t matter to her, she would never have put him in a home, despite struggling really. There was my dad & his wife going in as a support bubble stuff & carers a few times a day.

    If I’m being brutally honest, he was so frail it wasn’t necessarily COVID that saw him off, it was the new symptom of loss of appetite – meaning he didn’t really eat anything for best part of a week. But if it was a sickness bug or flu or something like that, that could have done it too.

    I don’t know mate. I just know I’ll miss the bloke he was before dementia really.

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  10. Eric Sykes: I will be shocked if he plays Gayle ahead of Joelinton.

    Eric – his new formation is 4-3-1-2 which to be fair has looked good & got 6 points from the last 3 games.

    Almiron has been outstanding in that position behind the front 2 and HAS to continue with that. Also, goal threat wise – shots & chances created – loads better with 2 forwards imo.

    But that has been with ASM starting in the bench really. So, would you keep the formation that’s working for Miggy & move ASM to one of those forwards positions – or who you switch the formation to get ASM back out as a winger?.

    I think Miggy & the team as a whole have been playing that well I wouldn’t change that. I would try ASM as one of those strikers first – probably with Gayle as he’s more of a finisher & his pace would be better alongside ASM and Miggy.

    Gayle is either playing for a contract or new club as well, so I’d expect him to take the opportunity.

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  11. The other thing I was thinking with Man Utd & Chelsea next games – doesn’t Bruce write them off a bit to rest key players for a run of far more winnable games beyond those 2?.

    It’s a dangerous thing to do, but I could kind of understand it a bit, especially losing Wilson. If Gayle, ASM or Miggy got similar injuries against Chelsea or Man Utd, that could be really costly.

    We are 10 points clear of the relegation places just now – another 3 wins I think would be too much for those bottom times to make the points up.

    Is it too early still to be thinking that way yet?!.

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  12. Sharpy, I’m glad your grandad was at home during lockdown, at least he was saved from not having familiar faces and things around him. Dementia robs people of so much but often times they remember stuff and people from years back rather than the present.

    On Miggy, I wouldn’t move him, he’s been b loody brilliant over the last few games. Gutted about Wilson, that could be very costly over the next 6-8 weeks as after Chelsea and Manure we have 4 games we could win or draw if we apply the right formation and tactics. Typical we lose him for those games. Bruce has to play Gayle over Joe and Gayle has to step up now, he never looks happy to me, even when he scores he seems to have a scowl , most odd.

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  13. Sharpy17:
    The other thing I was thinking with Man Utd & Chelsea next games – doesn’t Bruce write them off a bit to rest key players for a run of far more winnable games beyond those 2?.

    It’s a dangerous thing to do, but I could kind of understand it a bit, especially losing Wilson.If Gayle, ASM or Miggy got similar injuries against Chelsea or Man Utd, that could be really costly.

    We are 10 points clear of the relegation places just now – another 3 wins I think would be too much for those bottom times to make the points up.

    Is it too early still to be thinking that way yet?!.

    Agree mate, actually ASM looked to be limping a bit last game and he was heavily strapped up too. Migs was limping too at one point. There was a lot of fouls on our lads not properly dealt with by the ref last week imo.

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  14. Steve Bruce’s son on TalkSPORT now telling Jim White that people on Twitter say to him “Your dads a **** and I hope he dies of Covid.” Why are we giving these people airtime? Just ignore them. Ignore them and they will get bored. Twitter is NOT real life. It’s full of grotesque idiots who are brave behind their phone but wouldn’t dream of saying it to peoples faces. It’s used by a tiny minority of the worlds population so let’s get a reality check!

    It’s also the responsibility of the likes of Twitter and Facebook to do something about it. If they can ban Donald Trump that means they’ve accepted they’re responsible for what’s put on there websites. Sort it out or risk being governed more strictly.

    It’s also worth noting that liberal leftie loons like Dominic West admitted laughing with joy when he heard Trump had Covid. Nice. Miriam Margoyles another Libral fruitcake said she wished Boris Johnson died from Covid on a tv show. Outrageously offgem didn’t think she’d done anything wrong?!!! Imagine if that was Nigel Farage…

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  15. Stuart79: I’d also say that the NHS isn’t free. We pay for it.

    No you don’t.

    It is funded from public moneys. This is money created by the government. It is not funded by taxes (which I suppose is what you mean by ‘we pay for it’). Taxes do not and never have paid for government services. It is neoliberal ideology that says it does. It is a lie. The reality is that it doesn’t.

    And I mean reality, as in: this is really how it works.

    It is not just an opinion. It is actually how it works. You can ask anybody at the Bank of England – or at least those with some understanding of these things (I don’t have actual links). Or you can ask those who have been in charge of the Federal Reserve in USA or Australia (which I can provide links to).

    The government can provide as much funding for the NHS as they want. They choose to under fund it for political reasons. It is a policy choice.

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  16. Brisvegas: No you don’t.

    It is funded from public moneys. This is money created by the government. It is not funded by taxes (which I suppose is what you mean by ‘we pay for it’). Taxes do not and never have paid for government services. It is neoliberal ideology that says it does. It is a lie. The reality is that it doesn’t.

    And I mean reality, as in: this is really how it works.

    It is not just an opinion. It is actually how it works. You can ask anybody at the Bank of England – or at least those with some understanding of these things (I don’t have actual links). Or you can ask those who have been in charge of the Federal Reserve in USA or Australia (which I can provide links to).

    The government can provide as much funding for the NHS as they want. They choose to under fund it for political reasons. It is a policy choice.

    I’d love to live in a country where you was the government. Everyone would be wealthy and we wouldn’t have to pay any tax whatsoever. We could literally just go to the printing press and print some more notes.

    Amazing!

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  17. I am going to try to predict Bruce’s team. It is not the team I would play but there are certain players he likes that WILL play.

    Lascelles, Shelvey, Joelinton and Krafth.

    It will be a 4-3-3. My only real doubt is about whether Bruce will start Lewis or Dummett.

    Darlow

    Krafth Lascelles Clark Lewis

    Shelvey Willock Hayden

    Miggy Donkey-Linton St Max

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  18. Stuart79: We could literally just go to the printing press and print some more notes.

    That’s not how money is brought into existence.

    If you went to the bank to get a loan, do you think they race off to the printing press to churn out the pounds you want or do they simply change some numbers on a spreadsheet?

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  19. The Gayle situation at NUFC is really strange. Bruce said he likes him. He said he tried to sign him. He plays him last season and he scores. He plays him as a sub this season and he scores. And then he gives him like 3 minutes since Xmas? ! ? !

    It is almost as strange as Bale at Spurs.

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  20. Eric Sykes: In 2020 the UK economy suffered its biggest decline since 1709.

    That’s what a neoliberal mindset gets you. The incompetence is second only to Mike Ashley’s.

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  21. We are 17th. Highly likely to stay there for the next 2 weeks at least.

    My prediction at the start of the season was 12th based on the squad but I now think we will finish 17th because Bruce really is that crap and Graeme Jones will be BOTH an influence and a distraction. There is just no way that there will not be tension in the coaching camp when Ashley or Carr brought someone in over Bruce’s say so. I dont care what spin Brucie tries to put on this. HE HAD NO SAY!!! We have seen before what the Fatman did with Wise and Jiminez.

    Top of the table is also interesting because a lot of people thought Liverpool and Spurs would be top 3.

    I dont think either Klopp or Jose are very happy at the moment. Both have faces like slapped arses.

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  22. Well Burnley look full of confidence now don’t they.

    I had hopes we’d be ok after Everton and the spirited display v Saints but with Wilson out for 8 weeks covering the period in which we play some winnable and drawable games, i’m not so sure we can cope.
    Gayle is capable of filling Wilsons boots but I have a horrible feeling he’ll get a strain and not be fit and then he’ll be away come summer injury free. 😉 He’s been constantly overlooked in favor of Joe and given just minutes as a sub to try and effect games. The lad seems to play with a permanent scowl and doesn’t look happy even when he scores. We need him to step up now, question is will he, given the chance ?

    Also think Manquillo will be a massive miss too, I really like him and he has continued to improve .

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  23. Can someone explain to me how New Zealand have had new covid cases when they eradicated it and shut all their borders? Can someone also explain to me how on earth it’s sensible to have a full lockdown in a city because of 3 cases? I suppose it’s possible in a city of about 5 people but Jesus Christ – talk about nonsense.

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  24. Shearers article in the athletic ( interview with KK on his 70th) for all you that can’t open it.
    It’s very long but brilliant-enjoy Happy Valentines day lads and lasses.

    Kevin Keegan is 70 on Valentine’s Day and, off the top of my head, it is difficult to think of anything more appropriate. You have never known true romance until you have heard Newcastle United supporters gurgle about their former player and manager, this passionate, restless man who rescued the club from oblivion and led it on a headlong dash towards glory, playing football that had been kissed by angels.

    If I could give Kevin anything for a landmark birthday it would be a way of marking this love in something permanent like bronze or cement or steel. He deserves a statue or a stand named after him at St James’ Park. He warrants an ambassadorial role. Nobody has done more to create the modern Newcastle or the version that lingers in our hearts, the big club with the big stadium, the big noise, big ambitions and big dreams.

    The sad thing is that it will never happen under Mike Ashley’s ownership and even if the regime had the sense or humility to swallow their pride and recognise Kevin’s fundamental place in the club’s history, he would never accept it. Not from them. He wrote in his most recent autobiography about not feeling welcome on Gallowgate — I share that feeling, up to a point — but accepts that it’s “a two-way street.”

    As he tells me, “I’ve no real wish to go back to the Newcastle United as it is now. Don’t get me wrong, I love Newcastle. I love the people. My father was from there.” But Kevin was so scarred by his second spell managing the team that he has effectively erased it from his CV. “It was such a farce,” he says. And: “Do I want to go back and be sat next to Mike Ashley? I don’t miss Newcastle, because if I went back to Newcastle, I’d want to enjoy it.”

    But Kevin does still feel the tug of home — and Newcastle is his home, or one of them, whatever his birth certificate says — and he will return when Ashley is gone. “The best day they’ll have is when he sells the club, because anybody — and I mean anybody — can run it better,” he says. “Just anybody. It cannot be run worse than it is.” Whoever those people are, they would be insane not to involve Newcastle’s Pied Piper in some capacity.
    I don’t want this to be a negative article, because Kevin is too upbeat for that and too much of a positive force in my own life and career. I have felt 7ft tall in the dressing-room after his team talks. In the playground, I pretended to be him. I used to wave at his old maroon Jaguar — number plate KK 33, the 33 a reference to Brut, the aftershave firm who sponsored him! — as he drove past Gosforth High School, on his way to training. And I was a ballboy at his final match as a player.

    Without Kevin, my own likeness would not stand on Barrack Road, right arm in the air. I would not be Newcastle’s record goalscorer. My own dream would be just that. Newcastle would never have tasted the top; there would have been no Indian summer for Sir Bobby Robson, no Champions League, no Entertainers, no iconic moments like his “I will love it if we beat them, love it,” call to arms on Sky Sports, no 5-0 redemption against Manchester United, no blissful football.

    Just like Jimmy Stewart’s character in It’s A Wonderful Life, who is shown a glimpse of how one person’s existence ripples out and touches countless others and how the world, for all its frustrations and frailties, would be immeasurably worse without him in it, the thought of a Newcastle without Keegan is impossible to bear.
    So this is personal for me and personal for Newcastle fans everywhere.

    Happy birthday, King Kev. And happy Valentine’s Day.

    We chat via WhatsApp video; Kevin is yet to master Zoom. “I was going to sit in front of all my trophies but then I remembered I hadn’t got any,” is his opening line and it is a good one, but it is also nonsense. He might be most remembered for not winning the title at Newcastle in 1996, when Sir Alex Ferguson’s ruthless Manchester United hauled back a 12-point lead, but Kevin was a garlanded player, a relentless striver for everything he achieved.
    As a young forward, Kevin won three league titles at Liverpool, an FA Cup, a European Cup and two UEFA Cups before leaving at the peak of his powers for Hamburg, where he added a Bundesliga to his haul. Moving abroad was a rarity, but he has always been inquisitive, always embraced the unexpected. It was a shock when he signed for Southampton but you can multiply that by a thousand when he turned up at Newcastle in 1982.
    Within two years, we had been promoted out of the old Second Division and Kevin Mk I was gone, soaring into the Tyneside air in a helicopter. It was a suitably dramatic goodbye. “I still think of myself as a player,” he says, “but the people I meet in the street obviously think of me as a manager. They’ll go, ‘Love it, love it!’, particularly around here (he lives in the north west). Management is just a way of hanging on to a game you love. It’s not something you would choose over playing.”
    We talk about his 70th and how he will celebrate it. “Jean (his wife) and I are going out for a nice meal in a lovely restaurant, obviously … No, not really. It’s a nightmare, isn’t it? All the things you used to take for granted … Our days start with the gym in the morning and then walking into town for a takeaway coffee. A takeaway coffee is like going out for a meal these days. And 70? It just creeps up on you. Suddenly, it’s there.”

    Kevin doesn’t really do maudlin. There is always a crack, a joke. He sees his face on the corner of his phone screen. “Blimey, I look a bit rough,” he says. “I can’t get to the barbers … You don’t have this problem, Alan.”

    Kevin doesn’t really do maudlin. There is always a crack, a joke. He sees his face on the corner of his phone screen. “Blimey, I look a bit rough,” he says. “I can’t get to the barbers … You don’t have this problem, Alan.”

    Charming

    So what is he doing in lockdown? “I’m working a lot — I do presentations for companies, so it’s given me loads of time to do that,” he says. “I’ve always loved racing, so I watch that in the afternoons. We’ve got five grandkids but we can’t go and see them. It’s just like everyone else.

    “I’ve lost a lot of friends in football over the last year, including the three Leeds lads I used to play against; Norman Hunter, Trevor Cherry, Jack Charlton. We’re just surviving, really. There are those two sides to it. People also pull together.”

    He watches football, but struggles with it. “I don’t know about you, but without a crowd, I’m not interested in half the matches,” he says. “It’s given teams a licence to not attack. At Newcastle or at Liverpool — and I realise I’m going back a long way — if you passed the ball backwards they just wouldn’t allow it. Now you see teams at 2-1 down with a free kick where they can put it in the box … and it ends up with their own goalkeeper.

    “If you ever needed proof of how vital supporters are, it’s this era, because the game loses something. It just doesn’t have that same buzz. The crowd forces teams to have a go. I can think of loads of games I’ve watched where all I do is switch the telly off. The fans gave me another yard when I played. But it’s just a period we’ve got to get through. They’re doing well to get the games on.”

    This is typical of Kevin, because football is not simply a sporting endeavour to him. It is a human connection.

    He has not worked on the game’s front line since his unhappy resignation at Newcastle in September 2008. He later won a Premier League arbitration case which heard that Kevin had been told by Dennis Wise, the executive director, to look up a new signing “on YouTube”; in public, the club had said the manager had “the final word,” on transfers, but it played out very differently. The arbitration panel viewed Newcastle’s primary defence as “wholly without merit”.

    It is not hugely surprising that Kevin doesn’t miss it. “You get to 70 and what could I do in football now?” he says. “Management? There’s one or two around, Roy Hodgson being the prime example, and he’s doing great, but he’s hung in all the time. The longer you’re out of it, the more it changes and evolves. Forget the politics, the Newcastle I took over the second time was a completely different game.
    “The first time, I did virtually everything. You looked at the players, you signed them, you did the contracts and then you told the board. You managed the club with three or four other people and you were in charge of your own destiny. When you bought players, you sat down with them and talked. That’s what I did when I fetched David Ginola over (from France), when I signed you under the cover of a Bryan Adams concert in Huddersfield! It wouldn’t happen now, but if it hadn’t happened then, you would have probably gone somewhere else.

    “I liked it the way it was. Now the manager is just a coach. One of your biggest problems when you’re planning an away trip is how you fit all your members of staff on the bus! It’s different. I don’t want some guy who has been a steward at Chelsea and somehow found his way into player recruitment telling me there’s a good player in Bolivia or Peru without you seeing them, or asking you to watch them on YouTube. That’s the part I could never get my head around.”
    It reminds me of a story and I’m not sure if it’s one I’ve told before. During that doomed second managerial stint at Newcastle, Kevin asked me to work alongside him as an assistant. Somewhere down the line, perhaps I would have taken over. It was a compelling idea and reckon I would have accepted, but as we were talking in his office the yellow ticker flashed up on Sky Sports News detailing Dennis Wise’s arrival.
    Kevin laughed at the time, but it didn’t feel massively funny. He told me, “you just can’t come to the club at the minute, it wouldn’t be right.” He was protecting me.

    “I can remember that conversation as if it was yesterday,” he says now. “I could imagine you thinking, ‘Uh-oh, he doesn’t want me here’, and it was anything but. I really did. Nothing would have been better than getting you to work with the forwards, teaching them where you go and don’t go, where would get them a goal. You can’t buy that. But if you fetch it into a club where people don’t care or really don’t get it …? I couldn’t let you walk into that. All sorts of things were going on. There were so many red flags.”

    As it turned out, the season Kevin left, I ended up as Newcastle’s fourth manager in seven months, following him, Joe Kinnear and Chris Hughton. I loved those eight short games in charge, even though I was unable to steer the club away from relegation. That summer, having presented my plans to secure promotion at the first time of asking, I waited for Mike Ashley to call me back. I’m still waiting.

    “You can’t say I didn’t warn you!” Kevin says, with a bit too much of a cackle. “I remember saying, ‘Alan, you don’t want to be part of this,’. I did tell you! But you taking Newcastle was exactly like I was with the England job. You couldn’t say no. You couldn’t turn your back on it, because your club needed you.
    “Nothing could have saved Newcastle because a badly run club is a badly run club and you can work as hard as you can on the football field but if everything else is not right then it filters through. When you took it, I just thought, ‘Well go on then! It’s a hell of a task’. But at least you didn’t have to worry about signing players because the window had gone. You had to work with what you had. And what you had wasn’t quite good enough.

    My god, though, Kevin’s Newcastle were good. The one disappointment for me is that we were colleagues all too briefly. I came home in the summer of 1996 for a world-record fee of £15 million — I make no apologies; I still love writing that — and he was gone by the following January. I’ve never fully understood his departure and although he says I didn’t sign for him — “you came because you wanted to be at Newcastle” — he is only half-right.
    Home to my club, yes. And home to memories of my school playground, his Jag, my sideline as ball boy, that helicopter. The prospect of that football, of winning things. Home, to Newcastle. Home, to the court of King Kev.

    If Leicester City lifting the Premier League trophy was a miracle, then Newcastle was a fairytale, too, albeit without the happily ever after. Eight years after retiring as a player, Kevin arrived back on Tyneside in February 1992. It was astonishing — he had been chipping away at his golf handicap and barely watched a game — a million volts surging through a club which had been riven by boardroom strife and was now listing at the foot of English football’s second tier.

    The facilities, Kevin says, were like “a hovel. The place was absolutely filthy. You couldn’t have shown it to prospective signings. You’d be too embarrassed. That’s how bad it was. The first team were travelling to games on the day of the match because the board were saying, ‘Well, f*** them, they’re not doing it for us on the pitch so why should we pay for overnight accommodation?’ Players were washing their own kit. So when it came to games on a Saturday we had some in black and white stripes and some in grey!”

    Kevin fumigated the place, in more ways than one, keeping Newcastle up, threatening to walk away and then securing promotion as champions, playing a joyous, freestyle football that would make grown men weep. For his first home game in the Premier League he wrote in his programme notes, “‘Watch out Alex (Ferguson), we’re after your title’. One of the directors came to me and threw it on the table and said, ‘This is ridiculous, you’re putting us all under pressure’.

    “And I said, ‘Well, that’s what we should be wanting, that’s what we should be aiming for’. We were trying to change the mentality of the club and when you turn around a club like that, it’s like a juggernaut. Once we’d turned, it never stopped.”

    Kevin had an ideal partner in Sir John Hall, the local entrepreneur who built the Metrocentre and then took a majority stake in the club. Sir John was a different kind of dreamer, who spoke about the “Geordie Nation” and turning Newcastle into a sporting club like Barcelona. St James’ was revamped and reconstructed. Queues snaked outside the ground. The city throbbed on a Saturday night.
    By then, Newcastle were training in Durham, where Kevin threw the doors open to fans. I dug out a photo of those scenes recently and the visual reminder was extraordinary; thousands of people there, five deep around the pitches. “We used to get fish and chip vans turning up,” Kevin says. It was chaotic and beautiful and democratic.
    Newcastle’s progress was breakneck, but Kevin was feeding a voracious appetite he understood. “I feel sad for the punters now because I know what they like,” he says. “When I played for Newcastle, the local brewery paid most of my wages, so once a week I’d have to go around the working men’s clubs or the big pubs and have these talk-ins. That’s where I learnt about the club, about the passion for it.

    “I’m not being clever, because it was forced on me, really, because of my deal, but it gave me a real understanding. I’m not saying players should do it now, but they’re almost shielded from it. I got to know what people want. They don’t mind losing 3-2 if it’s a great game, but they don’t really want to see a 0-0. It sounds strange when you say it. Maybe that’s why we didn’t win the league!”

    Kevin’s philosophy was simple — improve and improve and improve. And his powers of persuasion were legendary.

    “Your mate Rob Lee was going to Middlesbrough until I convinced him Newcastle was closer to London!” he says. “I always feel guilty telling that story because it makes him sound a bit stupid but it’s true; if you get the train to Middlesbrough you’ve got to change at Darlington, so it takes longer. We’d kept building and building and it was a very simple strategy — just get better players in all the time. It’s not rocket science.”

    Newcastle finished third and then sixth in the Premier League. They were poster boys for a new division, the darlings of Sky television. “We passed a lot of teams that people probably thought were better than us, but we were so together,” he says. “We had everybody rowing the boat in the same direction.
    “Once you get a good side, people don’t like coming to Newcastle. It’s always a bit colder, a bit windier and more hostile. We beat a lot of teams before the game had actually started. They were thinking, ‘We don’t want to get beat four or five today’, so they were quite happy to get beat by two. We had the players to do that. We didn’t have the players to grind out a 0-0 at Old Trafford.

    “We challenged teams to play. We didn’t try and defend a 1-0. Our outlook was, ‘We’re going to come at you and if you’re good enough, come at us. If you beat us, fair dos’. People couldn’t wait to get to the match and we fed on that. Every time we bought somebody they seemed to be better going forward than going back.

    “John Beresford was our left-back. He would give the ball to David Ginola and then go past him. I remember shouting at him one day. ‘Bez, just stay behind him and let him do the attacking!’ He told me to eff off, so I hauled him off. He didn’t realise what he’d done. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve always thought of football as an entertainment.”
    And then there was that extraordinary season when they finished runners-up. “It’s no good having regrets, that’s the first thing,” Kevin says. “But you look back and we lost games we should have won. At Liverpool we famously lost 4-3 and we should have been out of sight. We became the Monday night team because Sky always wanted us on TV, so we ended up playing catch-up after Man United had won on the Saturday.

    “The turning point was Man United at home in the March. The following season, when you played, we beat them 5-0, but we were actually better when they beat us 1-0. Peter Schmeichel was unbelievable and then Eric Cantona bobbled one in. Have a look back at Schmeichel’s performance, the chances we had, the blocks they made. We absolutely battered them. Those are the little things you’d change, but it wasn’t meant to be.
    “There’s an old saying that nobody remembers who comes second but if they did, it would be us. I’ll go down south to a function or a business do and someone will always walk up and say, ‘I’m not a Newcastle fan, I actually support West Ham, but I loved watching you’. The greatest compliment people paid us was that we were everyone’s second favourite team.”
    I arrived that summer, but there was a bit of hangover. Man United thumped us 4-0 in the Charity Shield, we lost our opening league match at Everton — I remember thinking to myself, very briefly, ‘What the f*** have I done here?’ — and there would soon be another defeat to Sheffield Wednesday. At the end of one match I had a big ruck with Ginola in the dressing room. I didn’t quite pin him up against the wall. Not quite. I remember Kevin coming in and shouting, “JESUS …”

    “You wanted him to cross it a bit more and do a few less dummies,” Kevin says, which is definitely putting it mildly. “We had great players and we also had a lot of leaders. David was a leader in the way he took responsibility for the ball and went past people. We had so many strong characters, which is what you need, but you’re also going to have differences.

    “If you were playing today you’d be going spare! Teams never put the ball in the box! With five minutes to go! You were the end of the breed. Maybe Harry Kane is the exception, but there are no centre-forwards any more. Look at Liverpool and Man City. That era has gone. Imagine what you’d be saying if you were stuck up there now, when players are in positions to get the ball in and instead they give it back to the centre-halves. You’d go absolutely ape-****.”
    He isn’t wrong.

    Results turned for us that season and there was that most perfect of perfect victories over Man United, but Kevin was on the way out. “We had been unlucky the previous season, but just the thought of starting all over again having nearly won it … I didn’t have the appetite,” he says. “You’ve got to go Man United, to Arsenal and all the rest. And don’t forget that by that time, I’d had five years of it. We’d done so much.
    “And I guess I’m not a 10-year kind of person anyway. Five years anywhere is probably enough for me. Some people can stay their whole lives at the same club. When I was leaving Liverpool as a player, Ian Callaghan said to me, ‘Why do you want to go, Kevin? We’re the best team in England, the best team in the world’. I just always felt there was something new for me, another challenge, something different to do.”
    The biggest driver was Newcastle’s flotation on the Stock Exchange. There was suddenly a new layer of bureaucracy around the club. Decisions were slower, less personal. Sir John’s great sporting club idea? Jettisoned. “We’d brought in the basketball and ice hockey teams and I’d got to know those people, but they just got rid of them,” Kevin says. “It was difficult to walk away from the football, but they’d shafted some really good people.

    “I just thought, ‘Wow, that’s exactly what they’ll do to me when the time comes’. It was driven by money, maximising the share flotation, to get the value of the club up.”
    There was a meeting at Wynyard Hall, Sir John’s home, with Newcastle directors, old and new. Kevin was presented with a 10-year contract with a demand to “sign or go.” There was only ever going to be one answer to that. He tramped back across the fields to his own house and said to Jean, “Pack the cases, we’re off. I booked flights to America and we were gone the next morning and that was it.”
    Kevin went back into club management at Fulham and Manchester City and had success at both. In between, he succeeded Glenn Hoddle as England boss and we renewed our working relationship. He took his country to Euro 2000, after which I retired from international football, but his 20 months in charge were not happy.
    “It was tough,” he says. “I didn’t enjoy it. I took it part-time to start with and if I could have carried on like that, having a day-to-day job at Fulham, it would have been better for me. I missed that daily involvement. I liked being hands-on.
    “With England … ugh. I was going to watch players but as England manager you don’t need to do that to know whether they’re good enough. Should you spend time looking at young players for the future? Yes, but you know your best team. It picks itself. It’s almost like you have to be seen to be looking at players.

    “I didn’t like all the meetings. I didn’t like the long breaks. And when you get your players together some would come on the Saturday night, some on the Sunday and if they played in a Sunday match some would come on a Monday. You’re playing Wednesday! I found that really hard. You couldn’t even get that camaraderie. It was very difficult. But if you’re offered the job I don’t think you can ever refuse it.
    “I’d really enjoyed my time at Fulham with Mr (Mohamed) Al-Fayed. He was a great chairman. He said, ‘I give him to England’ and they sold me for £600,000 compensation! I gave Steven Gerrard his England debut, Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard. You were coming to the end and it was a transitional period. We were looking for the next generation, really, but it was the only role I didn’t enjoy.
    “I loved Newcastle, I loved Fulham and loved Man City as well, so three out of four ain’t bad. I mean, forget Newcastle the second time. I don’t even look at myself as having been there. When I met Mike Ashley in London and he told me he wanted me to come back, I thought ‘Wow, this is another opportunity like with Sir John’, but the book cover had no relation to its contents. You know that yourself.”

    We are back at the start, give or take.

    Newcastle provoke mixed feelings. “I always watch them and there’s a strange part of you that wants them to do well and another part of you that doesn’t,” Kevin says. “It’s a strange thing to say. The only way you’re going to get change there is if someone buys it and sees the club for what it really is.”
    Has he spoken to prospective buyers? “Two or three over the years, but I don’t really get involved because most of them are just flying kites,” he says. “I’ve had a couple of emails — people saying they’ve got serious backers involved and would I come in, but they were fishing. The people you’d want to get involved with would do it properly, do it openly, get the club first and then look at what they need to do to get it back to something like it was. There’s a big PR job to do at Newcastle. It’s difficult to run a club and please everybody but you’d think it was impossible to run one and please nobody. That’s what they’ve got.”

    Ouch
    At this point, I should declare an interest and insert a caveat that’s important to me. Steve Bruce is a pal of mine. I speak to him and his coaches. I did the same with Rafa Benitez, too, although not with too many of his predecessors. I’m very conscious that there are loads of great people at Newcastle — people who worked there when Kevin was manager — and for all the angst and anger and disappointment around the club, they’re doing their utmost to make it better. It gets forgotten sometimes and it shouldn’t.
    And yet… as an institution, Newcastle is cold and hollow. Supporters feel that and so do plenty of their former players, myself included. History is shunned by the hierarchy and Kevin has only been back twice, once for a leaving party when he turned up in disguise and then for the unveiling of my statue, which is on city land beside the stadium, rather than inside it, which is telling. I still go to home matches — or I did — but you just know when you’re not wanted.
    “If someone said to me on a Saturday afternoon, ‘Where would you like to go, Newcastle or Liverpool, well, sadly — it’s not really sadly, because I love Liverpool, too — it would be Liverpool every time,” Kevin says. “Everybody is treated properly there. Not ridiculously over the top, but you’re made to feel welcome. They really appreciate what you did for that club in your time there.
    “I still feel the pull of Newcastle. It’s a massive pull. My grandfather Frank was a miner. He was working at West Stanley pit during the disaster of 1909 when 168 people, including kids, were killed. He got out and went back down to try and rescue them. My roots are there. There’s a massive connection, always has been and always will be. It’s probably in my genes, but at the moment, it’s just a no-go area for me.
    “I don’t go to Liverpool that much, either. I’m not one for looking back. And this is really important, even for you Alan. You’ve got to look forward. Everything you’ve achieved, I’ve achieved, they’re in the past. One of Sir John’s favourite sayings was, ‘If you live in the past you die in the past’. And I think it’s a good saying.”

    I don’t disagree, except that Newcastle’s vibrant past contrasts so fiercely with its present and having lived and played through that past, I still feel it. We all do. And if we can’t be nostalgic on Kevin’s 70th birthday and consider the club that was and the club that is, then when can we be?

    I think it’s criminal that he doesn’t have a tangible tribute at St James’ when I do and Sir Bobby does and Jackie Milburn does, but when he says he’s “not bothered,” about a statue, I believe him.
    “You’re all Geordies, that’s the connection,” he says. “I’m a Yorkshireman. ‘Wor’ Jackie, I mean, wow. Look at his goalscoring record. And then yourself. Sir Bobby was born and bred there. And, by the way, I think his statue is worth as much for what he did after football as for his time as Newcastle manager. The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has done amazing things and raised all that money for anti-cancer causes.

    “The fans let me know they think I’m part of things. They’re great with me. That’s enough. The idea of just sticking up statues … I just think they’ve got the right three there.”
    Maybe there are echoes of Keegan’s Newcastle in the way that Man City play, the way their centre-halves crave to get up the pitch with the ball in the same way that Philippe Albert, our towering Belgian, did. He smiles when I say that.“If you look at it now, Leeds are a poor man’s Newcastle,” he responds. “They play like we did, but they’re not as good as we were. Leeds are halfway down the table and their coach is one of the best in the world! If I was in charge of Leeds, I would get battered because they’d say defensively I haven’t got a clue! ‘They concede too many goals!’”
    We have chatted for well over 90 minutes and just like when you watched his teams swashbuckle their way forward, it has flown by. It is difficult to credit that he is 70 and difficult to accept that it is 25 years since that glorious, gallant tilt at the title, since he brought me home.
    “You look at now from a Newcastle point of view and think, ‘When will they ever get another chance?’,” Kevin says. “It feels like such a long way away …”
    He snaps out of it. He always does. Kevin’s natural-born optimism doesn’t stay buried for long.

    “You have to give people hope,” he says. “It won’t go on forever. Someone, somewhere, will see the benefits of that great football club. The problem with Mike Ashley is that he didn’t really know what he was buying. He doesn’t get it. But if he doesn’t understand what it’s about, he should hire people, employ people who do. Even if he keeps the ownership, he just needs to put bright people in charge. That’s all Newcastle needs. If you could put three or four of the right people in there …
    “I don’t care what anybody says, it’s a special club. It’s not like any other club. If you’d said in 1927, the last time they won the league, that nearly a century later they wouldn’t have won it again, people would have laughed at you! They’d won it four times by then. You can never foresee.
    “It just needs running. It needs direction, leadership. It needs understanding of what it is. It needs some care. If you take Newcastle by takings, crowd, whatever, it’s something like the 17th biggest football club in the world. That means it should be amongst the top four or five in England. Yes, Man United are bigger. Yes, Liverpool are bigger, but they’re only bigger because they’ve won things. It could all change with new ownership. You never know, it might just be around the corner.”

    He signs off with “God bless, kid,” and a “Wish you well,” that well-worn saying of Arthur Cox, Kevin’s old manager at Newcastle, which used to chirrup across our training ground.
    By this stage, I don’t really care about checking Kevin’s details. Newcastle the 17th biggest club in the world? Top four in England? Why stop there? Why not the biggest? I feel 7ft tall again and long to stand up and sprint across my front room with my right arm aloft. I want to feel the grass beneath my feet again, to hear the Gallowgate erect its wall of noise one more time.

    This is how Kevin made me feel, makes us feel. He was King Kev and we were in his thrall as, for a little while, Newcastle chased the impossible dream.

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  25. Watching WBrom and actually wanting Man U to win. WBrom goal was a clear foul and Big Fat Sam has quickly turned his team into an image of himself – niggly, ugly and a bit tw@tish.

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  26. 15 million vaccines been injected. Top 4 vulnerable groups done for first jab. Data shows they have a minimum of 67% protection after one jab.

    Well done.

      (Quote)

  27. I have no idea how a West Brom player was not sent off. They engaged in systematic fouling all game. You know it was all planned as well, They were sent out to do it by the Big Fat Slug. We know what he does, we saw it 1st hand at NUFC. Probably the only good decision Ashley ever made was to sack him and rid us of his anti-football.

    Pity we have had Bruce anti-football for 18 months 🙂 And Rafa to a lesser extent.

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  28. Stuart79:
    15 million vaccines been injected. Top 4 vulnerable groups done for first jab. Data shows they have a minimum of 67% protection after one jab.

    Well done.

    My mother (78) and Aunt (88) have had their 1st doses. I was much more worried about them than me. I reckon I will be able to get vaccinated sometime in April. Biden says there are enough for anybody that wants it to have it done by July.

    Chicago is slowly opening up now but there is a bl00dy polar vortex which means you dont want to go out. I think it is like minus 20 today. Was about the same in Dallas which is sort of funny because they dont know how to deal with it there. Cars sliding, nobody dressed for it.

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  29. Apart from obviously the deaths and economies shutting down the worst bit about the pandemic has been Danny Higginbothom. He turned up on American TV about 3 months ago and has stayed. I dont know if this is a programming decision or that the UK will not take him back. Please take him back, I beg you.

    He is so boring. His analysis is so boring, dressed up in his like pseudo-know-something insider method. Like a dumber Jermaine Jenas who always sounds like he is saying something when he really isnt.

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  30. Can’t wait for Lew to get his jab, profound learning disability yet stuck in group 6 !
    Vulnerable enough to get a DNR slapped on him if he goes in with covid though.
    Mencap and the CQC are right, with over 60% of deaths in people with disability they are being failed as are their carers, if you don’t get a wage as a carer you don’t count.
    I’m getting more and more angry about it with every death to someone with a learning disability i read or hear about.

    15 million is impressive but they still managed to miss some of the most vulnerable people in our society who cannot speak for themselves.

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  31. Kimtoon: I cannot understand how your Lewis is not at the front of the queue. Everybody knows that disabled and the less active physically are much more vulnerable to infections and other things like viruses. You dont have to be a Dr to know this, you just have to pay attention in everyday life.

    How can there not be a process to review specific situations and sort it out?

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  32. kimtoon:
    Can’t believe West brom got a point either. :evil

    They hacked their way to it. Fouling at every opportunity. Having a Ref that let them get away with murder. Having a goal allowed that was obviously a foul. It is weird though because normally Man U get all of the breaks going, but not today. Remember it was so common that they would have extra minutes added that it was called “Fergie Time”.

    A point will not save West Brom though. I think they are down.

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  33. Eric Sykes: They hacked their way to it. Fouling at every opportunity. Having a Ref that let them get away with murder. Having a goal allowed that was obviously a foul. It is weird though because normally Man U get all of the breaks going, but not today. Remember it was so common that they would have extra minutes added that it was called “Fergie Time”.

    A point will not save West Brom though. I think they are down.

    Didn’t see it Eric tbf, sounds like they are a typical fat Sam team now though.

    On Lewis, I don’t understand it either mate. They made it clear during first lockdown he’d get a DNR on his file which angered me as when he’s gone in previously with chest issues he’s always responded to Anti biotics and when he was very poorly they were going to put him on a ventilator but his blood gases picked up and they didn’t need to.
    I think he should be in group 4 , if they feel he’s that vulnerable .
    I’m in group 6 as an unpaid carer, i’ve jumped one group as would of been in 7 as i’m 60 on the 28th of feb.

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  34. Eric, Mencap and the CQC are trying to get Government to review it, but I don’t think they will. I thought the added complication of complex epilepsy ( LENNOX GASTAUX SYNDROME) on top of his chromosome deletion and attendance at day center for learning disabled would of made him priority too and the fact his drinks are thickened and food pureed and fed to him !
    He’s likely got more issues than a lot of 75/80 year olds.
    It’s crazy and he is by far not the only one in this situation, just pray they get to group 6 soon and that he dosen’t have a raging cold when it’s offered.

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  35. More goalkeeping theatrics for Leeds. It seems there is a comedy of errors recently, including Allison who the Red Bindippers in their usual modest way said was the best in the world (#SurprisedTheyDidntAnointHimGOAT).

    If the T-Rex Mackem plays today we could see more but hopefully not enough to lose. We need Fulham to be just a little bit more sh!t than us.

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  36. WOW…

    Watching Arsenal/Leeds and Bielsa is going to give himself a heart attack. If he is like that every day he will be done by 70. He is already 65.

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