No one who is old enough will ever forget the 1992/93 celebrations in The Toon with the open-top bus ride parading the Championship trophy as we heralded our return to the top flight.
Keegan was the maestro behind it, Sir John Hall the brains and money and “Wor” Pav the custodian.
Even Sir John joined in the chants of “Pavel Is A Geordie” as the team circled St. James Park with the trophy on a lap of honour. It’s fair to say that Pav was a well-accepted foreign Geordie by the end of his time at Newcastle.
It’s a tragedy that he was denied the opportunity to see out his retirement days and enjoy a long and fruitful life. Having said that he did pack a lot into his days on this earth before he was cruelly taken away from us six years ago today at the tender age of 47.
He represented his country, Czech Republic, not just as an international goalkeeper but as a soldier as well. He was as proud to be a Czech citizen as he was an adopted Geordie and he left a lasting impression on everyone he met.
I didn’t get to meet him. I wish I had as he was undoubtedly one of my big heroes at The Toon from 1991 – 1998 when he made 150 appearances for the Club. The late Jim Smith brought him in from Banik Ostrava for £350,00 in January of 1991.
He wasn’t always first choice. Over his longest period with NUFC he fought off Tommy Wright, Mike Hooper and Shaka Hislop amongst others to always get his place back as first-choice. A position he always held for many a supporter during that period until 1998.
I genuinely believe he would be a superstar if he played now as he was one of the very best with ball at his feet when given a back pass. Even if at times he perhaps took a chance or two dribbling the ball out.
He was good in the air and got better and better on crosses during his tenure and at 6’ 2” was built like a goalkeeper should be, being athletic enough to make spectacular saves with great reflexes.
He left in 1998 much to a lot of people’s disappointment but he wasn’t finished with Newcastle just yet. Returning on 29 September 2006 at the age of 38, as cover for the injured Shay Given. He came on to the pitch on 23 December, when Newcastle defeated Tottenham Hotspur 3–1.
He was brought on for Given, who had pulled his groin in the 87th minute, and received a tremendous standing ovation from the Newcastle crowd as he came on which showed the esteem he was held in by the Toon faithful.
Pav then made his last appearance against Bolton Wanderers three days later, making his first start for the club since October 1997. He did earn a contract for the following season but failed to make an appearance.
The word ‘legend’ is often thrown around lightly. Not in Pav’s case. Every one that met him said he had a tremendous love for the City and The Club. They said he was a true gentleman with a kind heart and great sense of humour.
He is deeply missed. Pavel was a Geordie and always will be with a special place in our hearts.