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MACCA: Freddy heights of Intertoto? Toon deserve more..


REJOICE! REJOICE! In the words of the oldest clichA in Fleet Street, Christmas came early for Newcastle supporters.

No, not the news that Freddy Shepherd and his bunch of cronies were about to cash in their shares to the tune of almost pounds 70million.

But the fact the Toon Army can celebrate their first piece of silverware since the Texaco Cup triumph of 1975 with the lifting of the Intertoto Cup.

Granted, it's not exactly a major trophy. And the Geordies won it via a route so circuitous the Tour de France organisers are asking for tips.

Basically (and stay with me on this), Cristiano Lucarelli's winner for Livorno against Auxerre means that Newcastle are the club who have progressed the furthest in the UEFA Cup, having originally qualified from this summer's original Intertoto competition.

Hence the trophy winging its way to the north east. As the official Newcastle website puts it, an open-top bus parade date is still to be confirmed, but as legacies go, Shepherd can be a proud man.

What thoughts will warm his heart most at nights, do you think? The dream fulfilled by bringing a trophy to the Geordie nation? Or the fact that his bank account is likely to benefit from the addition of 34 million big ones before too long?

It's a tough call. But bearing in mind this is the man who ridiculed the Toon faithful for splashing out hard-earned cash on replica shirts, no right-minded jury would convict if you plumped for the latter.

Incredibly, the Newcastle fans I spoke to this week were singularly nonplussed by both pieces of earth-shattering news.

On Friday, two of them didn't even know the Intertoto Cup was on its way to Tyneside. And they were undecided whether the imminent departure of the man dubbed Fat Freddy was good news or not.

Certainly, none of them were exactly planning a rip-snorting evening in the Bigg Market. Better the devil you know, seemed to sum up their reaction.

Better the devil you know? What is the world coming to when Newcastle fans, the finest, most fanatical supporters in the land, prefer the odious Shepherd over the prospect of becoming the latest club to fall into foreign ownership?

Apparently, it's all about heritage. They would rather some bloke from Byker who at least speaks in the same impenetrable tongue than some American/Swiss consortium who nobody up there knows from Adam.

A sad state of affairs that makes you want to scream down the Tyne: ARE YOU BLOODY SURE?

What sense does it make to side with a chairman who has overseen nothing but underachievement for almost a decade, whose managerial appointments are based on a revolving door policy and who sneers at both the fans and the finest player in the club's history from the comfort of a Marbella bordello?

The future isn't with a smalltime Tyneside businessman but with blue chip investors willing to pump millions into the club to bring the fans the kind of consistent success their support deserves.

But the problem with Newcastle people is they honestly believe only those who come from the area understand the unique mentality of their self-proclaimed nation-within-a-nation.

If that's truly the case, fine. Find yourself a billionaire who prefers Newky Broon to Nuit St George, get him to buy out Shepherd and celebrate when Ronaldinho settles down in Cowgate.

Or you could accept the inevitable, wave a cheery farewell to Shepherd and his cohorts and believe this is at last the start of something magnificent.

Unless, of course, the Intertoto Cup is the sum of your expectations. In which case, have one for me this weekend.

IT may be a week on, but I still can't stop feeling sorry for Matt Taylor. On Saturday night he'd scored the goal of the season. By the time Michael Essien had finished, he hadn't even scored the goal of the weekend.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Dec 17, 2006
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