When people talk about the red mist descending on you in the heat of battle, I know exactly what they mean.
Fourteen years ago in a Tyne-Wear derby I felt it come over me when I was playing for Sunderland against Newcastle, the team I supported as a boy, and I still feel the consequences of it now.
I was playing for Sunderland at the time and I knew I was running the gauntlet because my background was black and white and my whole family are Newcastle United supporters. But even I wasn’t expecting what happened the night before the game when the windows were put through my mum and dad’s house in Gateshead.
On the day the abuse was constant from a section of the home supporters, who were calling me every name under the sun whenever I got close enough to the touchline to hear their voices. I have played in a lot of derby games but the North East derby is the biggest and best of the lot – and the most tribal. It was horrible stuff, and it would not be exaggerating to say it was the worst abuse I ever got on the field.
So when I scored that day, I freely admit I completely lost it. I celebrated in front of the stand where I once stood as a kid and to be honest I don’t really know what came over me. I suppose it was the desire to get back at that section of fans who had given it to me. It’s hard to explain but it was the red mist.
I couldn’t jump into the crowd and have a go back and I can’t call someone the ‘C’ word so yeah, I was looking to get a reaction from the people who had put me through it that weekend. I kissed the badge and that is a cardinal sin. In that kind of atmosphere, you do things that you would never do if you were thinking about it calm and cool. So when Alan Pardew is stood on the sidelines and he’s just witnessed a terrible decision go against his team, I understand that it gets the better of you sometimes. Newcastle were the victims of a gross injustice against Manchester City and I think it changed the entire game. They were on top and the goal could have been the difference between getting a point or even winning that game.
Having said I understand it, I have to say I don’t condone the language he used or the way he acted towards Manuel Pelligrini. The words he used were as vile and offensive as I can think of when it comes to managers talking to other managers. In professional football the language can be industrial but that’s virtually unheard of for managers at that level to interact like that. Name calling goes on in football – I probably dished out a bit myself – but that was a new one, especially against someone like Pelligrini.
Just like I have to live with what I did when the red mist descended, so will Alan – who has a little bit of previous on this. It is the last thing he needs on his plate and I think it is something he won’t want to repeat.
It is a shame that it takes away from what was a great game and a fine Newcastle performance.
United were robbed, in my opinion. There is no way that Cheick Tiote’s goal should have been disallowed under the new interpretation of the offside rule. You can cut through all the technical talk and just look at the position Yoan Gouffran is stood in: it isn’t impeding Joe Hart. The decision was just wrong.
It changed the whole atmosphere of the game and suddenly the crowd just erupted. It felt like a derby game type of atmosphere, that’s what I noticed from it.
It had been quiet before then but then the atmosphere was as vocal as you’d expect from St James’ Park – and that kind of noise and ferocity makes Newcastle a tough, tough team to play at home. You could tell they had Manchester City rattled but they just needed a break. The atmosphere did remind me of my moment at St James’ Park all that time ago, which is something that I was reminded of on Twitter by Newcastle fans when my first Journal column came out.
I understand where they are coming from but I hope they can see that I was fighting for my side that day. I was Newcastle United but my mates were in that Sunderland dressing room and they were paying my wages. Anyway, Sunderland is a great club and I’m proud that I played for them – just as I’m proud that I watched Newcastle when I was growing up. I know that won’t be enough for some.
My pledge with this column is that I’ll not hold back in my opinions on any North East club. I will just be honest and there won’t be any bias.
Gus Poyet getting the best out of winger
Adam Johnson’s performance at Fulham wasa ringing endorsement for Gus Poyet’s man-management skills.
I have been really impressed by Gus since he took over at Sunderland. I work for Premier League Productions and Gary O’Reilly, who is still close to people at Brighton, speaks highly of him and says the players absolutely loved Gus. They were fully behind him there.
In one of his first games he took Johnson off for not tracking back and I thought that was a brave move. I also thought that he might lose Adam for a couple of weeks after that because he strikes me as the sort of player who plays off confidence. But Gus is a manager who can give players a rocket when they need it and an arm around the shoulder the next.
His man-management seems to have got the best out of Johnson, who has all the ability but doesn’t necessarily reproduce it enough to really be considered top level at the moment. That’s two games now where he’s looked unplayable and if he can keep doing that, Sunderland have a great chance of staying up.
Talk of an England recall is a bit too early for me. I know Theo Walcott is missing now but it needs to be reproduced at that level every week. If he can do that – and Gus can keep him motivated – he’s got a chance though.