part two of a conversation with author & former Newcastle United footballer, Paul Ferris.

My sister used to manage Rosie’s Bar next to Newcastle United’s ground and often talked about the time when Kevin Keegan became manager and the effect he had on not just the team, but the whole city.

She remembers fans singing ‘living in a Keegan wonderland’ and some players and staff popping into the pub for a sherbet or two.

When I went back to Newcastle as a physio in 1993, we used to have a drink in Rosie’s bar on a Wednesday night. It wasn’t the most glamourous pub but it had a great jukebox and we used to hoy in a fiver to hear great music.

I got to know Alan Shearer well after helping him through a bad injury. The work I did with him in winter ‘97 was the best I’d done for the club. Better than anything I’d ever accomplished as a player.

Paul running with Alan Shearer for the first time after he dislocated his ankle (pic Belfast Telegraph).

I used to go for a few drinks with Rob Lee and Gary Speed, we became good friends and I used to drag Alan Shearer and Gary Speed to U2 gigs. I’d be great in a music quiz cos I’m a music nut. I love listening to 10,000 Maniacs and Natalie Merchant but my all-time favourites are Van Morrison and U2.

One day Alan came in with a couple of tickets for U2 who were due to play Earls Court in London. We were playing Chelsea on the Saturday so a Friday night gig would be great.

He kindly paid to get the train down, booked a hotel and VIP lounge tickets on the Elevation tour. When we got there, he went to the bar to get some drinks but I heard U2 come on stage so shouted ‘Alan, Alan, they’re on’ I couldn’t wait so just left him and raced in to see the start of the concert.

Ten minutes later Alan walked in with two pints shouting ‘I paid for your train, I paid for your hotel, I bought your tickets and you just left us standing there!’ I did feel a little guilty but I didn’t want to miss the start, this is what we came for!

It was around 2003 I was on holiday with my family and had six missed calls on my phone, a few from Alan Shearer and some from Gary Speed. Alan shouted ‘pick the f***ing phone up’.  Loud music was blaring in the background. In another message Gary shouted ‘we’re with Bono!’

When I saw Alan later in a Health & Fitness Club, he said that night they were in a club with Bono and he wanted to talk to me. Then he got out a pair of dark wrap-around sunglasses the type Bono wears on stage, and he and The Edge had signed them on each lens.

Alan gave them to me saying ‘go on take them man I know you really like the band’. ‘No, they were for you’ I said. He pushed them into my hands and I have to say I took them under duress as they were signed to Alan.

As I was driving out of the Club car park, I got a call from Alan who was in the car in front of me ‘take those f***ing glasses off I can see you in the mirror!’ Honestly, I wanted to try them on for just a wee look.

Paul and I met a few days after Newcastle reached their first cup final since 1999, inevitably our talk turns to Football today.

Coaches used to be experienced former players but now some of them only played in lower leagues. But they all have their badges. Mourinho worked for Bobby Robson and is steeped in football, Arsene Wenger revolutionized the game.

At Arsenal he had giant athletes in the middle of the park – Vieira and Petit. At the back Keown and Adams, if you ask Alan Shearer his toughest games were probably against those two. Then up front was Thierry Henri, another giant.

Newcastle back four with the exception of Trippier, are giants. Eddie Howe is doing a great job with the club, he’s reaching a higher level sooner than expected. They are great to watch with little triangles of Trippier, Almiron and Guimaraes.

Plus, a Geordie in the team, Sean Longstaff, scoring two the other day. For Dan Burn, another Geordie, the feeling of scoring his first goal in the Carabao cup semi-final against Southampton must have been immense. The feeling must be amazing, it was for me when I first scored, and I’m an Irishman!

But the pressures on Newcastle managers are enormous. I was there when it was a pre-season friendly and Jack Charlton was in the dug-out. Around 5,000 fans in the Gallowgate end shouting ‘Charlton out’.

Bobby Robson loved being Newcastle manager it was just part of who he was. He was like a wise friend really, after training when all the players had gone, he would pop into the medical room and say ‘do ya fancy a cup of tea’ and talk about anything.

I loved the stories he’d tell about Barcelona, his family and coming back to the North East. He was so proud of coming back he bought a house near where he was born. You could see why players loved him.

In 2016 Paul turned to writing his memories from on and off the pitch and growing up during Ireland’s darkest days. Packed with real warts an’ all stories, his book is much more than just another sporting memoir.

Both my books out now The Boy on the Shed and The Magic in the Tin have been non-fiction memoirs and done well. I’ve also written a fictional manuscript called An Ugly Game about abuse in football, that has heavier themes in it. I’m starting to refer to it as An Ugly Manuscript because it is yet to be picked up by a publisher.

Now I’m writing a fictional book called The Man in One Nineteen which is a line from a song by Natalie Merchant. The book is teaming with musical references from songs I’ve loved.

The main story is the guy is dying and looking back on his life. He had a girlfriend who he referred to as having hair like Suzi Quatro and a face like Noddy Holder. But when they meet again in his 20’s she has turned into the gorgeous Stevie Nicks.

It’s a very intimate journey even though you never get to know his name or where he’s from. Is it Newcastle, New York or Sydney? I just hope it gets released, my agent has sent it to publishers Bloomsbury who have first option on it.

When writing I’m very conscious of grabbing you from the start with the first sentence and finishing strongly. If I can get some emotion from you, some laughter and engage with you, I think you will remember the book.

Alikivi   February 2023

Links to books:

The Boy on the Shed
The Magic in the Tin


Part one of a conversation with author & former Newcastle United footballer, Paul Ferris.

Paul Ferris outside St James’ Park, Newcastle (pic Irish Times).

Football is all about sticking the ball in the back of the net.

My first and only goal for Newcastle was at the Gallowgate end against Bradford in the League Cup. There was a deafening noise as the crowd banged on the metal advertising boards.

As we celebrated Neil McDonald came over to me and asked ‘are you alright’? I swear I couldn’t breathe. The sound of the ball hitting the back of the net is beautiful.

Paul Ferris was born in 1965 in Lisburn near Belfast, Northern Ireland. Living with his Catholic family on mostly a Protestant housing estate, he survived a childhood that was framed by Irelands dark but recent past.

It was my mum who said you need to go across the water, there’s nothing here for you. She just wanted the best for me. I left in October 1981 right in the middle of the IRA hunger strike, it was a very toxic time.

As a professional footballer and physiotherapist Paul had an 18- year career at Newcastle United. Between 1981 and 1985 he was the youngest ever first team player and in 1993 he joined the medical staff where he stayed until 2006. He was also part of the management team in 2009.

As physio I was there under Cox, Keegan, Robson, Dalglish, Gullit, Souness but left when Roeder came in as I was committed to do my Law work – but that’s another story for another time.

In 2018 his best-selling memoir The Boy on the Shed was published to critical acclaim, and the follow up The Magic in the Tin, about his fight with prostate cancer, was released in 2022. (links below).

Both my books have been non-fiction memoirs and have done well, but now I’m currently writing a fictional book.

We’ll find out more of Paul’s writing career in part two, but here he talks candidly about his time as a professional footballer.

When I was a kid in Northern Ireland in the 70s, I only knew one Newcastle fan and that was Kieran my brother-in-law, he told me all about players like Malcolm McDonald, David Craig and Liam McFaul.

It was mostly Liverpool or Manchester United supporters – that was the George Best connection as he was a Belfast boy. I was a Liverpool fan so Kevin Keegan was without doubt the first football hero that I had.

I used to go and watch the Home Championship games cos that’s when you got to see the big players. At Windsor Park in Belfast, I couldn’t see much being small so I would take a stool to stand on to see players like Kevin Keegan.

You see lists of greatest ever players and some of them he’s not even in, when I think he most definitely was one of the best.

My very first team I signed for was Bolton at 14, that was the team of Peter Reid and Sam Allardyce. It was for two years with a guaranteed apprenticeship but the management got sacked and I ended with nowhere to go.

I was playing for the Irish under 18 youth team and they mentioned two teams I should try out for – Everton and Newcastle. But didn’t enjoy my time in Liverpool so came to Newcastle where it was more friendly. At least they said hello to you in the street.

It was still a wrench leaving. There were flights only two days a week and a pay phone in the hall of my digs – it felt a long way from home.

Newcastle boarding a plane for Bermuda in 1985. Paul in the centre of the photo with Paul Gascoigne (and prize mullet) on his right (pic Evening Chronicle).

In 1982 I was 16 and made my Newcastle debut away from home, my home debut was against QPR in the second division. 14,000 people at a run-down stadium with a city in the doldrums and a lot of economic hardship and unemployment.

Then manager Arthur Cox signed Kevin Keegan who was twice European footballer of the year. I remember the assistant coach telling the team who we’d signed, we all said ‘f*** off, no chance!’ But then he arrived, as a shy lad it was quite daunting to see your boyhood hero.

He was not only a great footballer and charismatic, but he transformed the whole outlook of the city. He also gave it a boost when he came back as manager and won promotion in 1993.

Newcastle manager Arthur Cox was great, he was honest and straight with you, just no nonsense really. But he had the sensitivity as well and asked me how my parents were doing because he knew I was a young boy away from home.

Even now in his 80s he contacts me to ask how I’m doing as he knows I’ve had some health issues. He’s also read both my books which he enjoyed.

Some great footballers came to St James’ Park. I remember watching a European cup night and Newcastle were playing French side Bastia who included Johnny Rep.

The Dutch team of ’74 was a big part of my awakening to great footballers. On TV you would see Johan Cruyff, Johnny Rep and Neeskins. Football was better to watch in those days there was more chances created, more jeopardy in the game.

When I was young, I was told to hug the touchline, get the ball, take the full back on and take him on again, then get the ball in the box. You might lose the ball few times but it was exciting to watch.

Paul scoring his only goal for Newcastle United (pic The Times).

On my debut as a 16 year old we were playing Blackburn away and I replaced Chris Waddle. As I ran onto the pitch the crowd were singing my name. I got so excited taking on the full back he took the ball off me and a few passes later it ended in a goal for them. We got beat 4-1.

Coaching has changed now, players are told not to take people on because losing the ball is a risky business, better to pass and move keeping possession.

During the 1980s football entered its dark days with hooliganism on the rise. One time Newcastle where at Leeds. Today you have a coaching staff and kit men, but back then I was 13th man and responsible for carrying the kit in to the ground.

We were walking into Elland Road and the police officers were holding back the baying Leeds fans. The noise was deafening. We nearly got inside when a fist came out of the crowd and smacked me in the mouth. I got in the changing room with blood all over. I was told it was pointless reporting it to the police as I couldn’t identify who threw the punch.

During the game Kevin Keegan was taking a corner when he got hit on the head with a coin. Both teams were taken off, in the end the police told us to get out there and finish the game or there’ll be hell on.

So at the end of the 90 minutes we quickly got in the changing room, showered and left. As the coach was leaving we took the first corner and a brick comes through the window.

Read part two of Football Bloody Football where Paul talks about his writing career, Bobby Robson, nights out with Alan Shearer and what he thinks of Newcastle United now.

Alikivi   February 2023

Link to books:

The Boy on the Shed
The Magic in the Tin


pic. courtesy Shields Gazette

Writer and Theatre producer Ed Waugh and ex-professional footballer now TV pundit Alan Shearer, who were both brought up on the Grange Estate in Gosforth, are involved in a new stage play touring the North East.

The former Newcastle United & England striker has filmed a piece to-camera talking about Bella Reay the Blyth Spartans Ladies centre forward who scored an incredible 133 goals in 30 games while working as a munitionette to save the WW1 effort.

Alan said “The story of the munitionettes – working 60 hours a week in dangerous and physically demanding conditions – and still found time to play football for wartime charities, is both incredible and inspirational. I’m proud to be part of this excellent play.”

Bella Reay

Ed Waugh, writer of Wor Bella, said “Bella has been described as ‘the Alan Shearer of her day’, so who better to ask for his half-time analysis than the great man himself. It’s a massive coup for us”.

Ed added “Alan has been tremendous. As soon as he heard about the story he came on board and provided his time for free. We would like to thank Alan for his support, and are delighted to do post-show collections for the Alan Shearer Foundation”.

“The Foundation was set up to support the Alan Shearer Centre in Newcastle which  provides a range of specialist respite, residential and social facilities for people with complex disabilities.”

The stage play Wor Bella, starring Lauren Waine as Bella Reay, tours the North East from March 25 taking in Blyth Phoenix Theatre, Hexham Queen Hall, Newcastle Theatre Royal, Alnwick Playhouse, Whitley Bay Playhouse and ending at South Shields Westovian Theatre on Saturday April 2.

For more information visit for tour dates & venues.

For further details about the Alan Shearer Foundation visit:

Alikivi  March 2022.

SUNDERLAND ‘TIL HE DIES in conversation with football agent & former Sunderland A.F.C footballer, Martin Smith (part 2/2).

It’s a big mix of Sunderland fans here in South Shields (we’re talking in the Littlehaven Hotel) there is the Shields branch and the Jarrow branch.

I lived in Spennymoor which at one time was all Sunderland then the Keegan era changed that, same for a few Durham pit villages.

They were so entertaining they became everybody’s second team, for a Sunderland fan that was horrible. Although the way things are now with Brucie at Newcastle, sounds like a few Mags might want to come over to our side (laughs).

A message for the Mag’s. Celebrating scoring at St James’ Park (home of Newcastle United) for Sheffield United.

Wherever I’ve been I’ve enjoyed my time, and always got players player of the year that sort of thing. My record for goalscoring was 1 in 4 and scoring a goal is one thing you cannot replace.

I scored at St James’ playing in the FA Cup for Sheffield United, we were a Championship club then. It was right in front of the Gallowgate to make it 1-1.

I bent it past Harper and went off to dance around the corner flag. I lost my head, for 15 minutes after that I was on a different planet.

It doesn’t look like the best goal I scored, but it meant a lot to me. It was special. In the end we got beat 4-1. I wasn’t bothered.

I had a few songs from the fans in my career ‘Martin Smith, Martin Smith, running down the wing’ and ‘Loved by the lads, feared by the Mags’ (laughs).

I was playing for England under 21’s at Newcastle and got booed every time I touched the ball. People asked if I was upset ‘No I wouldn’t want the Mags cheering for me’ (laughs).

When I was at Northampton we were playing against Mansfield, and I scored putting us 3-0 up. Job done. One of our players came up to congratulate me, he seemed to be more excited than usual, and I didn’t know why,

‘It’s your hundredth goal’ he shouted. He was the statto of the team – every club’s got one.

I think I played in all, 400 odd games with over 100 goals. With the injuries I’ve done well to notch that many games.

The Premier League is so demanding now, have an off day and you get found out – back then I could hide on the wing for 10 minutes and get my breath back.

You look at tactics now and the lengths they go to suss out a team’s weakness, they analyse everything. Back in our day somebody would go to scout the opposition and come back with a few notes and then go through it on a Friday.

A lot of 18 year old players I know have no doubt got the ability, but it’s what they have up there that counts (points to head).

Can they handle bitter rejection, what about people having a go at you, you’re not going to be the best when at previous teams you’ve always been the best, can you handle fans telling you that you’re rubbish ? Suddenly it becomes a different game.

A big difference now is the intrusion into your life. When I was playing you only had a letter in the Sports Weekly newspaper that was having a go at you, or someone shouting at you in the pub, but now it’s all over social media, and it can be constant.

Remarks from the crowd from week to week are you’re either great or rubbish, maybe the amount of money the players are getting paid is something to do with that.

Stuart Ripley (Blackburn & Middlesbrough)

A former pro told me that Stuart Ripley who used to play here in the North East for Middlesbrough, during one game when he was playing for Blackburn he was getting a hard time from the fans. There was one guy in the crowd shouting at him ‘Ripley you’re absolutely f***ing useless’.

But Stu was sitting on the subs bench with his head in his hands thinking ‘I’m getting stick and I’m not even on the pitch’.

Footballers now are so different, they are athletes. I was at Northampton later in my career when we were playing Southampton in the cup.

Both teams were lined up in the tunnel, I looked around and seen every player towering above me. 6 ‘2 players going to run over the top of you.

I think it was Brendan Rodgers (Leicester manager) that said don’t class yourself as a professional footballer until you’ve played 50 games. Today you see young players with their shiny cars in the carpark, my first game as a pro I only had a Ford Escort.

Sadly, I ended up with 13 operations during my career. I done most injuries like hamstrings and calves, the longest time I missed was a full season.

But my main problem wasn’t something you could see like a broken leg, it was a degenerative cartilage in my knee.

You’d have the operation then three month rehab, come back kick a ball and it would go again. This went on for 15 month and the physio’s started to question what was happening.

Martin playing for Northampton.

It all started when I was at Huddersfield, then I went to Northampton, eventually the last one happened at Darlington and I didn’t come back from that. 

I remember we were playing Macclesfield, something just didn’t feel right. I tackled and my knee blew up, I knew I was finished. I retired in 2008. I eventually went back to light training and playing in the Northern league.

Martin had a spell at Blyth Spartans in 2008.

I tried a couple of other things but I had to come back to football, it’s all I know. Now I work for a football agency, Quantum Sports, I do a bit of scouting and some radio commentary for Northampton when they play in the north which I love.

In the agency I like working with the younger lads and try to help them make the right decisions. I talk to managers and try to get the lads signed. I like being involved, seeing players develop and I offer them advice and tell them the mistakes I made.

Actually there is more chances out there for young English lads to come through because of Brexit, I know a lot of foreign lads can’t come in to the country unless they meet a certain criteria.

Scotland and Northern Ireland used to be countries for good players but stopped coming through for many years because there was maybe a Romanian or Slovak player in front of them, but now they are starting to come through again.

I mentioned the camaraderie and togetherness that football gave us as players and even now we keep in touch. We have an ex-players club where four or five times a year we get together and play golf against different clubs around the North East.

The FA Cup ’73 lads still get out and a few of us younger lads play – well we’re nearly 50 now (laughs).

I don’t think there is a day goes by when I don’t think about football, wishing I was going into training or playing. I’ve got a 7 a side game tonight, just can’t give it up. For the rest of my life I’d like to stay in football in some capacity – well that’s the plan.

Interview by Alikivi   August 2021

GIBBO’S CHOICE – in conversation with award winning sports journalist & author, John ‘Gibbo’ Gibson (2/2)

AC/DC’s Brian Johnson (in cap), and the Chronicle’s John Gibson (on right) at the Kevin Keegan Roadshow at Heaton RAOB Club, Newcastle, February 1983. (pic Newcastle Chronicle)

Part two of the interview with top North East sports journalist John Gibson.

Have the North East had its fair share of talent ?

I may be biased as a proud Geordie but right across the spectrum the North East has produced quality.

Whether it’s the footballers we’ve talked about or the sportsman Steve Cram or Brendan Foster who’ve done so much in athletics, cricketers Steve Harmison from Ashington, Paul Collingwood from Shotley Bridge, they played wonderful for Durham and England, or showbiz and music which I’ve always loved.

Brian Johnson became a very good friend of mine mainly through his love of Newcastle United. I knew him when he was in the band Geordie before he hit mega success with AC/DC.

I remember Supermac and I going to a launch with Brian for one of Geordies records but the superstar that day was Malcolm MacDonald because he was centre forward of Newcastle United and England. Brian was a hopeful young singer trying to make his way with Geordie in the music biz.

One night I done a talk show in Heaton Buffs, these gigs were a chat show on stage and I played the Michael Parkinson role talking to various people, still do some today.

Anyway I was on stage with Kevin Keegan and it got to the interval and I was backstage when suddenly Brian Johnson pops his head in for a chat. He had paid £10 to get in to see me and Kevin perform on stage when he’s just been playing to 100,000 kids in Brazil with AC/DC.

Brian Johnson (AC/DC) & Kevin Keegan. (pic .Newcastle Chronicle)


I used to come across Chas Chandler from The Animals, I knew his wife Madelaine who was a Miss Great Britain. Mark Knopfler when he was a lad used to run copy for us at the Chronicle for a time.

A close friend of mine is Ian La Frenais who wrote The Likely Lads, Auf Wiedersehen and a load of others, he introduced me to Jimmy Nail.

When Newcastle played in the European Fairs cup Ian used to fly in to what city we were playing, stay in a hotel with me and watch the game. He put on the post-match reception for the 1974 FA Cup Final in London.

Jimmy Nail started off as a chanter, a good one at that, his band played in Newcastle. Ian La Frenais told me they were doing the auditions for their new TV show Auf Wiedersehen Pet and what they wanted was unknowns, not famous actors because sometimes you can start watching the person not the story.

He said they were sitting in auditions and looking for someone to play Oz when the door bursts open ‘Is this where they are daein’ all that for Auf Wiedersehen like?’

Ian said he turned round to his writing partner Dick Clement ‘I hope the bastard can act, because that’s Oz’. And yeah, it was Jimmy Nail.

Jerry Lee Lewis (pic. Newcastle Chronicle).


The only World Champion boxer from Tyneside is Glenn McCrory, again a very good friend. He had read in an autobiography that Jerry Lee Lewis at the height of his rock n roll fame, had said one of his best concerts was at Newcastle City Hall where the audience went crazy for him. We thought why not try to get him back over to the City Hall ?

So we contacted a few people in Memphis and reminded him of the story in his autobiography and asked why not come over ? Unbelievably he agreed to it. At the time Glenn was Sky TV’s boxing man so we got outside broadcaster’s from Sky to cover the concert.

When he came over we put him up in the Copthorne Hotel, he was like Howard Hughes, he never came out for three days. He had one armed bandits and gambling games transported to his bedroom so he could play the machines all day. The only time he came out was the day of the concert.

Mind he had a very strong voice for an old man, he was still magnificent although never spoke between songs. But his set was just under an hour, he walked off at the end and never came back for an encore. We had to put the supporting band back on again.

It was one of the great moments of my career because I was brought up listening to Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard – I was a rocker. People came dressed up like rockers bopping in the aisles.

Do you know the cockneys Chas n Dave ? They came up on their own accord from London, stayed in a hotel overnight and paid to see Jerry Lee Lewis. I was backstage and yeah it was unbelievable.

I used to get all my records from Windows in Newcastle where you go into little booths and listen to them first. Great, great days.

I’ve lived a varied life not just covering Newcastle United of which I’m really grateful, and by God I am, but always wanted to push the boundaries a bit further. Just testing myself to do things within my scope.


As a newspaperman and writer, I was determined to be an author and I’ve wrote 16 sports books up to now, so just about got the hang of it.

It’s different from writing for newspapers because there you learn to condense the story down to so many words where books can be 60,000 words.

I made a few TV documentaries with Glenn, one about boxer Sonny Liston and Mike Tyson in ‘The Meanest Man on the Planet’. We flew out to Las Vegas where Liston died, the other documentary was about Hughie Gallacher the Newcastle United forward who tragically committed suicide.


Then one day I thought as a journalist you’ve been telling Newcastle United how to run their club every day for years, how about trying to run one yourself – which is why I bought Gateshead and owned it outright for 11 years.

Cameron Hall, owned by Sir John Hall who built the Metro Centre, helped me with sponsorship at Gateshead.

Thing is you become a better writer because you’ve seen that side of the game and you understand it. It was an eye opener and it had it’s wonderful moments, we got in Newcastle United goalie Steve Harper on a months loan, he went back to Newcastle and played in the Cup Final in the ‘90s.


The Magpie Group put Sir John Hall in the Newcastle United boardroom by ousting the old board, I was part of that which heralded Kevin Keegan, the entertainers and buying Les Ferdinand, Ginola and everybody right up to Shearer.

I feel very privileged to be part of that Magpie Group.

We had two sections – one who had the necessary financial clout, the other was honest fans willing to work for the cause and do the leg work buying shares. My main job was publicity, getting the message out to fans.

I always remember the moment we took over and it dawned we were going to get in after two years of furious fighting. After all the threats I’d received when they thought we would lose, and I wouldn’t be allowed in St James’ Park again – then the sudden realisation of what if it all goes tits up ?

We fought for two years, the fans thrilled to bits, but only one thing matters – you’ve got to be successful. And what if we’re not, what if we fall flat on our face. The backlash will be horrendous.

John Gibson, with Glenn McCrory and Malcolm MacDonald, at the signing of the Gibbo Files at Waterstones in Newcastle. (pic Newcastle Chronicle)


Luckily we brought in Keegan. He set the city alive. He was like the pied piper, best PR man I’ve ever known. We went from being one game away from the old third division to be second top of the Premier league.

I done a few talk shows with Keegan as part of the Scottish and Newcastle breweries deal that brought him here the first time as a player. Within 24 hours of it being advertised he sold out every pub. We would come off stage at 11 o’clock and not get away till 12.30.

He sat on the edge of the stage and told the crowd to form a line, he had a picture and signed an autograph for every one of them. Some nights I would say ‘C’mon Kevin can we not get away a bit early’? But no, he was there all night until the last one got his picture.


People say to me why don’t you retire ? But what will I do, play golf and pay for a season ticket at Newcastle ? The Chronicle pay me to sit and write about them. As long as my brain stays sharp I’ll keep going.

I still do the shows on stage, got one coming up with McCrory, there’s a big golf day down at Ramside Hall in Durham, there’s a Steve Wraith Legends night at the Tyne Theatre in Newcastle, there’s regular podcast shows with Supermac.

I’ll keep doing it because an agile mind keeps you young – and I love what I do.

When I was covering Newcastle United and going out to nightclubs with footballers like Supermac and Irving Nattrass they would say ‘Gibbo, I bet you wish you were a player – the fame, the money, the birds’. ‘No’ I said.

I’ll tell you why. At 35 you’ll be finished and looking for a job. I’ll still be writing and covering Newcastle United until I retire’.

I’ve felt privileged to write because it’s the only thing I can do. To be brutally honest I’m hopeless at everything else. I’m a lucky, lucky man.

You can read more stories in the 16 books that John has authored. These are a select few titles:

The Newcastle United Story 1985.

Spirit of Tyneside 1990

Kevin Keegan, Portrait Of A Superstar 1984

North East Hundred Heroes 1993

Newcastle United Greats 1989

Newcastle United’s Perfect Ten 2007

Gibbo Files 2014

Interview by Alikivi  July 2021.

GIBBO’S CHOICE – in conversation with award winning sports journalist & author, John Gibson (1/2)

Top North East journalist John Gibson greets me with a ‘Hello kidda how yer daein’ and we’re immediately at ease. Sports stories come later, but first, who is John Gibson ?

During the war I was born in Benwell in the west end of Newcastle and brought up mainly by my Grandmother and Grandfather. We lived in a flat with green mould on the walls and an outside netty.

People said you were poor but we were happy and no one else around where we lived was rich, we were all the same in Benwell.

When I was a kid everybody wanted to play for Newcastle United. I for some unknown reason wanted to write about them. I’ve still got scrapbooks from when I was 4 or 5, I would stick in pictures of players and write in pencil a little story underneath about them. My daughter has them now.


Aunty Grace was the only one in the family who had a postage stamp sized black and white television and we all gathered around to watch Newcastle United in the cup finals of ’51, ’52 and ’55.

My Grandmother, who used to make clippie mat‘s, made me a black and white rosette. They won the cup three times in five years. I thought this is wonderful.

When I was a schoolboy my uncle Frank used to take me to St James’ Park. I used to be transfixed by the player Bobby Mitchell, and funnily later in life got to know him well when I was covering non-league football at Gateshead and he was manager there.

When Newcastle were playing away I used to walk from Benwell down over the Redheugh bridge to Gateshead and watch them play in the old third division North. Wonderful thing was I ended up later owning Gateshead football club for 11 years.


Nobody in my family was a writer or in sport so not sure where it came from, but I always knew I wanted to be a sports journalist. When I was at school I wrote to every paper in the North East asking for a job.

One paper offered me a job and that was the Hexham Courant.

When you start you cover everything. I used to stand outside church and take the name of every mourner at a funeral. I went to Haltwhistle and Hexham for court cases and on Saturday the local football matches.

The first was Hexham GPO winning 5-3, I had all week to write my report because it was a weekly paper.

My mum framed that report and put it on her cabinet, when I covered Newcastle United versus Ujpest Dozsa in a European final that replaced the Hexham GPO cutting.

I first got the Chronicle job in 1966 when I came back from London. I was in Fleet Street because I thought that was where you needed to be as a writer, all the glamour you know.

But I was offered a job following Newcastle United and writing about the love of my life, I couldn’t resist coming back. 

When they rang me up offering the job it was great, but I asked for a bit more – as they say shy bairns get nowt. I said I’ll only come if you let me cover the World Cup finals and the Olympic games as well as Newcastle. I still would have walked back if they said no, but unbelievably they said yes.

The first job was the Cup games in the North East, North Korea at Middlesbrough beating Italy which was sensational. When the group stage was over I hooked my wagon to England.

So, within months of coming back to the Chronicle I saw England winning the World Cup, and within three year I saw Newcastle winning the European Fairs Cup.

I thought this is wonderful I’m going to be knee deep in success all my life. But really it’s easy to remember the dates cos they very rarely win anything.


I wrote about Joe Harvey and Jackie Milburn because the ‘50s was the great time, thing was I went on to be personal friends with them when working for the Chronicle. When I first covered Newcastle United Joe Harvey was manager.

I wrote five or six books with Jackie Milburn, we worked together in the press box and went to the Fairs cup final in 1969 together.

He became a dear friend of mine and when he passed away with cancer I spoke at a commemorative service for him in his hometown Ashington. It was a very emotional time.

Today players are less approachable you only see them at press conferences. Malcolm MacDonald who played during the ‘70s, I was best man at his wedding to Carol who used to be married to Brian Johnson, singer of AC/DC. They married in Jesmond Dene.

Irving Nattrass and Bob Moncur were Godparents to two of my daughters. Mick Mahoney was a good mate when he lived near me in Whickham.

We met up in Los Angeles, USA during the World Cup, Mick slept on my hotel floor when I was there reporting on the final in LA. When he left Newcastle he played in America and stayed there and got a job driving trucks. He lives back in the UK now.

Johnny Rep, (Bastia & Holland).

We talked about great players we’ve seen who’ve graced St James’ Park. Footballers who glide across the pitch and never seem to break sweat.

Trevor Brooking for West Ham, Bayern Munich’s Michael Ballack and when Newcastle played French team Bastia – Johnny Rep. Even on a rainy night in November ’77 the Leazes End applauded his magic.

Newcastle had beaten Bohemians from Ireland in the first round. I was out there and the Dublin club were wonderful people but then we faced Bastia.

Before the game United’s midfielder Tommy Craig said to me ‘Johnny Rep, what a reputation, he’s the biggest non-entity I’ve ever seen’. I said can I quote you on that ? Yeah, yeah, no problem.

Johnny Rep was sensational that night. He ripped us from pillar to post and at the end of the game I went over to Tommy who said ‘Don’t say anything, I know what you’re going to say’. Not long after, manager Dicky Dinnis got the sack.

Sometimes when you are beaten by better players, and teams, I can stand that, you can hold your hands up and say ok, that’s alright. It’s when you’re beaten by poor sides like Hereford in the FA Cup – that’s hard to take.

Have you been on duty when a world shattering event has taken place ?

I was actually part of it when I was covering the Munich Olympics in ’72. One day I was sitting reporting on the track events, then next I hear Black September, the Palestinian terrorist group, had broken in to the Olympic village where we were staying and were holding some Israeli athletes hostage.

I’m there doing a normal sports gig, albeit at the highest level, then suddenly for 48 hours it’s like being a war correspondent. The games had stopped, we were reporting on hostages being held, you could hear the gun fire.

Mark Spitz was an American swimmer, he was winning everything in world record time. Spitz who was Jewish, was frightened, he held a press conference to say he was flying back to the States.

At the conference he was sat down and surrounded by armed guards – you couldn’t see him, just hear his voice.

Hostages were taken to the airport and stupidly me and a few other reporters gave chase in a taxi. It was daft because this was the dead of night and what we thought we might see goodness knows.

Unbeknown to us the airfield was full of German snipers lying in wait. We heard the guns and explosion happening and our taxi driver put on the anchors, shouted an expletive and took to his toes leaving us in the taxi with the door wide open.

We were traumatised going through all this, next day it was announced the games would go on and I thought it was the wrong decision. They had taken us into the Israeli compound and you could see the blood spattered walls and bullet holes.

The games did go on and with hindsight it was the right decision because if you give in to terrorists and close the games down that’s what they want. So you cannot give in.

I remember sitting at the closing ceremony and everybody was terrified because they put out the lights then other lights were flashing around for dramatic effect but everybody’s in the dark looking around thinking where’s the next shot coming from.

It was a huge event, like a 9/11. Without a shadow of doubt, one of the worst and most frightening I’ve covered. You didn’t know what the outcome was going to be. It was a big stand off for 48 hours. The whole world stopped and watched what was happening in Munich.

There was a time the I.R.A were going to shoot George Best if he played for Manchester United at Newcastle. They got the word through to the team at the Gateshead Hotel where they were staying.

The police went on the coach when they were driving into St James’ Park, Besty was lying on the floor. Again, you can’t give in and call the match off.

At a few talk show events that I’ve done with George he talked about that time and said ‘If I don’t play they win. In that hour and a half I was running everywhere on the pitch’ (laughs).

But seriously they had snipers on top of the stands at St James’. Unbelievable courage from the kid. Man United won the game 1-0. And who scored the goal ? Yep, George Best.

John Gibson, with Glenn McCrory (features in next post) and Malcolm McDonald, at the signing of the Gibbo Files at Waterstones in Newcastle. (pic Newcastle Chronicle)


Talking about Ireland, George Best was a Belfast lad from the North and in the Republic you had the Geordie connection with Big Jack Charlton managing the football team and taking them to considerable success at the World Cup in America ’94.

I have some wonderful memories from the ‘90s and Newcastle have had some great nights like the Barcelona game beating them 3-2 with the Asprilla hat trick.

I’m fortunate enough because I’m old enough, to have seen them win the European Fairs cup in 1969. Now I’ve done 55 consecutive years covering United which is a unique record and I’m proud of it.

Has the North East had its fair share of talent ?

I may be biased as a proud Geordie but right across the spectrum the North East has produced quality.

Whether it’s the footballers we’ve talked about or the sportsman Steve Cram or Brendan Foster who’ve done so much in athletics, cricketers Steve Harmison from Ashington, Paul Collingwood from Shotley Bridge, they played wonderful for Durham and England, or showbiz and music which I’ve always loved.

That leads us into the next post where Gibbo talks about Brian Johnson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Malcolm MacDonald, Kevin Keegan, Jimmy Nail & Ian La Frenais.

You can read more stories in the 16 books that John has authored. These are a select few titles:

The Newcastle United Story 1985.

Spirit of Tyneside 1990

Kevin Keegan, Portrait Of A Superstar 1984

North East Hundred Heroes 1993

Newcastle United Greats 1989

Newcastle United’s Perfect Ten 2007

Gibbo Files 2014

Interview by Alikivi  July 2021.


It’s hard to get away from football as the end of season covid infected games have been pumped out every night on the telly.

Newcastle United finish mid table after another season of zero ambition under owner Mike Ashley. Times up Mike.

He needs to delete any connection with the football team, hopefully, new owners are waiting in the wings.

Last week I received an email from Wavis O’Shave who remembered better times for the club.

Back in the ’80s Wavis released singles, an album and appeared on live music show The Tube, but before that he was a regular at St James’ Park, home of Newcastle United…

I used to go to all their home games, and I remember at the start of one season about 50 Wolves skinhead supporters made their way around the ground to try and get in the Leazes End where they would have got eaten.

At one game I asked a bloke to zip me up inside my anorak so that my arms were inside. When the game ended, I couldn’t move and got carried all over the place by the packed crowd as they made their way out. All good fun.

The first game I went to was the start of the ’68 season where Newcastle beat Man City 1-0 with an early Pop Robson penalty.

I’d been deciding whether to support Newcastle or Man United but as Man U lost their opening game 4-1 at home to Southampton that same afternoon, I chose Newcastle. Big mistake!

I wasn’t a great football player, but I could play football great, I had been invited to a trial for Newcastle on August 23rd 1973 at their Hunters Moor training ground, as a right winger – not the political type.

Strangely, I wasn’t playing any footy that summer and every week kept saying that I’d better start to get in shape for the big day. I went down to The Dragon playing fields near the South Shields beach to have a bit of a kick about. I wasn’t in great shape!

Day of the 23rd and I’m off to Hunters Moor which I thought was nearer to St James’ than it was, so I had to run like hell on the extremely hot day to get there in time for 1.30pm. I was knackered – great preparation, eh? Then it all went surreal.

I was to play on the right wing but when they called out my name, I was down for left back – defence instead of attack and wrong footed!

They threw me some shin pads and wouldn’t let me play if I didn’t wear them. I’d chose never to wear pads in my life so I found myself having to stop every ten yards to readjust them as they kept whizzing to the back of my legs.

According to some mates who came to watch and give me moral support I played a good shift with some crunching tackles. The club said they’d let you know, and it was months later I got an expected thanks, but no thanks.

Now, either the buggers made a grave error in playing me out of position or fate stepped in to ensure they never have a soccer legend. Either way, they’ve won nowt since, and I don’t think they ever will.

Malcolm ‘Supermac’ McDonald.

When VIZ Comic had their 20th Anniversary bash, I was invited but of course didn’t go. There were a few celebs there including my footy hero Malcolm ‘Supermac’ Macdonald.

I’d gave my ticket to a friend who went in my place, and when he was having a piss in the bogs next to Supermac he said to him ‘So you know, Wavis?’

If they hadn’t played me left back maybe I would have played with him!

I followed the Mags until I deleted all interest in them some years back when they lost to Sunderland five times on the trot. Unacceptable behaviour so I was out!

I can’t take footy serious now it’s not a sport anymore, just stocks and shares, and you can’t take the thing serious when players earn 100k a week and behave like girls’ blouse pop stars. They should get themselves a decent job.

Links to previous interviews with Wavis O’Shave:

Alikivi  July 2020.



If yer lookin’ for a Chrissy present to buy why not take a butchers at these goodies that have appeared on the blog this year. 2019 has seen nearly 100 interviews posted mostly musicians and also featured authors, artists, poets and TV presenters….

Gary James from The Tube, spills the beans on the groundbreaking ‘80s TV music show in his autobiography ‘Spangles, Glam, Gaywaves & Tubes’….

‘It’s a fabulous main present for ‘70s & ‘80s music and fashion fans you love, or a stocking filler for those you don’t. All for a paltry £12.99 (or cheaper if you can be arsed to shop around). Some bad language (he says ‘sod’ in it)’.


Lowfeye are musician/producer Alan Rowland and song writer Carol Nichol…

’Some songs on our album POW can be political or critical of society. I find the mainstream music scene along with TV celebrities really awful. It’s bland, it’s beige, it’s plastic and unfortunately we are spoon fed this crap by radio and TV’.

Contact Carol via Facebook and get yer copy at only £5 from

The Fauves punk band formed in South Shields in 1978 and got back together 2016, bassist Bri Smith…

I’ve got the perfect stocking filler for xmas for all you punks out there – The Fauves latest cd album ‘Back off World’. Most of the songs were written between 1978-81. There is a couple of new tracks and we think it has come out really well. Have a wonderful xmas you won’t be disappointed’.

Get yer copy from Goldies opposite South Shields Town Hall or contact The Fauves on their official website

The Attention Seekers have a regional feel about some of their songs which gain’s regular play on local radio and at St James’ Park. Guitarist, Alan Fish…

If you’re looking for a chilled Xmas why not relax to the sounds of the latest CD from The Attention Seekers ‘A Song for Tomorrow’. Or if you’re looking for something more action-packed why not start Xmas Day singing along with ‘The Fans’ version of ‘The Blaydon Races’. Physical copy of ‘A Song for Tomorrow’ available from 

or download from the iTunes store.

‘The Blaydon Races’ at 

Gary Alikivi   December 2019.

HOWAY THE LADS in conversation with North East songwriter Alan Fish

In 2016 representatives from Newcastle United were looking to recreate a new version of The Blaydon Races that would capture the fan’s imagination.

Rob Byron the announcer at St James’ Park had been playing some pre – match tracks by The Attention Seekers, so got in touch with the songwriter Alan Fish….

The version of Blaydon Races that they’d been playing for the past 20 years had originally been copied from vinyl, so the quality wasn’t great. Rob asked if I was interested in coming up with a new version.

The biggest challenge was every version I heard was a jolly, lightweight novelty song and sitting playing it on guitar or piano just added to that, the song didn’t have any of the dynamics that fans give it!

With Rob Byron St. James'

Alan (left) with match announcer at St James’ Park, Rob Byron.

What was your initial idea about recording a new version of the song ?

At the games we attended during the research phase of the project it was evident that the fans rarely sing the song, so what I wanted was to reach back to the nostalgia of how I heard it back when I first started going to the matches and try to create a fan’s version.

I’m thinking back to 1968 in the Leazes End covered stand where it sounded really powerful and loud like through a loudspeaker.

You would get to the match early to get your place and sing with all the other fans, it was a real communal thing and helped pass the time before kick-off. Now people can walk in five minutes before because they know they have their seat.

How did you put your idea into practice ?

I had a chat with representatives of the club, and they wanted a single voice to create a sense of unity and pride, Rob added that the fans only sing one verse, I thought this is going to be short then (laughs).

But it was one of those 4am thoughts when I got the idea how I was going to put it together, not have one voice but 50,000 voices as one. That’s where the challenge was, to make it sound like that.

I contacted sports radio stations to see if any audio of the fans singing the song without being contaminated by the match commentary existed.

One person got back to me, Chris Watson used to be in a Sheffield electronica band called Cabaret Voltaire, now he’s a top sound engineer who has worked with everyone including Sir David Attenborough.

With him living up here now, he had taken sound gear into the ground and got loads of recordings. I bought quite a bit of audio off him. Chris is also a big NUFC fan!

I also set up an evening where members of fan clubs Wor Hyem 1982 and Gallowgate Flags came to a pub, and we recorded them singing The Blaydon Races.

Then back in the studio, to build the track we mixed in the audio from Chris Watson’s ‘Toon Army’ chants, referee whistles, cheers, goals, crowd reactions in place of conventional instrumentation. We then added Stu’s tribal drumming.

All of this was to stay away from the jolly, comedy feel. However, listening back, it still didn’t sound how I wanted, so we then asked for full access to the Stadium and pitch side areas in order to pump the track through the St James’ sound system, then re-record the mixes of the fans singing, from different areas of the stadium. RESULT! Sounded great!

Originally the club wanted Jason Isaacs to sing it, he’s like the Michael Buble of the North (laughs). We met up and got on well and agreed we needed someone to lead the song, but this was going to be a fan’s version not a celebrity version, so I asked him not to sing it but be ‘five pints in’ belting it out (laughs).

He loved the idea ‘I go to the match and sing along so it’s no problem’. He done a brilliant job and belted it out like a fan – five pints in!

How do you feel about the song now ?

It’s still being played at St James’, and I see it as an ongoing project which I can add to. Using photos and visuals of matches from past to present is an idea I’ve been looking at, and how The Blaydon Races has been sung at matches over the years.

I would love to have recordings of The Blaydon Races from the 50’s, 60’s, 70s to mix into the track and create an audio/visual exhibition. (Anybody out there with any recordings?)

Stu Haikney was my co-producer on this, and he’s done a brilliant job. Stu is also a big Newcastle fan and we felt it had to be right. We wanted to get it to transition from a music hall song to a real football chant.

We wanted the true authentic sound of fans singing at St. James’ Park and not take the easy option of using a ‘stadium simulation’ studio plug-in. Football fans spot that sort of thing a mile off (laughs).

It’s like a call to arms, a Northern anthem which captures the tribal spirit of the beautiful game and the roars at St James’ on a match day.

More stories soon from Alan about The Loud Guitars and current band The Attention Seekers.

For further info contact the official website 

where the track is available as a download/stream on Spotify, Amazon & iTunes.

Interview by Gary Alikivi    October 2019.

BOBBY ROBSON SAVED MY LIFE – a New Play by Tom Kelly

Theatre and football come together in a new play about the life of one of football’s most successful and well-known personalities. Sir Bobby Robson’s story has been written by North East playwright Tom Kelly (Geordie the Musical, The Dolly Mixtures, Nothing Like The Wooden Horse)….

‘The play looks at three characters and how Sir Bobby has had a real and lasting influence upon their lives’ explained Tom. ‘This is not only about football and Tyneside but hopefully underlines we each have a responsibility to care for one another.’


Former Newcastle United number 9 and England international, now Match of the Day pundit, Alan Shearer has added his support. In a video message he is really looking forward to seeing the play’ and described Sir Bobby in three words ‘passionate, committed and professionalism’

A footballer who played for Sir Bobby at Ipswich Town was George Burley. The former Scotland international full back revealed in his message to describe Sir Bobby ‘Father-figure, determination and enthusiasm’.

I asked Tom what research he did for the play… ‘I read a great deal about Sir Bobby’s life and discovered he often sent messages of support to a wide variety of people which had a positive impact on their lives: It gave them hope. He had a real empathy for others. His life underlined, for me, the way we treat others is not just important but crucial.’  

Tickets are available for the play at South Shields’ favourite theatre, The Customs House. A portion of each ticket sold will go to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, a charity he and his wife, Lady Elsie, founded in 2008 to help find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer.

Curtain up on the first night is Tuesday 16th July at 7.30pm, running through to Saturday 20th with matinees at 2.30pm on Wednesday 17th and Saturday 20th.

Telephone 0191 454 1234 or check on-line for details

 Other shows are on July 31st at the Regent Theatre, Ipswich

And 2nd & 3rd August at the Tyne Theatre, Newcastle.

 Interview by Gary Alikivi June 2019.