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.
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: