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Manchester United v Newcastle United - Carabao Cup Final

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Roker Ramble: Manchester United end their long, long trophy drought!

It’s no more years of hurt for the Red Devils at Wembley this weekend, and it’s farewell to a commentary legend...

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

RIP Motty

There is a reason that companies employ well known actors to provide voiceovers for their product. Recognising someone’s dulcet tones brings about familiarity, comfort and a warmth. Ultimately, you’re more likely to engage with and buy the product.

There’s no doubt that this also applies to football commentators. Who was better at this than John Motson? That instantly recognisable voice meant only one thing: it’s football time. His loss, even though he hung up his microphone a few years back, is an incredibly sad one.

He’ll join the legions of top class commentators who are no longer with us, but put their own indelible mark on the game. The ability to bring a match to life, to describe things in ways that you do not have the ability to yourself is a precise and noble art. Sadly, it seems that there are few left like Motty these days, with perhaps only Peter Drury of the current crop who could hold a candle to Motson’s unique talents.

Barnet v Brentford - FA Cup - Fourth Round - The Hive London Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images

I was once told a very good story about him by someone who had worked with him, who said that during half time at one match, Motson “lost his shit” because he was handed a Kit Kat Chunky instead of the four finger variety. I like that - a man who demands elite confectionery and accepts nothing less. Perhaps the thicker chocolate on the Chunky variety coated his larynx, thus affecting performance. What a pro.

RIP Motty - you will be missed.

Manchester United end SIX YEAR wait for silverware

Because that’s the top line, isn’t it?

When Sunderland lost the playoff final to Charlton, the following day I felt melancholy descend over me which I just could not sidestep. After all, it’s not easy losing a final at Wembley right at the death.

So I took myself off to sit in my greenhouse, taking solace amongst my fledgling tomato, cucumber and chilli plants. It was a warm day, and I hadn’t yet mustered the energy to slake the thirst of my beautiful San Marzanos, which drooped almost apologetically on my shoulder in some forlorn attempt to console me. A fruitless gesture, nevertheless I appreciated their quest to balm the most painful of burns.

Well, today I imagine Geordies across Tyneside are all sitting in their greenhouses.

The last few weeks have been pretty difficult to stomach from a red and white point of view. Hell, if I was playing Mag-cliche bingo as a drinking game, I would have succumbed to liver cirrhosis in mid-February. Geordie nation this, new era that, 70 years of hurt or whatever, new dawn, blah blah. Change the record to something other than Fog on the Tyne, I beg you. No, don’t put on Sam Fender.

Manchester United v Newcastle United - Carabao Cup Final
Cry more
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

We haven’t even mentioned the flags affixed to bedroom windows, cars, communal bins and lamposts of the city - and beyond. Tynesiders walked the aisles of Tescos in black and white tops they looked like they’d never worn before. Dogs looked embarrassed on their daily walks as they were forced to sport black and white rosettes. Hell, even Low Fell’s fire station had a Newcastle United flag proudly fluttering jauntily in the wind in a manner that seemed to reflect the ill-deserved confidence coursing through the region.

It was like being stuck in a royal jubilee for twats.

Talking of twats - I had a lovely conversation in the Bridge Tavern this week with some utter dick who was in a band (and was probably only there because he wanted to sniff the seat the aforementioned Sam Fender had sat on). After establishing I was a Sunderland fan, he proceeded to launch into a volley of abuse as to my allegiance - the classic childish jibes we all know and have received; this includes using the name Mackem as if it’s some sort of pejorative term, which I have always found strange.

Of course, less is more in this situation, and he became more irate. I find silence and what I like to call a “windy-up grin” works the best. And boy did it, as well as the entirely pejorative opinion that he was a “massive f*cking jobber”. On our departure (mainly because my Mag supporting mate who was much bigger than him was about to chin him, cheers John), I made it clear as the goals rained down on his team on Sunday, I would be thinking of him.

I’d like to confirm that, yes, this was the case.

Newcastle fans will never learn though, because all this pomp and ceremony, and a desperate will to win is just the first part of the tale; the second of course glum shots of Ant and Dec, Shearer with his head in his hands and the commentator opining - with a knowing, almost undetectable chuckle - that the long, yawning chasm which signifies their trophy-less years it to be extended a further year. Cut to pictures of sad Mags.

Meanwhile those who chose to eschew clothing to proudly display their “NUFC” tattoos across their guts were left to look exactly like what they were: massive herberts.

Manchester United v Newcastle United - Carabao Cup Final
Didn’t know James Corden was a Mag. As if he could be any more dislikeable
Photo by Richard Sellers/Getty Images

Take a leaf out of Sunderland’s book: next time don’t get too pumped up. Don’t look at history, opportunity, dreams or otherwise. Just focus on the players on the pitch, those who should be divorced of any of that nonsense. Oh, and don’t get too hammered at Trafalgar so that you can’t sing the next day.

Ah... too late.

Manchester United, meanwhile, look like a club reborn under ten Hag. The decision to jettison Ronaldo to Saudi Arabia is perhaps one of the best pieces of behind the scenes management displayed by any manager of any club for a very long time. It laid down a marker which established the Dutchman’s authority, and boy has the - sorry his - squad responded.

It’s nice to see them successful again, if only that it revives memories of football in the 90s when things were so much better than they are today, in so many ways. For us - Reidy, Premier League, SKP, and for the general health of the league. Nowadays, it’s about the haves and the have f*ck alls.

And therefore, the game was a brutal reminder to those who believed otherwise for a few short months that the gap between the best and the also-rans is wider than you might think.

The cost of bridging that would without doubt be in the hundreds of millions, if not billions. Even then, how do you buy the sort of top-level trophy success the likes of Casimero has in spades? Answer: you can’t. The Saudi gravy train might not just have the instant effect they so hoped for on Tyneside. The only effect it might have is the sharpening of scythes and a few more arbitrary executions just for that Sven Botman own goal.

Let’s bring this round to Sunderland - it shows just what is required in the Premier League. Gone are the Stewart Donald days of paying for things in bottles of gin, training bibs and a third hand Vauxhall Nova, but competing financially in the top flight is a long way off right now. Competing with Newcastle United, however, is a much more realistic possibility.


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