Thursday 01st September 2005

The Real Deal - Wembley Manuscript
by Tommy Sampson

Chapter 11

To say that watching Newcastle that next Saturday was a farcical experience is an understatement.  Keith and I set off to watch them play at Atherton Collieries.   On our way we stopped off to look at the ground where we would be playing our first leg the following Sunday.

The tie had been moved to Sunday on the advice of the Staffordshire Police, who felt Stoke City being at home a mile up the road would cause manning problems.  

We found Newcastle’s huge ground with what looked like a banked cycle track encircling it.  

We familiarised ourselves with the surroundings although we couldn’t get onto the pitch because there were players milling around waiting for their coach to take them to Atherton Collieries, our destination as well .......or so we thought. 

Keith and I made tracks.  We had a further fifty miles to complete and with plenty of time to spare stopped for lunch.   Fed and watered we arrived in Atherton twenty five minutes from kick off.  

My first impression of the ground was that if you blew it up you couldn’t have done twenty quid’s worth of damage!!!!!!   Strangely there were no programmes, which when you are “scouting” is vital. 

When the two teams ran out there was no tannoy announcement regarding teams either.  So there we were watching this dreadfully poor game with no information looking at each other puzzled at how a team or even a league like this could get to the F.A. Vase semi-finals.  

The suspicion deepened when we both realised at the same time that whilst the referee was “kosher” the officials running the lines were being supplied by the clubs.   I sent Keith to find out what was going on and he returned breathless five minutes later to tell me were watching Newcastle Town’s RESERVES !!!!!   “What the f...... hell are we doing here watching their poxy reserves?  I bellowed.  Within seconds we were in the car driving out of the ground.  It was fifty odd miles back to Newcastle-under-Lyme and it was 3.25pm.  

We picked our way through the traffic towards the motorway.   Once on the M6 we worked out we could quite possibly get back to Newcastle for the last ten minutes.  So there we were speeding back down the motorway to a ground we had visited three hours previously.  I swore Keith to secrecy.  “No-one must ever know we cocked it up” I said.  

“The only way we ever admit to this is if we get to Wembley and win, then we’ll laugh about it but if we lose to Newcastle it’s an episode that will never be spoken of.”    Keith agreed. We had formed a secret society of two and we would take the secret to our graves if necessary. 

We drove into the car park at Newcastle’s ground and rushed through the open gate and up the banking to hear the referee blow his final whistle.   What would we do now, we didn’t even know the score!!   We decided to front it out and went into the bar, introducing ourselves at the “people from Deal”. 

We plied the locals with ale and they responded by telling us all about the game and that a 1-0 defeat meant very little “as so -and-so didn’t play”, “those three standing at the bar were rented and we’ll have another player back from suspension?” 

One hour later we left for home with all the information we needed, it was almost as if we had seen the game. 

Keith returned to the north west the following Tuesday to watch Newcastle play at Atherton Laburnum Rovers.  I think that is where all the confusion occurred.  The names of their opponents all sounded similar so it all got lost in the he interpretation, but no harm was done and we knew as much as we needed to.