Football: Fan's Eye View - No 246 : Newcastle United: Tyneside's royals will be quickly forgotten

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The Independent Online
TYNESIDE will begin the new millennium with something of its own constitutional crisis. The Halls, the royal family Newcastle never thought they needed but whose patriarch assumed monarchical status through a knack for identifying and then regenerating key pastimes on various neglected soils on the banks of the Tyne, now have the problem of having no credible accessor to the throne of their Wynyard estate.

Douglas Hall, the disgraced Prince and heir to everything he can see from his bedroom window (and probably all he can see from the window of whoever's bedroom he just so happens to be in), was never likely to be held in the same esteem as his father, but it now seems he will never assume the same unofficial title. After last weekend's headlines, he has apparently gone into hiding.

Freddie Shepherd, his best mate, can never hope to maintain such a low profile, his larger-than-life presence - symbolised by the giant sign which advertises his scrap metal business - will surely always be apparent to the citizens of Newcastle.

Freddie has always been considered one of us. Having stood on the terraces, he has the only essential quality required for a credible board member. As a result he has endured the same torment that we all shared for so long. Having witnessed the same misery and sorrow, he could be forgiven for the occasional desire for light relief, as I'm sure Mrs Shepherd will agree.

Perhaps Douglas and Freddie do deserve our compassion and understanding. In what has been a very dull season, they made an admirable attempt to resurrect the excitement of the Keegan era and its "cavalier" approach. With a simple mission - let your opponent score as often as they like, as long as you score more - they have apparently travelled the world giving it their best shot. And let's face it, they had more success in Europe with the "you can have four if I get five" approach than Newcastle ever did.

And, after all, a boardroom trying to buy success is not a new thing. This is not the first time our club's upper hierarchy has paid out a lot of money for a few clapped out old donkeys who put in a few mediocre performances, stroke it around a bit and show a couple of good touches, only to get on the wrong end of a good thrashing. But at least they used to let me watch.

However calls to Sack The Board have come far too late, as apparently the girls of Marbella's brothels have already sacked them many times.

So even if we do find it hard to accept the derisory comments that allegedly came from a member of the region's most regal family, I suspect the Geordienationals of the next millennium will realise they never really wanted a monarchy anyway, and Douglas will be quickly forgotten.

Then we will relish the opening of Wynyard Hall to the public, the ride on the monorail to the grand houses of the estate where men in period costume will perform authentic scenes of life in the Shearer and Keegan households, and to the gift-shop, and the opportunity to buy portrait- adorned Doulton and tea-towels - each one hand-made in Asia for less than a fiver.

And I look forward to saying to my sons as we drive further up the A1 for the Vauxhall Conference derby clash with Gateshead, "and that, bonny lad, is the ironically titled Angel of the North - a giant public monument made out of rusting scrap metal, erected at the end of the last century to commemorate the time that Freddie Shepherd was strung up by the lasses."

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