The commentator, anxious to extract every morsel of significance from the moment, explained it all: Fenton was a Geordie, a born-and-bred Newcastle fan, his family were in the stands en masse, dozens of them decked out in black and white, not minding at all if Graham scored twice, so long as Newcastle scored three times. And then he goes and spoils it all, single- handedly killing off his heroes' hopes (or maybe not single-handedly, the Newcastle defence did their best to accommodate him).
The next day, the irony overdrive began: here was the Geordie who broke Geordie hearts. A clever news agency got hold of a picture of the young Fenton meeting Kevin Keegan at a Newcastle school of excellence back in the Eighties, which was circulated to the tabloids and run under headlines saying "the one that got away". Fenton was interviewed ("I'm not sure if I'll be welcomed back home"), his mum was interviewed ("we're still proud of him"), his dad was interviewed ("I'm not sure whether to board up the house or emigrate"). If his dog had been interviewed it would probably have been called Keegan.
It is in the nature of football that players will end up playing against the team they support. Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler were brought up Evertonians, Noel Whelan remains such a Leeds supporter that, despite being off-loaded to Coventry, he was spotted with his mates in the crowd at his old club's Coca-Cola Cup semi-final with Birmingham. But oddly the times when professional fans inflict mortal damage on their favourites are rare.
Indeed Fenton's uneasy reaction to his strike was reminiscent of the most famous occasion when it all went pear-shaped for a supporter: Denis Law's back-heel for City against United in the Manchester derby in April 1974, the goal that sent United down. Actually it didn't, they were as good as relegated already. What really sent them down was fielding a pitiful team that was so goal-shy their keeper Alex Stepney, with two successful penalties, was the leading scorer for much of the season. But try telling that to Denis Law.
The goal itself was appropriately comical: Francis Lee cut the ball across from the right-hand side of the penalty area, it trickled past a couple of hopeless, prone, black-socked legs and landed just behind Law. He did his best to avoid it, but some recalcitrant gene of professionalism made him flick out a heel in its direction. The ball hit it, left Alex Stepney flat-footed and bobbled into the net. It was a moment of pure hubris: Law was only there, in the wrong colour shirt, because the manager had prematurely off-loaded him, shabbily ill-treating the great United hero by sending him into City exile. But you could tell that if revenge was on his mind, it was no consolation. Mike Doyle, a City stalwart, slapped him round the face a bit and told him to snap out of it, he'd just scored a goal against the enemy, so get celebrating. But Law couldn't, so upset was he at scoring against his team, he just went off the pitch, went straight home and never kicked a ball in League football again.
Twenty-two years on, Law is constantly reminded of that moment. Wherever he goes in Manchester, people want to talk to him about it. Never mind that he scored 236 goals in his United career, it's the one he got for City everyone remembers. He's been asked about it so often, he now pretends to have erased it entirely from his memory: "You know," he says, as the anniversary approaches. "People tell me it happened, but I can't remember a thing about it. That one I got in the '63 Cup final, though..."
Graham Fenton may think he's had a bad week, but that it will all be forgotten after the weekend. What he doesn't appreciate is that in 22 years' time, someone in his home town will ask him to talk them through the two goals that sunk the Toon. Or maybe he does. And that explained the look on his face.Reuse content