We were already promoted and Leicester were being thrashed 7-1. That was the game where we realised that we had something special. He twisted, spun and strutted through a game which signalled the fact that the giant was awake and we were ready to take onthe big boys. Cole was the epitome of the new Newcastle.
It had started quietly a couple of months earlier when he had signed for £1.75m - most people had not heard of him before the speculation started and those of us who saw his debut as a substitute at Swindon remember more than one voice say "Jeezas - he'sblack!" as he stood to strip off his tracksuit. Racism, a blight that affected us more than most clubs, was already on its way out - but Coley sped it on its way. His first goal followed shortly and after that he just couldn't stop. Those of us who wereborn in the 1960s had been too young to see anything other than years of awfulness interupted with odd spasms of averageness. It grated when we were constantly being told of "Newcastle's famous number nines" when all we had were childhood memories of Supermac in all his glory followed by an endless supply of Billy Raffertys and Rob MacDonalds. Now we had our own, and we revelled in it.
Cole was not the whole picture, though. The renaissance started with John Hall, then became turbo-charged with the arrival of Kevin Keegan, who assembled a team better than any seen on Tyneside since Edwardian times. This explains why Andy Cole, hero that he was, never reached the absolute cult status that was enjoyed by Supermac or Milburn. These players were stars who shone in ordinary teams and thus became a symbol for the whole club, Coley never had to bear that burden alone. Peter Beardsley, Robert Lee, Ruel Fox - they are all heroes - 32,000 of us have season tickets, another 7,000 are on a waiting list. That is not just to watch to watch Coley.
It was a shock when I first heard he was signing for Man Utd. It is difficult to believe. Why would he? We don't need the money, Coley doesn't need them. On ringing around the lads to spread the news, I was surprised that some thought it was a good deal,he's had an off couple of months, hasn't scored in nine games and certainly isn't playing well. Personally, I am gutted, especially at who we are selling him to. It has brought back those desperate feelings I had when Waddle, Gascoigne and Beardo were sold to appease the bank - surely it can't be happening again.
However, we have almost absolute faith in ``The Messiah'' Keegan. He must have a secret game-plan, he just can't let him go without having someone else in mind - Armstrong, Collymore, Ferdinand, who knows - we trust him, he has got us this far and he cantake us further. We all like the look of Gillespie and Keegan's signing hit-rate is superb and though Kitson and Peacock have yet to win us over, the positive easily outweighs the negative. Time will tell.
To Coley, I wish him all the best, thanks for the goals and the memories, I hope they treat you well and you score often (except against us), though I also hope that you look back on this day as the day you made the biggest mistake of your life.