Football: Fans angry as Hall hails `disgraced' pair

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The Independent Online
SIR JOHN HALL, Newcastle United's chairman, has stirred up passions among the Magpie faithful by dedicating Sunday's FA Cup semi-final win over Sheffield United to Douglas Hall and Freddy Shepherd - the disgraced pair who described Geordie women as "dogs" and dubbed Alan Shearer, the club's popular England striker as "Mary Poppins".

Sir John, who returned when they stepped down as chairman and vice chairman following the revelations in a Sunday newspaper, paid tribute to the Gallowgate Two after Newcastle had secured a place at Wembley on 16 May.

"Freddy and Douglas, I hope you are listening," Sir John said. "You are a part of this success and in so many ways you are the architects. Basically, let no one take away from them - they helped build the team. Let no one forget that."

Sir John tempered his comments by saluting Newcastle supporters. "Our fans are second to none," he said. "I want all our supporters to enjoy every moment of this victory and savour a trip to Wembley. You deserve this so much because you have been fantastic to us. I hope they will continue to get behind the team and continue to demonstrate that passion, that love for the club that we all have."

Sir John's sentiments, however, have angered the Newcastle Independent Supporters' Association secretary, John Regan, who urged the club to forget the pair.

"Douglas Hall and Freddy Shepherd are irrelevant to the future of Newcastle United Football Club, and nothing will put right in the eyes of Newcastle fans what has happened in the past," said Regan. "It's shoddy to praise their names in the club's finest hour. All the fans want to do is move on."

The vice-chairman of Newcastle's Cup final opponents, Arsenal, is to make representations to the Football Association and West Midlands Police to ask why the midday kick-off for their semi-final against Wolves was not delayed. Thousands of supporters were stuck on the M6 and missed the only goal.

David Dein's appeals, however, are likely to be in vain as police defended the decision, saying it would have been "inappropriate" to delay the kick- off.

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