Sid Waddell: Our rusty bayonets no match for their rapiers

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The Independent Online

As i settled to watch the action I had a dream, a theory and a fear that our defence might crumble. My theory was that Shola and Big Al were capable of nicking one vital goal but only if the midfield got the 50/50s and worked the ball creatively.

As i settled to watch the action I had a dream, a theory and a fear that our defence might crumble. My theory was that Shola and Big Al were capable of nicking one vital goal but only if the midfield got the 50/50s and worked the ball creatively.

From the start, though, bad omens: We were in carrion-crow all black not Magpie colours and Barthez was in flame red like the Masque of the Red Death. Sir Bobby prowled the line like an old priest thinking maybe this was a chalice too far. Their manager looked like a wrestling pro: Only his Rocks of the ring moved like gazelles.

Marseille passed like Real Madrid on a good night and had the casual athleticism of Arsenal. After 15 minutes I thought Titus was going to have a nightmare; he was almost frozen by anxiety. The atmosphere matched St James' Park and the cacophony of the local fans was like a Force-10 gale in a whistle factory.

They were rewarded when Drogba did a Shearer, holding off a couple of defenders to score despite scuffing the strike. Though Titus had settled and even begun to pass accurately our defence looked stretched and uncomfortable.

The French side attacked wide and through the centre, seeming to have acres of space to think and move in. Forget Jenas, Bellamy and Dyer, I reckoned, against these gifted Gallic ghosts we need a Shackleton, an Allchurch or a Beardsley. At 1-0 to them at half-time I felt I was watching a rapier tempered in the sun-lanced hills of Provence toying with a rusty bayonet from a disused Tyneside ironworks.

But like we all know, the lads can do Brazil or Barcelona having been battered by Blyth Spartans a couple of days earlier. I don't know if Sir Bobby lashed them with his tongue or sprinkled them with water of Tyne at half-time, but we came out like the real battling Toon.

Robert began to create a bit of width on the left and Ameobi started skating round defenders like Bambi in roller boots. Shearer took up great positions but the ball just would not fall right. I reckon their defence knew all our ideas would come through the middle - not like in the time of Keegan when we attacked with more angles than Hypotenuse. Without Bellamy's pace we looked like a blue touchpaper in search of a match.

Still, with 25 minutes to go I reckon bringing Bowyer on was a good move. His speed and aggression meant our midfield went forward more and did it quicker, and Ameobi's header almost let Bowyer in. I don't reckon his tackle on N'Diaye was bad since he simply went hard for the ball across the opponent's legs. And for 37 minutes of the second half we shut up the crowd. Not a whistle; not a burst of the Marseillaise.

Then they sickened me, Sir Bobby and most of Tyneside. From a free kick on the left, two of their blokes drew our defence and Drogba rifled in the second goal. There was no way back.

When we won the Fairs Cup in 1969 we had battlers, class and different points of attack. Now we rely too much on Big Al and his strength. The big plus was the way our defence hung in. That's the glimmer we take to the battle next week.

Sid Waddell is a life-long Newcastle fan and a darts commentator

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