Mira's one blindspot: the verb 'to pass'

FAN'S EYE VIEW; No 118 Mirandinha
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Middlesbrough fans have every right to feel themselves to be pioneers of a brave new world, proudly wearing their new yellow shirts and sombreros. Juninho, the boy who had destroyed England's finest, is set to lead them to the promised land of the Uefa Cup and everything in the garden is coming up coffee beans. It's salsa time!

However, for those of us Newcastle fans who remember when the team lost as regularly as they now win, Middlesbrough's golden boy brings back memories of our own tricky Brazilian, Mirandinha, or "Mira" as he became known to the Gallowgate End.

In the time before Keegan and Hall the limit of Newcastle's ambition was to glean as much money as possible by selling any player who showed a glimmer of talent and spend as little as possible on the comfort of the twenty-odd thousand who continued to stand in the urine and rain.

For Newcastle to buy any international, let alone a Brazilian, was the stuff of dreams. Even though no one I knew had ever heard of him, we were outrageously excited. I clambered into the loft and rummaged fruitlessly for a toy sombrero bought in Ibiza the previous summer, while others contacted the Brazilian embassy to try to get their hands on a giant flag.

Like Junihno, Mira seemed to be a long time coming, work permits, jet- lag and contract hassles all delaying the great man's arrival while we built ourselves into a crescendo of excitement.

When he did make his debut we were too euphoric to notice the fact that even though he was reported to be 28, he in fact looked older than John Burridge's older brother.

It took him three matches to get on the scoresheet, grabbing both goals in a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford. In the naive days of 1987 players would indulge only in casual cuddles to celebrate a goal, so the sight of Mirandinha running the length of the pitch kissing his shirt, with Gazza trailing in his wake, was something to behold. He could be sublime then hair-tuggingly frustrating within the space of seconds but - along with Dunston Boy - he remained the only splash of colour in a decidedly monochrome team, his displays earning him one of the most inane terrace songs ever to grace the stadia of Britain:

They call him Mirandinha

He's not from Argentina

He's from Brazil

He's f****** brill.

The return to type of the club in selling Gascoigne spelt the beginning of the end of Mira's affair with Tyneside. The only player who had the craft that he was used to was replaced with a series of classic Newcastle purchases: cloggers taking a one-season break from the lower divisions and poor Scandinavians with ill-advised haircuts. He became visibly hunched and miserable as the 1988/89 season became a desperate and unsuccessful slog against relegation.

Mira pretended that he had no knowledge of English but we guessed this to be untrue, his range of expletives being as good as any shipyard welder. He did have a blindspot with the verb "to pass". "He pass", "she pass", "you pass" he could grasp, it was the "I pass" that threw him. It is perhaps understandable that he had no faith in his plodding team-mates. The sight of him dribbling his way around the penalty box as some hapless forward stood unmarked and pleading for a through ball that would never come became more common as the season dredged on.

The arrival of Jim Smith as manager hammered the last nails into the coffin, the Bald Eagle not taking kindly to his increasingly lacklustre performances. When Mira did finally jump the sunken ship he left with "he can rot in Brazil for all I care!" ringing in his ears.

Juninho's time in the north-east will probably be better spent than that of his predecessor. Middlesbrough are a much more attractive proposition than were Mirandinha's Newcastle, and Juninho is a better player. His worrying fashion sense should also see him settle happily into the Teesside area. I wish him well - like most Newcastle fans I am ambivalent to the Boro, as 40 miles makes for a tenuous derby. Good luck to him.