The capital game tax

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The Independent Online
It would be reasonable to expect Newcastle United to go to The Valley with their collective chin up today in the wake of their post-Christmas Premiership revival at the expense of the tottering Tottenham and the numbingly negative Leeds. The record books suggest otherwise, however. The last time Newcastle won an FA Cup tie in London the man with football's most-famed jutting jaw was on the score-sheet.

"A scrambled one," Bob Stokoe recalled of the Jimmy Hill goal that looked to have claimed the prized scalp of the Magpies at Craven Cottage, Anne Boleyn's hunting land before she was head-hunted, Tudor-style. "I can still picture it," Stokoe added. "I don't think Jimmy scored too many goals. He had great enthusiasm but he wasn't a great player. Johnny Haynes was the player at Fulham."

Hill's enthusiastic campaigning as chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association made Haynes the game's first pounds 100-a-week player in 1961. Such has been the extent of the capital punishment Newcastle have endured, their most recent FA Cup victory in London dates back to the days when Haynes and Hill earned a weekly wage packet of pounds 12, officially at least. So, for that matter, did Stokoe and Jackie Milburn, who both scored in a nine-goal fourth- round thriller on the muddied banks of the Thames. Newcastle, in fact, were holders of the cup at the time of that 5-4 victory in January 1956.

Bobby Robson, who played alongside Haynes and Hill that day, called it the most memorable match of his playing days. Fulham were 3-0 down in half-an-hour, to goals by Milburn, Stokoe and Tom Casey, before Haynes orchestrated a fightback that yielded a Tosh Chamberlain hat-trick before Hill scored what seemed to be a deserved winner with 15 minutes to go.

Having done the hard part, however, the Second Division side made the mistake of easing up. Twice in the dying minutes Bobby Mitchell picked his way down the left-flank and crossed for Vic Keeble to head home on both occasions. Mitchell - "Bobby Dazzler," as he was known - was the last man to put Newcastle in a major-trophy winning position domestically. He gave them a 2-1 lead against Manchester City in the 1955 FA Cup final.

"It's staggering when you think about it," Stokoe said, reflecting on the passage of 42 years since he lifted the old tin pot as a player in that team, and 41 since Newcastle even won a tie in the capital (their 1974 victory away to Hendon was achieved 20 miles north of London, at Vicarage Road). "I played in the last Newcastle team that won the Cup and I'm 66. It's about time they won something. It's about due."

It is due for the north-east too. In the 42 years since Newcastle beat Manchester City in the 1955 FA Cup final the region's clubs have won just one major domestic prize. "I sometimes look at the videos of 1973," Stokoe said, recalling the FA Cup fairytale he inspired as manager at Sunderland. "It was all about confidence. I took charge of a team that was joint second bottom of the Second Division in the November and their confidence got so high they didn't expect to lose to anyone in the Cup. They didn't either. Newcastle's last two results have given them confidence. They'll be looking forward to going to The Valley."

Stokoe's only experience of the sack was his sacrificial departure to make way for Eddie Firmani at Charlton, three games into the 1967-68 season. Living in retirement now inNorthumberland, he will be hoping Newcastle will roll back the years today when he settles down to thescreening of the tie from south east London. As he watches the pounds 1.8 million-a-year Alan Shearer, the time when capital gain to a Newcastle player meant a pounds 2 win bonus must seem like a distant black and white era.

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