Where are they now?: Malcolm Macdonald

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NOWHERE embraces its football heroes with quite such passion as Newcastle, regardless of their roots. A sharp and worldly Yorkshireman is today's Tyneside idol; two decades ago it was a brash, bragging Londoner.

When Malcolm Macdonald hit a hat-trick on his home debut for Newcastle in August 1971, following his transfer from Luton Town, Kevin Keegan was in the Liverpool side beaten 3-2. Supermac has watched his former rival's ascent with warm approval, but from a distance.

Nowadays he sees more of San Siro than St James' Park. After 43 years on an often bumpy road through life, his home is now Milan.

'I'm delighted for Newcastle's supporters,' he said. 'Their fanaticism never weakens.' Nor did their love for him over five years and 121 goals. In 1976, Macdonald left the club to join Arsenal for pounds 333,000 but three years later injury ended the England centre-forward's playing career at 29.

Since then? Two manager's jobs, at his beloved Fulham (successful), where he began his career as a full-back, and at Huddersfield (disastrous); two broken marriages (six children); a pub in Worthing and an hotel in Berwick upon Tweed that went bust; and, 18 months ago, a fresh start in Italy.

'The football here is magnificent, revolutionised, nothing like the defensive Italian game of old. In fact, some of the defending here is atrocious. But, going forward, they are encouraged to use imagination, take risks. English football is very stereotyped. I wish I'd played in football like this.'

Macdonald works 'in telecommunications, setting up telephone information lines for financial news and sport'. He has two Italian lessons each week and an Italian girlfriend, Vania. 'I can see the San Siro stadium from my apartment window.'