As Alan Pardew prepares to enter the cauldron of St James’ Park, the man he headbutted in March has spoken for the first time about that clash – but he is not among those calling for the Newcastle United manager to lose his job.
Hull City’s David Meyler was trying to grab the ball from the Newcastle dugout at the KC Stadium when Pardew struck him with his head. The Newcastle manager, facing a major rebellion on Saturday over his continuing in that role, was banned for seven games and fined £160,000 by his employees at Newcastle and the Football Association.
Meyler, who visits Newcastle with Hull, said: “Of course I was surprised [when it happened]. I think everyone was. At the time, we were 3-1 down. When the ball went over that way, I just rushed to get it back because I wanted to try and get us back into the game. Obviously the rest is history, but it’s all done and dusted; he apologised and that’s it.
“The FA dealt with it in their own way and Newcastle did too. He served his ban and he was fined heavily. He will be annoyed with himself. I just had to worry about the game, losing 4-1, and then going away on international duty. He apologised straight away.”
Meyler credits his upbringing in the brutal world of Gaelic football for keeping a lid on a situation that could have become far worse.
“I come from a big GAA background,” he said. “I played a lot of hurling and Gaelic football growing up and you used to get belted as a kid all the time. That’s just the way it was. I used to live and breathe that. You’d go home and your hands would be cut, your legs would be cut. That’s the way it was. What’s the point of dwelling on it?
“I was disappointed we’d lost the game to them 4-1. That [the headbutt] was the last thing on my mind. We’d beaten them earlier in the season and felt we could have beaten them at home. I was more worried about that than the incident itself.
“I flew home with my father and we never spoke about it once. We spoke about the game. You’ve got to move on. You can’t keep thinking about it.
“I had to make sure I was prepared to represent Ireland. Everybody was ringing me, saying ‘What happened, what happened?’.
“If we’re trailing 1-0 and we need to go and get the ball, it doesn’t matter which one of them has it, I will go and get the ball because I want to win.
“On Saturday we’ll just shake hands and that’s it. We both want to win the game. We beat them there last year 3-2, so please God, we’ll beat them again.”
Pardew will face a demonstration of Newcastle supporters armed with 30,000 A4 cards inside St James’ Park. But when Meyler – speaking ahead of the launch of the game Fifa 15 – was asked if he wanted to see the Newcastle manager sacked as a form of revenge, he said: “No.”
He added: “Look, I’m a Hull City footballer, I only deal with us. We have to go there and try and win. It’s going to be a tough game. They are a decent team at home. They are very organised.
“He’s had it hard at the start. They haven’t picked up points, but we’ve got to make sure we maintain our level or performance, try and kick on and get three points.”
Saturday's game will also have added spice with Steve Bruce, the former Sunderland manager – and possible replacement for Pardew at Newcastle – in the away team’s dugout, alongside Hatem Ben Arfa, the fans’ favourite Pardew banished from Newcastle by sending him out on loan at the end of the transfer window.
But it is the presence of Meyler, who could also be in the dugout as a substitute for Hull, that further cranks up the pressure on the Newcastle manager, who has seen his team pick up just eight points from the 42 available in the 14 games since the headbutt incident.
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