When it comes to watching football, we live in a truly magical time. It's not ideal, obviously. Presumably, this post, sponsored as it is by Samsung, is meant to get you imagining what it might be like to watch this and other amazing Sports Moments on a crystal-clear, top-of-the-line Samsung television. Unfortunately, draconian TV contracts currently in place prevent football fans from watching far too many games legally, in the comfort of their own homes. Still, the technology we currently have is amazing. You can, in just a few clicks, watch all of Alan Shearer's 206 Newcastle goals, a worthy endeavor that I highly recommend. Heard a rumor about a new transfer target for Newcastle? Search his name on YouTube, and odds are, he's got a highlight video of questionable quality soundtracked by some truly awful music. Okay, maybe it's not quite the Golden Age of football fandom, but it's still pretty cool to have these videos at our fingertips.
It's sort of counterintuitive, then, that my favorite highlight video was shot by a fan obviously using a cell phone or middle-of-the-road, straight off the shelf video camera. Even if the broadcast version of Cheik Tiote's goal against Arsenal was available on one of the major video hosting sites (here we go again with the backward policies of Big Media), I'd still prefer this one. For one thing, Steve Harper's faux elbow drop was, let's admit, a pretty embarrassing display. Better not to have to relive that all over again. For another, the call (Tiote...incredible, astonishing, sensational!) is played on almost every Premier League advertisement now. We've all seen it. This clip is new. More importantly, it has a man on the street sort of feel to it, allowing those of us who weren't there to feel like we were.
Context and actual video after the jump.
February 5, 2011. Geordie hero Andy Carroll had just been sold to Liverpool a few days before. £35 million was an extreme overpay on the part of the Reds, and later the transaction would prove to be foundational to a new financial stability on Tyneside. At the time, however, the move produced a mix of panic and anger. Newcastle weren't in the relegation zone, but selling the #9 shirt and not replacing him did not inspire confidence that the club would be able to stave off a second straight trip to the Championship. The main question of the preceding offseason had been, "Where will the goals come from?" and the answer had been: Andy Carroll and his roommate/chaperone Kevin Nolan. Now that Carroll was history, the question was being asked anew.
To say that the goal scored by Theo Walcott in the 42nd second was deflating is a huge understatement. Any quick goal is going to be disappointing, but it already felt like NUFC would never score again. Here we were, inside of a minute, and the Gunners may have already done enough. Poor marking by Nolan led to a Johan Djourou goal just two minutes later. Newcastle supporters had seen this movie before, less than two months prior. What was supposed to be a revenge game when Nigel De Jong and Manchester City visited St James' Park was over in less than five minutes. City scored two early goals and the Toon never responded. This game was probably over too. Robin van Persie seemingly put it away in the 10th minute when poor marking and, let's just call it what it was, laziness, allowed him a tap-in. He would score again in the 27th minute. Strangely enough, that 2nd goal by RVP ended up helping Newcastle in a way. Arsenal players would on multiple occasions pass up decent shots at goal to try to help van Persie achieve a hat trick. Had they been a little more selfish, I probably would be writing about Papiss Cisse's wonder goal at Stamford Bridge. In any case, RVP's handiwork felt like this might just be the beginning of the end. So long, Premier League. Back to the days of Championship football, non-functioning escalators, and a Fat Cockney Bastard who refuses to Get Out Of Our Club.
Those passed up shots were certainly a factor in the outcome of the match, but every comeback needs an inciting incident. Abou Diaby stupidly allowed Joey Barton to get under his skin and earned a red card for his extracurricular actions early in the second half, and from that point on the Magpies actually looked like a team that came to play. Legend holds that Alan Pardew's halftime talk lit a fire under the Toon players, but it was the man advantage that truly have them life. The team switched up it's formation, playing with a diamond in midfield, and that adjustment made a world of difference. All of a sudden Arsenal was stretched out, and they couldn't do much about it, even as they started to waste time before the clock even read 60 minutes. In the 67th minute, the breakthrough happened. Joey Barton coolly deposited a penalty kick straight up the middle of the goal, then as he went to collect the ball, as trailing teams are wont to do after scoring, Kevin Nolan and Wojciech Szczesny got into a tussle. It was a weird "fight," one that should have gotten Nolan carded instead of Szczesny, but it was clear that the young goalkeeper was flustered. There would be more goals - four of them in fact. (Don't remember five goals? That's because Leon Best was called offside when he so clearly wasn't. He would score one that counted a minute later.) The last was the subject of the following video, which doesn't really show how Tiote nailed the carom on the fly with his left foot, putting just the right amount of spin on the ball so that it was tucked in the lower corner just so. If you haven't seen that footage of this goal (and if you're on this site, why haven't you?), go look it up. It's inspiring stuff and a great goal, even context-free.
The reason I'm not showing you that footage is because it doesn't really capture my favorite part the way this home video does. You'll notice that after the cameraperson documents the only goal Cheik Tiote has ever scored in the Premier League, s/he shakily pans around to reveal a packed house going nuts. Television cameras caught one man leaving his seat just before halftime. One. I like to believe he was simply trying to beat the rest of the crowd to a half-time pint, but even if he actually did go home, it was one person. Every single person in that stadium could have walked out at any point in the first 60 minutes, and I don't think anybody would have really blamed them. Maybe they stuck around because they figured this would be their last chance to catch a glimpse of their favorite player, the one with Ambition or Wage Requirements who certainly wasn't going to stick around for another promotion fight. Whatever motivated them, they stayed. I've watched this video dozens of times now, and every time I am struck by the loyalty and passion displayed by the fans. It fills me with pride that no matter what happens, the Toon Army isn't going anywhere. That their loyalty was rewarded with such an astonishing moment makes it all the sweeter.