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Book Review - Tunnel of Love - Football, Fighting and Failure: Newcastle United after the Entertainers

Sunday 18th December 2016
Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United were a joy to watch. With an intoxicating brand of high scoring and free flowing football, they had become the neutrals favourite, the nation's 2nd team, one that was surely on an unstoppable march to success, glory and domination of the English game for years to come.

It never happened ...

Title: Tunnel of Love – Football, Fighting and Failure: Newcastle United after the Entertainers

Author: Martin Hardy

Publisher: DeCoubertin Books

Date Published: 2016

Price: £18.99
Martin Hardy takes us on this journey from expectation to despair as he relives, with contributions from those involved, the most traumatic and turbulent period in this great clubs long and glorious history. He writes in a descriptive manner that truly captures the pure emotions that come with following your football team and particularly, Newcastle United, where passions run high in a city that lives and breathes its football team. A club that represents a proud region where the desire for success is tangible.

The journey begins with Keegan's entertainers and the world record signing of local lad Alan Shearer in what should have been the final piece in the jigsaw. Great games and magical nights are revisited from the 5-0 destruction of champions Manchester United to the 3-2 Champions League win over European giants, Barcelona. Nights, when dreams are realised, are countered by the shock of ‘black Wednesday' when Keegan resigns as the pressure of job takes its toll.

Keegan was followed in the hot seat by Kenny Dalglish, Ruud Gullit, Bobby Robson and Graeme Souness, all footballing superstars with the pedigree to win trophies with Newcastle. Each one enjoyed good times (particularly Robson) but it was never quite enough as Newcastle faltered at the final hurdle, always the bridesmaid never the bride.

For every semi-final victory and exhilarating European adventure, there was disappointment in the league. New signings underachieved and key players suffered injury at pivotal moments in the season. Poor performances on the pitch came against a backdrop of scandal off the pitch, as board members were entrapped, and players fought amongst themselves. There were high-profile clashes including Gullit and Shearer that reached a head in the rain versus Sunderland and teammates Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer coming to blows on the St James Park turf. Hardy covers these and much more as Newcastle United had become a soap opera.

The media circus continued with a change of ownership. Frustrated by poor team spirit, and the Boards new strategy with a perceived lack of ambition, fans made their feelings known with protest and anger. St James Park had become a hostile environment that players struggled to cope with.

Sam Allardyce, Glenn Roeder and the returning ‘messiah' Kevin Keegan all tried to stop the rot as the team stumbled from one crisis to another. Finally, record goal scorer and local icon, Alan Shearer was next to take on the ‘impossible job', given 8 games to save a club at breaking point. Despite his efforts, Newcastle United's fate was finally sealed after a lacklustre defeat at Aston Villa which confirmed Premier League relegation.

The demise was complete, it wasn't meant to end like that!

Tunnel of love is written in short sharp chapters that cover the journey above and the many dramatic on and off-field events that shaped the club in that period from title challengers to relegation candidates. It follows the progress of the team in chronological order, examining the reigns of each manager their successes and more prominently their failures. With input from managers, players, owners and fans the book has real depth and provides a fascinating insight into a unique club.

Hardy also explores the local rivalry with Sunderland and honours club legends, as he leaves no stone unturned in what is a comprehensive review of Newcastle United. His story ends with relegation in 2009 but could easily have been extended to the current day as the club continued to lurch from one disaster to another as the quest for a trophy continues.

Hardy's book is an enthralling and excellent read that will appeal to all fans not just those in the ‘Toon' army but to all those football lovers with fond memories of the entertainers and why it all went wrong.
Allan Kemp

Born in Suffolk but a Norwich City supporter who is currently trying to swap a career in finance with one in football writing. I am an FA level 2 coach and also a published author, my book of Hall of fame - Norwich City's - All-Time Greats is available from all good bookshops. I currently have a weekly column on Norwich City website - 'My Football Writer' as well as writing book reviews on 'Its Round and Its White'.

Total articles: 55

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