Newcastle United vs Sunderland in torrential rain. A terrific game finally poised at two goals a piece. Emre Belözoğlu stands confidently over the free-kick and the Geordie nation holds its breath...
The day Newcastle signed Emre Belzoglu from Inter Milan I rejoiced. As a fan of Serie A I had watched him and knew he was the explosive player we needed in our midfield. I began waxing lyrical to any friend who would listen about just how good he was and that he had real class.
Looking back, while he had the talent, bad luck made him more present on the treatment table than the football pitch which caused Newcastle United to cut their losses and sell him to Fenerbache in 2008. One thing you can say about the diminutive Turk however is that his goals always were something special.
Take for example his derby day winner against Sunderland. The manager that day was also the man who brought him to the club, a certain Graeme Souness who himself was no stranger to the passionate local derby.
Newcastle got the ideal start with a header from Shola Ameobi, Emre supplying the assist from a corner. That sparked the game into life and, I can say knowing we won the game, two absolute rockets from Liam Lawerence and Stephen Elliot in between Ameobi’s second took the game to 2-2 at half time.
A fantastic Shay Given save and another rasper that hit the bar from Elliott and I began to worry ever so slightly. So when Emre placed the ball down for a freekick in the 61st minute I got even more anxious. I knew he had the ability but this was some way out. With Nolberto Solano our resident free kick taker standing nearby anything but a goal would bring the hindsight inspired calls of ‘Should of let Nobby take it’.
Add that to the fact of it being a derby, Alan Shearer smelled blood. He would get his revenge for the 1998 penalty miss in the return fixture later that season, for this moment was Emre’s. 25 yards out the aforementioned trio all surrounded the ball all with hands on hips the eventual taker still unclear. As Shearer ran over the ball Emre began his run.
With his tin can opening left foot he bent the ball up and over the wall. Kelvin Davis did everything he could but the pace of the ball seemed to catch him out as it clipped the inside the post and into the goal and past Davis helpless dive. With the game so delicately poised at 2-2 this took all the steam out of Sunderland.
As he wheeled away to the roar of St James Park brushing away his team-mates he began running to the Newcastle bench. Like something out of a youth Sunday league game Souness and Emre smiling at each other shared a warm embrace like Father and Son the latter jumping into his manager’s arms.
As I mentioned the return fixture at the Stadium Of Light may hold more relevance. A 4-1 demolition containing Shearer’s last goal, fittingly from the penalty spot, was great but for me that rainy day in October will always hold special memories because for a week I looked vindicated in my love for a the man nicknamed ‘the Maradona of the Bosphorus’.