Peter Beardsley may have been smacked hard by every branch of the ugly tree but he was a bona fide genius. One goal was so sublime it reduced a commentator to disbelief.
As Newcastle embarked on an early-season run which would take them closer to the title than any year since their last in 1927 and new signings David Ginola and Les Ferdinand helped overpower all opposition, it was a player rather more familiar to Black and Whites at the time who scored the greatest goal I’ve ever seen.
Peter Beardsley had returned for a second stint with Newcastle following their promotion to the Premier League in 1993 at the age of 32 having spent his best years at Liverpool and then Everton. A fans favourite during his first spell, his second had if anything been more successful, playing in a stylish, improving team alongside Andy Cole, who had then been sold to Manchester United midway through the 94-95 season and replaced by the big-money signing of Ferdinand in the summer.
Early on in the season Newcastle travelled to Sheffield Wednesday. Less than a week earlier, Ginola’s flamboyant skill had knitted perfectly with Ferdinand’s pace and power in a performance against Bolton which hinted at a side capable of great things. This time, Ginola had given Newcastle the lead in an even game with a well-placed drive from the edge of the area just after half-time.
His previous deeds should have left no-one in any doubt that the unexpected, the sublime, the impossible were his stock in trade.
As Beardsley then gained the ball wide on the left wing there was no immediately obvious threat due to a lack of support. The Owls’ full-back retreated as Beardsley advanced, worried no doubt about his opponent’s trademark dribbling ability. As he entered the box, running along the goal-line, Beardsley looked up, shimmied onto his left foot and stroked a chip from the tightest of angles, curling it into the very top corner at the far post over the stranded keeper. Until the ball nestled in the net, no-one could have imagined how the ball would end up there, so unlikely did it seem.
So unlikely, in fact, that the post-match interviewer asked Beardsley if he had genuinely meant to score, or if it was merely a misplaced cross. His answer is possibly the best aspect of the whole thing. With an expression of disgust and affronted tone of voice, he replied “I can’t believe you asked me that.” His previous deeds should have left no-one in any doubt that the unexpected, the sublime, the impossible were his stock in trade. Classic Beardsley, the goal combined vision, touch, poise, directness and the ever-present essential ingredient, audacity.
After leading for the entire season, Newcastle were overhauled by a Manchester United whose talismans, Cantona and Schmeichel, maintained their form as Newcastle’s faltered in a fatal run of five defeats and a draw in eight games between late February and early April. Just this once though, let us remember instead that early-season pomp when optimism seemed justified for one of the few times in living memory as all were swept before us. It’d be a shame to forget how good it was merely because it proved to be eventually fruitless.