Our Toon man: A black and white life

The Chronicle - - Nostalgia - Through on a tech­ni­cal­ity an hour later.

GROW­ING up, it’s a job many of us dreamed of do­ing. Imag­ine be­ing the Chron­i­cle’s New­cas­tle United re­porter.

In truth, it’s one of the most de­mand­ing jobs in North East jour­nal­ism, es­pe­cially to­day in the age of un­for­giv­ing, 24-hour, all-see­ing so­cial me­dia.

In re­cent decades, John Gib­son and Alan Oliver sat in the prized hot seat. In the 1950s, it was Stan Bell. And be­fore the war, Colin Veitch - former United cap­tain and all-time club great - was the Chron­i­cle’s New­cas­tle man.

In the 1920s, our incog­nito Toon re­porter wrote un­der the guise of “The Sen­tinel”.

Mean­while, our man way back in 1905, a cer­tain John Lewis, de­clared of the Mag­pies as they be­came cham­pi­ons of Eng­land for the first time: “The side has played foot­ball of the clean, sci­en­tific order, and played it well.”

Foot­ball and foot­ball jour­nal­ism have changed be­yond all recog­ni­tion since then.

We sat down with cur­rent New­cas­tle United re­porter Lee Ry­der for a ret­ro­spec­tive Ques­tion and An­swer ses­sion.

1. Lee, what are your first New­cas­tle United mem­o­ries?

Mine would be very sim­i­lar to most fans on Ty­ne­side.

En­ter­ing the old Gal­low­gate ter­rac­ing for a midweek game un­der the lights with my dad.

The first thing I saw was the goal­keeper Tommy Wright tak­ing part in a re­ally ac­ro­batic warm-up tech­nique don­ning a bright yellow Um­bro train­ing goalie kit.

I can still see him now when I think back to it!

I was al­ways in­ter­ested in foot­ball but that night was mag­i­cal and I think I read the pro­gramme from cover to cover in the days af­ter it.

I used to go to re­serve games at St James’ Park too and would wait with my mates out­side the ground to talk to the play­ers.

One day af­ter school we waited for au­to­graphs and David Kelly in­vited us in from the cold.

I also re­mem­ber ev­ery­body wait­ing out­side the newsagent in Shire­moor for the Pink van to drop the news­pa­pers off and there would be a gen­uine buzz about read­ing the match re­port of a game that fin­ished just an hour or so be­fore.

■■2. What was your first game? Who were your early New­cas­tle United he­roes?

My first game was in the 1989/90 sea­son against Hull in the old Sec­ond Divi­sion.

Mark McGhee scored twice that night in a 2-0 win.

For me my first real hero would prob­a­bly be Micky Quinn who I went on to meet later in life and got him to do his Chron­i­cle col­umn.

But I re­mem­ber watch­ing the re­serve games and won­der­ing who might come through the ranks.

Back then New­cas­tle had play­ers like Scott Sloan, Dar­ren Brad­shaw and Paul Sweeney on the books!

I re­mem­ber run­ning on the pitch as a kid at North Shields’ old Ap­pleby Park ground and ask­ing for his shirt - sadly he didn’t want to hand it over!

Quinn and McGhee were the first real stars I came across, to be hon­est, and they later carried an age­ing and strug­gling team.

The likes of Lee Clark, Steve Wat­son and Alan Thomp­son later broke into the first team but those early years saw United in a per­ilous po­si­tion and they nearly got rel­e­gated in 1992.

I think lads of my age looked at Clark and Wat­son as lo­cal he­roes as they were liv­ing the dream.

■■3. What was your favourite game as a fan be­fore be­com­ing a sports writer?

There are so many to men­tion, to be hon­est.

One of the best at­mo­spheres I re­mem­ber in those early days was when New­cas­tle beat Swin­don 3-1 at St James’ be­fore Kee­gan walked out af­ter­wards af­ter prom­ises weren’t made by the board in 1992 - but thank­fully he re­turned the next

day! Look­ing back, af­ter a great win, Kee­gan prob­a­bly knew he had the power with the crowd’s back­ing over Sir John Hall, but it all worked out well enough didn’t it? I cer­tainly re­mem­ber the 4-2 win over Sh­eff Wed on Mon­day Night Foot­ball in 1993 when I was caught on

As a kid, I re­mem­ber ev­ery­body wait­ing out­side the newsagent for the Pink van to ar­rive Lee Ry­der


cam­era, and I think that felt like the night United re­ally ar­rived in the Premier League as they were nick­named the En­ter­tain­ers soon af­ter.

Ob­vi­ously the 5-0 win over Man United stands out a mile, and the 8-0 win over Sh­eff Wed in Sir Bobby Rob­son’s first game.

An­other great vic­tory was a 4-3 win over Le­ices­ter when Alan Shearer got a hat-trick af­ter we’d been 3-1 down.

But I sup­pose in terms of com­plete per­for­mance, re­sult and the great goals, it’s got to be the 5-0 over Man United.

■■4. The peren­nial ques­tion. More than 20 years on, why do you think New­cas­tle col­lapsed dur­ing that Premier League ti­tle run-in in 1996?

I have to ad­mit I still think about it now. Most fans of that era prob­a­bly do as well. How can you erase that from your mem­ory?

In truth, it’s prob­a­bly down to Kevin Kee­gan be­ing stub­born over his tactics.

The warn­ing signs were there when New­cas­tle lost 2-0 to West Ham in Fe­bru­ary, but Kee­gan didn’t even want to think about switch­ing to be de­fen­sive.

No­body would have blamed had he done so and lost it.

A mix of a lack of ex­pe­ri­ence, naivety and Sir Alex Fer­gu­son’s mind games proved to be too much.

■■5. How did you get into sports jour­nal­ism?

I was lucky enough to get some work ex­pe­ri­ence at the Chron­i­cle un­der sports ed­i­tor Paul New which re­ally gave me a taste for the job.

I then went to Tynemouth Col­lege back in the 1994 and took part on a me­dia stud­ies course. On it my tu­tor Kate Ran­son helped get me some work ex­pe­ri­ence with the lo­cal weekly pa­per cov­er­ing Whit­ley Bay.

I then went to the Univer­sity of Cen­tral Lan­cashire to do a de­gree and a diploma be­fore get­ting a job on the Scun­thorpe Telegraph where I cov­ered Scun­thorpe United.

A brief stint at the Hartle­pool Mail cov­er­ing Boro and Pools was then fol­lowed by a switch to the Chron­i­cle in 2005 where I’ve been ever since.

It is a great job and there’s never a dull mo­ment.

■■6. What was the first New­cas­tle United match you re­ported on?

The first game I cov­ered for the Chron­i­cle was away to Wigan in 2005, but this was also dur­ing the days of the Pink.

To go from wait­ing out­side the pa­per shop for the Pink van to ar­rive, sud­denly I was in the hot seat writ­ing the match re­port and ring­ing the copy back to Thom­son House.

But I loved the buzz of do­ing it from the first few sec­onds of the game.

Sadly, New­cas­tle lost 1-0 and Alan Shearer had a goal dis­al­lowed so the day wasn’t capped with a win.

■■7. Who were the best and most dif­fi­cult New­cas­tle United play­ers and man­agers to deal with.

I’ve worked with Graeme Souness, Glenn Roeder, Sam Al­lardyce, Kevin Kee­gan, Chris Hughton, Joe Kin­n­ear, Alan Shearer, Alan Pardew, John Carver, Steve McClaren and now Rafa Ben­itez - plus care­tak­ers such as Nigel Pear­son.

All man­agers have their ups and downs, and it usu­ally starts well be­fore re­sults start to go wrong.

Rafa is a true foot­ball man and his en­thu­si­asm is right up there with Kee­gan and Sir Bobby Rob­son, mak­ing him a joy to work with but unlike some man­agers - he will also an­swer the tougher ques­tions and the ques­tions fans are ask­ing.

Re­cently he was only too happy to talk about his ‘park the bus’ tactics and of­fer some lengthy re­sponses to what peo­ple were say­ing about him.

Pardew started off well and was good when re­sults were go­ing his way, but he proved to be the most dif­fi­cult to work with af­ter play­ing a big part in get­ting the news­pa­per banned for al­most two years.

He lost his rag at Good­i­son Park with me once af­ter I asked him about the fans chant­ing: “We want our money back” fol­low­ing an ab­ject dis­play.

He also stormed out of a few press con­fer­ences and didn’t like the fact we could still ask him ques­tions in press con­fer­ences (where we weren’t banned) away from St James’ Park.

■■8. Are there any in­ter­est­ing Toon sto­ries/gos­sip you can tell us af­ter the event?

I re­mem­ber once be­ing banned for a day by the press of­fi­cer for say­ing New­cas­tle had signed James Perch 24 hours be­fore the club had an­nounced it!

There’s also the story of FC Twente’s Dou­glas Franco Teix­eira who New­cas­tle had in the bag in 2013 be­fore Joe Kin­n­ear de­cided to pull the plug on the deal and tried and failed to sign James Tomkins.

The Brazil­ian was on the plane at Am­s­ter­dam Air­port when he learned the deal was off.

Pardew was once des­per­ate to sign Dar­ren Prat­ley from Swansea be­fore be­ing over­ruled by Gra­ham Carr, and Chris Hughton once thought he’d signed Craig Cath­cart af­ter he was pic­tured hold­ing a club scarf and shirt for the tra­di­tional sign­ing shot be­fore the deal fell

■■9. How has the job - and the game - changed since you started?

The job has changed for the bet­ter for me be­cause we are now in a 24/7 news cy­cle where you can get a story out when­ever you want and aren’t re­stricted by dead­lines.

Twit­ter is a huge thing and al­lows you to en­gage with fans while video is a huge part of our job too now.

Peo­ple don’t have to wait un­til the 6pm news now to get a clip from a Press con­fer­ence and the anal­y­sis of the game is instant on our web­site.

Those days of wait­ing for the Pink van to turn up are also gone but more peo­ple are read­ing our sto­ries and com­ment pieces than ever be­fore via phones, iPads and com­put­ers.

The job is as ex­cit­ing as it’s ever been now.

■■10. Fi­nally Lee, what is your New­cas­tle United all-time best XI from play­ers you have seen live?

Pavel Sr­nicek, Steve Wat­son, Jonathan Woodgate, Philippe Al­bert, John Beres­ford, Nobby Solano, Rob Lee, Peter Beard­s­ley, Tino Asprilla, Alan Shearer, Les Fer­di­nand.

Subs: Shay Given, Craig Bel­lamy, Yohan Cabaye, Keith Gille­spie, David Gi­nola, Lau­rent Robert, Dar­ren Pea­cock.

Lee Ry­der in­ter­viewed for TV

New­cas­tle United fa­mously let the Premier League ti­tle slip from their grasp in 1996. The Chron­i­cle’s Lee Ry­der of­fers his thoughts on why

Lee Ry­der with former New­cas­tle United man­ager, Alan Pardew

Lee Ry­der as a young fan caught by the Sky TV cam­eras at the match be­tween New­cas­tle United and Sheffield Wed­nes­day, 1993

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