May 19, 2024

Chris Waddle adorned Newcastle United’s assault in the 1980s when several great local stars flourished.
Certain footballers have left a big mark on Newcastle United’s historic history. One of them, I believe, is Chris Waddle, one-third of United’s local Holy Trinity from the late 1980s.

We were delighted to host the aggregate Geordie talent of Waddle, Peter Beardsley, and Paul Gascoigne. This is a trio that collectively earned 178 England caps and defined an era. Waddler won the most (62), followed by Beardo (59) and Gazza (57).

Do we have a trio of such Geordie heavyweights now? Have we ever been separated from them? I can’t remember what they looked like. That we squandered their presence by selling all three at the first glimpse of a silver coin is shameful, but it is just another example of Newcastle’s complete contempt for ambition.

All had romantic stories to tell: Waddle was a sausage seasoner who initially attracted the eye when playing non-league football for Tow Law Town, and after signing for Newcastle, he rode the bus back to Wardley with departing supporters. He was so passionate about the game that even at the age of 40, he continued to perform professionally.

I recall being invited along with United winger John Connolly to perform the honors at Clarke Chapman’s annual presentation night and being photographed with their team. In the front row sat a young man who appeared both shy and earnest. Chris Waddle existed before he rose to fame.

Chris started his football career with Pelaw Juniors and, like any local lad looking for a game, moved on to Whitehouse Social Club, Mount Pleasant SC, HMH Printing, Pelaw SC, Leam Lane SC, and Clarke Chapman before joining Tow Law at the start of the 1978-79 season. Sure enough, before his football boots were tossed in the back of the shelf, he returned to non-league football for fun.

So it was a joy for me, as Fairs Club president, to accompany fellow members to Sheffield for a special event commemorating Waddle’s significant contribution to our football heritage.

 

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Among the celebrities in attendance was Waddle’s former teammate John Anderson, who traveled to Chapeltown Social Club with United’s 1969 Fairs Cup champion Jim Scott and 1976 League Cup final substitute Paul Cannell. We were joined by Sheffield-based lads John Beresford of the Entertainers, 76 Wembley winger Stewart Barrowclough, and three former Wednesday players Mel Sterland, David Hirst, and Terry Curran.

So it was a joy for me, as Fairs Club president, to accompany fellow members to Sheffield for a special event commemorating Waddle’s significant contribution to our football heritage.

Among the celebrities in attendance was Waddle’s former teammate John Anderson, who traveled to Chapeltown Social Club with United’s 1969 Fairs Cup champion Jim Scott and 1976 League Cup final substitute Paul Cannell. We were joined by Sheffield-based lads John Beresford of the Entertainers, 76 Wembley winger Stewart Barrowclough, and three former Wednesday players Mel Sterland, David Hirst, and Terry Curran.

His like normally comes around once in a lifetime, but like buses, three arrived at the same moment. Of course, they all left quickly, Waddle first, followed by Beardsley and Gazza. The inevitable outcome was relegation.

Chris stated in front of a large crowd of Newcastle fans that he bears the majority of the blame for a mass departure in the years since.

“The truth of the matter is that the club never ever offered me a new contract so I had to presume they were happy for me to go,” he said. “The manager, Jack Charlton, talked about getting me one, but it never happened. Every time I returned to St James’ Park, the supporters booed me, but they never booed Beardo or Gazza. I assume I accepted the heat for being the first one to leave, although it did look to be really unfair.”

Though it may be said that Waddle’s club career peaked at Spurs and French mega club Marseille, he returned to English football in July 1992 with a £1 million transfer to Sheffield Wednesday. Not the side of today, but one led by Trevor Francis and flying high.

His influence was immediate; he was named FWA Footballer of the Year 1993 after Wednesday advanced to both domestic cup finals, with Chris scoring Wednesday’s goal in the FA Cup final replay against Arsenal. Hirst was the center forward for Waddle’s wing play. David scored 106 goals in 294 Wednesday appearances and was England’s other striker on the day Bobby Robson gave Alan Shearer his international debut against France in February 1992. England won 2-0, and Big Al scored.

Mel Sterland, as large a character as he is a guy, spent ten years at Wednesday and five equally brilliant seasons at Leeds. He played 347 games in blue and white, scoring 49 goals, which is quite a lot for a right-back, and another 114 in Leeds white.

Might Waddle have returned to SJP and rejoined with Keegan, exactly like Beardsley? Chris told me that Freddie Shepherd and Douglas Hall met with him in Marseille to discuss it but never followed up, while KK later tried to get him out of Wednesday but his offer was turned down.

Waddle is still a regular visitor to St James’ Park. He works in both national radio and television as an incisive analyst good enough to cover Real Madrid v Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday night. On stage he is equally as entertaining – I worked with him, Beardsley and Keegan at a Tyne Theatre sell-out gig recently which brought the house down. Still a class act our Christopher.

Waddle remains a regular visitor to St James’ Park. He works on national radio and television as an insightful analyst, capable of covering Real Madrid’s Champions League match against Manchester City on Tuesday night. On stage, he is as engaging; I recently collaborated with him, Beardsley, and Keegan on a sell-out show at the Tyne Theatre that brought the house down. Still a class act, Christopher.

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