AS SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY prepare for their Boxing Day visit to a sold-out St James’ Park, Jon Newsome’s thoughts will perhaps drift towards the day the Yorkshire club set an unwanted piece of Premier League history as his own career was brought to a shuddering halt.
Sunday, September 19, 1999, dawned with the Owls and Newsome hoping to breathe fresh life into an already troubled season.
Danny Wilson’s side had taken just one point from the opening seven games, but with fellow strugglers Newcastle having an identical record, the stage was surely set for Wednesday to start a much-needed recovery job.
Ninety minutes later, however, and those hopes lay in tatters thanks to an 8-0 thrashing that included five goals for Alan Shearer.
“It was an awful day from start to finish,” recalls the 46-year-old to The Yorkshire Post. “First, the scoreline was horrendous. And, secondly, that day at Newcastle finished my career.
“I was at right-back, which I wasn’t best pleased about. I had been at loggerheads with Danny Wilson for a while because I didn’t want to play there. Who had ever heard of a 6ft 4ins right-back?
“I was told before Newcastle that I wouldn’t be played there again. Instead, I would be in at centre-half. But then, lo and behold, at 2pm I was in at right-back again.
“I wasn’t best pleased, but just got on with it. Then, though, I got a whack on my knee that damaged the bone in my kneecap. It was an innocuous thing, seemed like nothing really. But it did some serious damage that only really became apparent later.”
Wednesday were already well on the way to defeat when Newsome suffered the injury.
Aaron Hughes had put Newcastle in front early on and then Shearer rattled in a quick-fire hat-trick that saw Kevin Pressman beaten three times inside just nine minutes.
“Shearer was unstoppable that day,” says Newsome. “Everything he hit went in and it was a nightmare for us.”
Newcastle, with Bobby Robson in the home dugout for the first time, added four more goals after the interval, Shearer netting the last two to match Andy Cole’s Premier League record of five in the same game.
“I carried on playing and got through the entire 90 minutes,” says Newsome, when asked why he was still on the pitch at the final whistle after suffering such a bad injury that Wednesday’s eight-goal hammering proved to be the last game of his career.
“I didn’t think I could come off. Not at 4-0 down at half-time, anyway. Danny would have loved me turning round in the dressing room and saying, ‘I’m going to have to come off’. Especially as we weren’t getting on at the time. So, I carried on and somehow got through.”
Wednesday, relegated at the end of that season, have been back to St James’ Park twice since that fateful 1999 afternoon. Nine years later, Shola Ameobi netted in a 1-0 home win, but last season it was Wednesday’s turn to celebrate on Tyneside as a Lewis McGugan strike saw top-flight Newcastle knocked out of the League Cup by Carlos Carvalhal’s men.
Newsome, still a regular attender at Hillsborough as either a fan or expert pundit for BBC Radio Sheffield, believes that 2015 triumph could be a factor in deciding a Boxing Day clash between the two clubs that will be shown live by Sky.
“Newcastle is a massive test, but they have had a couple of stumbles lately,” added the former defender.
“They are top again now, but Brighton have been top recently, too, so that shows Newcastle aren’t having everything their own way. Wednesday can go there hoping to get something.
“(Fernando) Forestieri being back is huge. They definitely missed him in the last three games. Before the red card (against Preston), he had started to look like the player he was last season. His creativity makes all the difference.
“Plus, Wednesday went up there last season and got a result in the cup. A lot of the players were in that team so those positive memories could help.”
Carvalhal’s side will spend Christmas Day in the play-off places despite lacking the fluency of last season’s run-in.
“I go to games regularly and I don’t think Wednesday have reached the heights of the back end of last season,” added Newsome.
“But look at the table and the team is in a pretty good position. I was at the Barnsley and Rotherham games last week, and the performances weren’t great.
“The bottom line, though, is it was six points and two clean sheets from two local derbies. That is decent, no matter what the performances were like.”