January 7 2018: N’th degree

Alan Shearer’s good luck message to Newcastle Benfield – yesterday’s blog – reckoned that it had been quite a while since a team beginning with ‘N’ had got to Wembley.

Several readers marvelled at his short memory – what about North Shields, Vase winners in 2015 – while Richard Hutson in Huddersfield went further.

That same season, he says, Norwich City beat Middlesbrough in the Championship play-offs while North Ferriby beat Wrexham in the Trophy final.  Newcastle United were last there in the 1998-99 FA Cup final.

We’d also mentioned that today is North Shields president Malcolm Macdonald’s 68th birthday. Former Robins’ secretary Dave Thompson, among those who questioned Shearer’s short term memory, is 64 today. They’re but bit bairns the pair of them.

*So who was the former Northern League player who managed a team to a Champions League victory this season?

We’ve asked that one before, even suggested that he was a Whitley Bay man. The answer’s Mark Miller, manager of Maltese side Hibernian who beat the Estonians FC Tallin in both legs in July. In so doing, they became the first Maltese side to win an away leg in the Champions League.

David Hall, principally an ice hockey journalist – you know, a card game – had himself spent 20 years on Malta before returning to Whitley Bay last month. His interview with Miller appeared in Saturday’s programme.

Local lad, Mark was released by Newcastle United, joined Whitley Bay, played professionally for Gillingham, Doncaster and Darlington before joining Floriana in Malta in the mid-80s. He had a spell in Finland before returning to Malta, and Rabat Ajax.

“It was a chance to play again with the sun on my back after the cold of Finland,” he says in the programme.

He’s now in his third spell as manager of Hibernian, has coached national sides but still gets back to Whitley Bay, and Hillheads, at least once a year. He may not find the sun on his back there, either.

*The gloating has begun. It’s not looking like a season in the sun for the mighty Arsenal, either, beaten in the cup by a team beginning with N. Former Northern League chaplain Leo Osborn is among the first to email following this afternoon’s debacle. Leo’s an Aston Villa fan. Didn’t they get knocked out at home by Peterborough? Posh, or what?