The Magpies are about to embark on a new European journey, which brings back memories of some particularly memorable nights.

We are right at the door of Europe, and after we get Brentford’s visit out of the way, our knock will be answered the following week. After a two-decade wait for admission to an exclusive club, European aristocrats AC Milan, seven-time champions of the European Cup, will serve as the host when Georgians return to a top table feast.

Oh, how The Boot brings up so many memories. I have enjoyed many trips to Italy, which has Sicily as its toe end on the football of importance and success. The San Siro, where Newcastle will be traveling next Tuesday night to face AC at the beginning of a tremendous group experience, will always have a special place in my heart.

A few seasons after winning the European Fairs Cup, I went to see Inter play United rather than United play AC. Ground sharing is common in Italy, and 33 years later, United returned to the San Siro for a Champions League match.

I’ll be content if United succeeds on Tuesday night in doing what they accomplished in 1970 and 2003. The first time, we drew 1-1 thanks to renowned center-forward Wyn Davies’ goal, and the second time, thanks to a brace from another No. 9 idol, Alan Shearer, we drew 2-2. Do you hear me, Callum Wilson? Alexander Isak, too?

Alan Shearer celebrates scoring Newcastle United's first against Inter Milan during the Champions League match at the San Siro stadium, Milan, March 11, 2003

The hosts had to come from behind both times to snag a San Siro draw, but it didn’t help them in the Fairs Cup as we won 2-0 at SJP in the second leg when Inter goalkeeper Lido Vieri was sent out for a right-handed elbow to the referee. What caused this absurdity? Due to a Bob Moncur header, the Italians were already down one goal, and Big Wyn had provoked Vieri into elbowing him. Their fiery custodian pulled a Tyson Fury and dropped his “opponent” as the referee gave an indirect free kick inside the box. Vieri was away from the field of play while two hulking Geordie policemen guarded the injured referee.

After purchasing the team in 1986, Silvio Berlusconi hired the legendary Arrigo Sacchi as manager and signed three Dutch superstars, Ruud Gullit (remember him? ), Marco van Basten, and Frank Rijkaard, to play alongside Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta, and Roberto Donadoni, ushering in AC Milan’s golden era during which they became consistent Euro kings. After that, they won all competitions except Crufts.

The fact that AC plays Inter in the Milan derby this weekend while United hosts Brentford at the San Siro is significant—and hopefully draining—even though Newcastle’s opponents a few days later are officially the home team. With three victories each, both teams are tied for first place in Serie A. Let Inter deplete their neighbors’ competitors.

By the way, I find it astounding that SuperMac’s nine-year-old grandson, who originally signed with AC Milan, is now a player for Inter. It’s true that Samuele, the grandson of Malcolm’s daughter Giorgia, who I’ve met numerous times when she visits SJP with his father, is a talented football player.

Giorgia was born because Macdonald spent six years living in Milan, overlooking the San Siro, but she and Samuele, who are both supporters of Inter, will be rooting for United next week. Malcolm and Samuele share a direct footballing genealogy with Geoff Allen and Elliot Anderson but have missed a generation.

On a larger scale, many of my personal recollections come from Italian cities… When Gazza played at Lazio, I stayed with him in Rome, and I also traveled to Florence to watch Newcastle win the 1973 Anglo Italian Cup.

In our one and only Anglo-Italian competition, United defeated Bologna 1-0 here, defeated Como 2-0 on the lake, and thrashed Torino 5-1 at SJP before traveling to Fiorentina and winning the trophy without Malcolm Macdonald who was on England duty. Even though we only managed two draws at the San Siro, Italy has on other occasions been quite kind to Newcastle.

A final recollection that turns out to be extremely meaningful. As did all of the world’s top players at the time, Jimmy Greaves relocated to Italy in 1961. Despite scoring nine goals in 14 games, his move rapidly became a personal nightmare, and he was desperate to leave.

Later, those who had assisted him in his predicament were given a special tie with his initials next to an image of the Italian boot with a ball at its toes. Of course, JG had extra-special meaning for me. Anyway, I received a gift while I was working in Fleet Street. It’s true that Greaves was attempting to leave AC Milan.

The best day ever for the Wallsend Boys Club
To commemorate the “greatest day in 119 years of history,” as the Wallsend Boys Club put it, people traveled from far and wide. The Swan Hunters Shipbuilders created the club in 1904 primarily to keep their apprentices out of mischief. With the official opening of the Peter Olsen Community Hub, built at a cost of £1.25 million, the club returns to its original purpose.

A astounding 92 football players for the professional game have been produced by Wallsend Boys Club, and the 100th must only be a matter of time. But before the Tyne, football shared a facility with boxing, snooker, trampolining, judo, table tennis, and cross-country running at its Station Road headquarters. It will now revert to being a community-based organization for everyone’s benefit while, of course, continuing to lead the way as England’s top football factory.

Chairman Steve Dale praised the day as “our greatest” because of this.

The rich and famous converged upon Kirkley Park for the grand unveiling; Peter Olsen, the man himself, flew in from Hong Kong, as did Chris Vale, a Geordie who assists in running the boys club’s HK section. Peter Reid, a former Sunderland manager, had traveled from Manchester, and Henry Winter, a personal friend from The Times, had come all the way down south. Locally, we had Michael Carrick’s brother, Graeme Carrick, who is currently a member of the coaching staff at Newcastle United’s academy, and Elliot Anderson, who will go down in history as one of Wallsend BC’s all-time greats. also a ton of sponsors and local dignitaries.

A truly exceptional club has amassed pulling power like that throughout the years.

The voyage has been utterly extraordinary, and it is far from finished.

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