David Preece: The one man I would like to see succeed at Newcastle United
Now that the anger among Newcastle United fans surrounding Steve Bruce’s appointed as subdued to just a mild fury, it’s interesting to see that the connection between our two clubs at this moment in time stretches further than just Bruce himself and Jack Colback. There’s another turncoat in their ranks.
Of course I’m talking about their newly appointed first team coach, Steve Agnew. Now, I couldn’t tell you how popular with the Sunderland fans Aggers was but in his time at the club, I can’t think of someone more popular amongst the players in the dressing room.
Over the the course of my career I’ve played with what must total hundreds of players. Some fleetingly appear to make brief cameos in your life, coming and going almost without leaving a trace on you. Others, leave indelible marks, their personalities etching themselves on to your memory so that there are always sporadic cues reminding you of their presence along your timeline. Steve Agnew is one of them and that constant reminder is the famous school football scene from ‘Kes’ with Brian Glover as Manchester United number 9, Bobby Charlton, because his Denis Law number 11 was in the wash. Every away trip, win, lose or draw, on it would go and every time we watched it was as good as the last. I saw it so many times I could act all the parts even now.
Living as much as I have in Scandinavia, it still makes me laugh when somebody shouts “Kasper!” to the many of the players over here who who called that. And not one of them a clue who Billy Casper is or why I’m laughing.
Part of these reminisces will be my age. As a young player at Sunderland I was impressionable. Eager to learn but just as keen in the search for acceptance into this group of men you looked up to, you didn’t need to do much searching with Aggers. He made more of an effort with the young players than most and there was was no need to stand on ceremony with him.
You’d always be greeted with a smile and before too long he’d have you smiling. He made you feel like an equal, despite the overtly clear divide in dressing room hierarchy.
His partnership with Martin Scott formed one of the great comedic double acts without a straight man, bouncing off one another. Wherever Scotty and Aggers were, there was laughter. And then there was the infamous Christmas party where along with physio Gordon Ellis they came dressed as German officers. Despite being more Allo, All than Schindler’s List I’m not sure they’d get away with it now.
He’d always talk about his hometown Barnsley as if it was the centre of the universe, which at one time I guess it was for him. Stories of the fabled Wine Bar in the town centre always made me want to go there for a night out, as if it was like Chinawhite’s in its heyday. I eventually made it to Chinawhite’s but pitched up at Barnsley too late to sample the delights of the Wine Bar. I’m not even sure if its name was The Wine Bar and by all accounts its was a bit of a dive anyway but Aggers made it sound like Studio 54.
Above all else though, Aggers was a lovely footballer. Cultured. I’ve actually got one of his shirts at home that I asked him. The old yellow and green Avec one from the Championship winning 1995/96 season.
And now he is one of the most highly rated coaches around and the fact that Steve Bruce has taken him to Hull, Aston Villa and albeit briefly, Sheffield Wednesday, proves just that. Just a shame he’s gone and blotted his copybook by signing for them.
I know there won’t be many people reading this who want to see Newcastle and Steve Bruce do well. But if by chance they do have an upturn in fortunes on the pitch, I’ll be happy for at least one person there off the pitch in particular and be glad he’s doing well.