The dream may be over, but they’re still Champions to us
The Champions League dream ended for Bobby’s battling boys in the last game of the second round. Their loss to Barcelona wasn’t as important as the expected win by their nemesis, Inter Milan, over Leverkusen (who arguably tanked in the second round – how on earth did they get through the first round?).
The Toon deserve our applause for their determination and grit in fighting all the way through both initial rounds of this year’s competition. They were the first team to lose their opening games and yet come storming back to claim a place in the second round.
Again, having lost their first few matches in the second phase, they valiantly fought back with wins over Leverkusen and a draw against Inter Milan in Italy.
This last game was a farce as the referee seemed to lose complete control of the situation, allowing the Italian players to dive at every opportunity and to hustle the referee.
As Alan Shearer said afterwards, “Maybe English players are just too honest.” But this is part and parcel of the European game and the Champions League experience.
It will certainly have been an eye-opener to Bobby’s bairns, but has no doubt provided them with excellent training for the Toon’s expected return next season to Champions League action. And it will have been a good lesson in the strategy and gamesmanship that is required at this level of football.
Sir Bobby was full of praise for his lads. “It’s been a great experience and we’ve done very well in it. We haven’t been overawed. We haven’t been outclassed in any of the games. We’ve enjoyed the ride.”
Perhaps the most memorable part of the team’s progress was the presence of thousands of Toon Army fans at all the matches in Europe.
Over 7,000 watched the Inter Milan game, where they endured missiles, bottles, flares, and racial epithets both on and off the field.
No question that vociferous fan support plays a part in motivating the whole team.
Let’s hope that we’re close to getting some silverware to reward everyone connected with NUFC. The fans and players alike deserve no less.