Grim too were faces of the Geordie fans as Newcastle, possessing a Speed in midfield but bereft of speed in every department, set about their restricting task "Attack ! Attack !" the Toon Army implored. But it took an hour for the message to get through.It might have been different had Newcastle's luck been in but after knocking on wood twice in quick succession their fate was sealed by the pace of Nicolas Anelka and the linesman's flag that stayed down In truth, Newcastle were flagging from the start Dalglish pinned his hopes on pinning down Overmars. The judging panel might have waited 90 minutes before making their decision. Newcastle, conquerors of Barcelona in the Champions' League eight long months ago, lined up yesterday as just about the most unfancied finalists since Bob Stokoe's Sunderdogs famously sank their teeth into Leeds a quarter of a century ago.There was to be no fairytale for the North-east this time. The chairman and manager of Hertfordshire's Boro boys, were invited on to the hallowed turf before kick-off to collect the Littlewoods award as giant-killers of the season.
The skeleton of Newcastle's Stevenage fiasco - which gave rise to the quote of the season (Jeremy Paxman asking his Newsnight audience and the man himself, "Is Kenny Dalglish a big girl's blouse ?") - was more conspicuous.Dalglish must have thought he had seen the last of them, but Victor Green and Paul Fairclough returned to haunt his team's big day. It is a change which others, notably Ray Harford, Dave Sexton, Peter Shreeves and Colin Harvey, have also found problematic.So it may well be that Rix will be content to bide his time, learning rather than yearning. His volatile rapport with Vialli should, if nothing else, ensure some lively exchanges as Chelsea strive to make their own metamorphosis from cup specialists to championship challengers.. A CUP final is taking place today which, for one of football's most respected ambassadors, will mean more than those at Wembley and Celtic Park put together. Denmark's captain, Michael Laudrup, will play the last club match of his illustrious career this afternoon when Ajax, his eighth club, take on PSV Eindhoven in Rotterdam. Laudrup will hang up his boots for good after leading Denmark into next month's World Cup finals, but after today's Dutch cup final, even though he will not be 34 until five days into France 98, one of the world's two most famous footballing brothers will bring his peripatetic lifestyle to an end as far as club football is concerned. "I wanted to go out at the top," said Laudrup, who came back from a spell in Japan to play his last season at Ajax under his former team-mate Morten Olsen.
The great entertainers, once the darlings of the nation, have become the not-so-great containers, notorious for scoring own goals, albeit of the metaphorical variety. Freddie Shepherd and Douglas Hall were presumed to be somewhere among the 27,000 Geordie throng yesterday, most likely watching through dark glasses. The St James' Park trophy cabinet may still be cobwebbed but Newcastle are pioneering a new art of tautological football advancement. The club that last won the championship in 1927 played in the Champions' League this season.