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Jackie Milburn meets Supermac.

A salutary tale for today's pampered superstars

When Supermac arrived on Tyneside in summer 1971, where he would wear the famous Number 9 black and white shirt, he followed in the footsteps some heavyweight legends like Hughie Gallacher, Albert Stubbins, Jackie MIlburn , Len White and The Mighty Wyn Davies.

Malcolm MacDonald signalled from the outset, in his signature bravado manner, that the prospect of living up to those legends was not going to be a problem for him!

He rolled into St. James' Park car park, to face the press, in a white Rolls Royce, this at a time when most Newcastle fans had rarely ever seen a Rolls Royce in real life.

But our then record signing was soon to be brought right back to earth by Jackie Milburn, one of the legends he was following.

Malcolm recalls, "After signing for Newcastle United, the great Jackie Milburn met me.

"Come on, son. I'm taking you house-hunting!"

Nearing Bedlington he turned left at the Ashington sign and explained we were now heading for his home town , and couple of miles short of there his arm suddenly went across the front of my face as he pointed out of the passenger window .

"Come on now, you soft southerner," challenged Jackie, "What's that?", as my eyes followed his horizontal finger to an Eiffel Tower type metal structure with a wheel on the top. "I think, Jackie, it's called a pit-wheel, but I can't be sure", I stammered.

"Maybe you're not so soft after all, But that's not any old pit-wheel is that. That's the pit-wheel under which I worked as a lad after leaving school, a mile underground all week, never seeing the sunshine.

"But God was good to me, he gave me a rare ability to play football and, like you, pace to burn. Newcastle United offered me a professional contract and I never looked back. But all my schoolmates and family are still there, a mile underground, earning the crust to feed their families.

"It's a hard, thankless and unforgiving way to earn a living. So when the weekend comes you'll see them streaming from underground, washing the black from their bodies, and getting on the buses heading for Newcastle, where they'll have a pint before making their way to their beloved St James Park.

"An hour before kick-off they'll be singing their hearts out on the terraces to set the atmosphere for when their team enters from the tunnel.

"This is your only opportunity to repay them for their loyalty and support, for they will never let you down. So from that first whistle you have to to set your sights on getting to the penalty area as often as you can. You have to keep taking on defenders, no matter how hard they try to stop you. You must get beyond them and rain as many shots as you can on goal.

"Make the goalkeeper work like he's never worked before. Be relentless in raining those shots down. Those goals will start to come, and the more you score the greedier you must become, because those that don't see the daylight until Saturday expect nothing less. There you see, it's easy lad, isn't it?"

"Well, no Jackie, it isn't easy, and it never has been, not by a long stretch of the imagination. But it does serve as a great lesson and inspiration. Despite the fact the mines have all but disappeared in the North East, and the football conveyor-belt of talent from those very pits has long ended, the indomitable spirit hasn't, and never will."

The above was the foreword by Malcolm MacDonald in friend of the channel, Paul Joannou's book "When Football Was Football"

It's a lesson that many of the current crop of pampered prima-donnas would do well to heed!

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