Malcolm Macdonald: ‘Without Tueart, the monkey might not have been on Newcastle’s back for so long’ | Newcastle United

Malcolm Macdonald will never forget the extraordinary contrast between pain and perfection. To this day, the memory leaves him torn between anguish and astonishment. On 28 February 1976 Dennis Tueart left Macdonald and his Newcastle teammates devastated after scoring the most exquisite winning goal imaginable in front of 100,000 fans at Wembley as Manchester City won the League Cup Final by 2–1.

“It was the most perfect overhead kick, the timing of the jump was perfect,” recalls Macdonald. “He went over the ball, threw it down and the blow was lethal. It’s probably the best bicycle kick I’ve ever seen and Dennis had to choose to score against us.

Coincidentally, Tueart was a childhood Newcastle fan who grew up in Heaton, one of the city’s suburbs. “At the final whistle, Dennis wore the Newcastle shirt and, when he tried to go up to receive the champion’s medal, a steward told him to leave, saying: ‘It’s not your turn yet’”, says Macdonald. “He was trying to explain: ‘I changed my shirt.’ But they didn’t let him pass.

Tueart later collapsed in Newcastle’s dressing room. “We were all saying, ‘You lucky bastard,’” recalls Macdonald of his fellow England striker. “We were so confident that I still have a strong feeling that without Dennis Tueart we would have won the cup and the monkey might not have been on this club’s back for so long.”

Macdonald, 73, was born in Fulham and spent much of his childhood in London, eventually playing for Arsenal, but for the past three decades he has lived in the north east where, thanks to invariably candid reviews and an excellent voice delivery, he has had a career of hit on local radio.

With his resolute delivery of home counties unaltered by even the slightest Tyneside accent, Macdonald may still sound like an outsider, but a man who has proved almost as shrewd behind a microphone as he once was in front of goal agrees that he is” an adopted Geordie” nowadays.

He has been a cult hero at St James’ Park since the 1970s when, scoring 138 goals in 258 appearances for Newcastle, ‘Supermac’ routinely bewitched locals and staggered opposing defenders.

Dennis Tueart scores Manchester City’s winning goal in the 1976 League Cup Final with a spectacular overhead kick. Photography: Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy

At that time, Newcastle were known as a decent cup team – they were also part of the team that lost the FA Cup Final in 1974 – but much of Macdonald’s media work involved analyzing the failings of various Tyneside teams that many at times seemed synonymous with pitch failure and soap opera-style drama.

Now, though, he feels the club’s first trophy since Bob Moncur won the Fairs Cup in 1969 is close at hand, 16 months after the Saudi Arabia-led takeover of unpopular former owner Mike Ashley in October 2021. Newcastle face Manchester United in their first League Cup final since 1976.

“In recent years, some of Newcastle’s football has been terrible, but since the takeover and appointment of Eddie Howe as manager, the turnaround has been remarkable,” he says. “Everyone involved should be congratulated and none more so than Eddie.

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“In 1976 we reached Wembley not thanks to our manager, Gordon Lee, but getting to this final has everything to do with Eddie’s management. Where Gordon Lee, who could be a jerk, wanted dressing rooms and creative tension, Eddie is a true team man who works to get the best out of everyone, looks out for everyone and has created a wonderful team spirit. I really think his team can beat Manchester United.”

Macdonald’s caveat focuses on Nick Pope’s suspension following the England goalkeeper’s red card for manipulation outside the penalty area during Newcastle’s 2-0 Premier League defeat at home to Liverpool on Saturday. “The sending off and defensive performance gave all of Tyneside somersaults,” he says. “I was quite shocked, I don’t think even Eddie Howe quite understood what happened. He was extraordinarily out of character. That’s why we are all so horrified.”

Pope’s absence and the ineligibility of his deputy Martin Dubravka mean that Loris Karius looks set to start, nearly five years since his Champions League final loss to Liverpool against Real Madrid and two years after the German played his last official match.

“Marcus Rashford will be rubbing his hands with glee, but let’s hope it’s a redemptive story for Karius,” says Macdonald. “He has the experience and ability to consign 2018 firmly to the past.”

As a former number 9, Macdonald would select Callum Wilson ahead of £65m Swedish striker Alexander Isak, but only if the English striker’s suspected hamstrings were robust enough to allow him to use his dramatic change of pace to “make the sudden turns and sprints that turn him into such a hazard”.

Macdonald suspects his patience might have run out had he been playing alongside Allan Saint-Maximin. The independent Frenchman is adored on Tyneside but fails to score or create the number of goals his unorthodox talent demands.

“Saint-Maximin doesn’t cross early enough,” he says. “I’m sure I would have fought him a lot in the locker room at times and maybe even on the field too! When you catch a winger who comes to cross and then turns back and hits another man and then another man, the center forward ends up making runs for nothing”.

In 1976, at Wembley, Macdonald’s incisive cross preceded Alan Gowling’s goal, which canceled out Peter Barnes’ first goal. Then, in the 46th minute, Tueart scored. “Suddenly all of your players looked six inches taller,” says Macdonald. “But this time I really think Newcastle can win. It would be great to get that monkey off our backs.

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