When the moment came, when drama engulfed a region, Alan Pardew ran.
An explosion of energy took place in the body of Newcastle’s manager as Papiss Cissé, three minutes into injury time, weaved late magic, and meant he had to move, quickly. So he ran. He ran with the wild abandon of a happy child, arms outstretched, screaming in relief, over an advertising hoarding and into the arms of supporters who were delirious. Not happy, delirious. He was engulfed, and he did not move.
Further down the line, in a corner of St James’ Park, Cissé also ran, jumped a barrier and hugged a man, and then another man, and then more men. Moussa Sissoko, from Le Blanc-Mesnil on the outskirts of Paris, raced to join him, as did Adam Campbell, from North Shields. Sylvain Marveaux lay prone in the penalty area with cramp. Yohan Cabaye limped to join the celebrations that were everywhere you looked after whacking his foot in a tackle. In the stands, energy crackled like lightning, a roar from the well of the stomachs of 51,000 Geordies, creating a cacophony of noise.
This is what relief looks and sounds like. Chaos reigned around the Newcastle dugout. Clenched fists. Roars. Hugs that squeeze the life out of you. High fives. Kisses. Probably. That was from the staff. Pardew was dragged from the crowd by a steward, like a molested rock star, tucking his shirt into his pants. Two more stewards were ushering Sissoko, Campbell and Cissé back from the hearts of supporters. Cissé stopped when he made the pitch and looked to the stands in wonderment, at what, who knows? His goal, which was excellent? The fact it was the third home game running he has won in injury time? Or at the ferocity of the reaction?
The wound of relegation has not healed in these parts. They still remember the agony of that fateful day at Villa Park in 2009. Damien Duff was the player who deflected an effort into his own goal. He is still jeered whenever he returns to St James’ Park, not for the goal, for the perception he never understood what a football club means to its people. His misplaced pass, in the 93rd minute, as Fulham rocked on the ropes, gasping for air, went to Cabaye. From 25 yards out, Cabaye shot low, it found Cissé, who flicked the ball into the air and in the blink of an eye crashed a right footed shot into the corner of Mark Schwarzer’s goal. Ninety two minutes and 37 seconds of forgettable football were forgotten then.
“I don’t think I can put into words the importance of that goal,” said Pardew. “I couldn’t hear the roar of the crowd, someone’s arm was battering my ears at the time. I knew how much it meant though because our fans are intelligent. They know how important that was, how important for this week in front of us now. The goal changed the mood. I’ve been in situations where a goal makes a season. The spirit of the group was very evident today.”
The opening 45 minutes were awful. Then, over the public address system came this: “Chelsea 0, Sunderland 1”. It was met by a collective groan. Newcastle rallied but the drama was saved for the 93rd minute. To those in black and white, it was worth the wait.
Bookings: Newcastle Sissoko, Cisse. Fulham Senderos, Riise.
Man of the match Cisse.
Match rating 7/10.
Possession: Newcastle 50%. Fulham 50%.
Attempts on target: Newcastle 5. Fulham 2.
Referee K Friend (Leicestershire).