Torn between Rivaldo and Roll With It – The night Newcastle rocked

The night of Wednesday 17th September 1997 is probably not a very significant date in the eyes of most.

For many it will just have been another night in front of the telly, but in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, something very special happened on this evening.

That night, the stars seemed to align, as Newcastle simultaneously played host to both the biggest football team in the world, as well as the biggest band in the world. As Newcastle United squared off against the mighty Barcelona in the Champions League at a packed St James’ Park, just five minutes down St James’ Boulevard, Oasis were rocking the newly built Newcastle arena.

For my 17-year-old self, it truly was a night of divided loyalties.

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You see, I am now 41 years old, and tragically I have been a season ticket holder at Newcastle since I was 12. However, during this late-nineties period, it truly was a magical time to be a Newcastle fan. Kevin Keegan and John Hall had brought the club back from oblivion and within a few years had come within a hairs breadth of winning the league in 1995 (something that still pains this writer to this day).

By this point, Keegan had gone and Dalglish was now in charge, but the club were still riding high on the crest of a wave. After a second successive runners-up finish, the club found itself in the unchartered waters of the Champions League for the very first time. An adventure crowned with the visit of European giants, Barcelona.

When Luis Figo, Rivaldo and Luis Enrique rocked up on Tyneside, not many gave us a chance – but as we all know by now, Tino Asprilla had other ideas. The Columbian hit man wrote himself into Geordie folklore, scoring a memorable hattrick as Newcastle ran out 3-2 winners.

Down the road at the arena, the second half of Newcastle’s monster night was unfolding.

By the autumn of 1997, Oasis were firmly at the top of the tree and were quite possibly the biggest band in the world. The new purpose built Newcastle Arena, only opened just two years prior, was about to play host to its biggest gig yet.

By this point, Oasis had just come off the back of the unparalleled success of Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory, played Maine Road, Knebworth, Loch Lomond, and were by now onto their monster Be Here Now tour.

In the mid-nineties Oasis were everything to me. Definitely Maybe, and then Morning Glory, had completely altered my life. All of sudden I had found something that resonated with my teenage self and had given me something that I just didn’t have before – a passion. Never before (and never since!) has a band grabbed me by the bollocks the way Oasis did when I was 15.

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I’d finally found something that inspired me, that had given me something to believe in and something that had lit a fire inside of me.

When I realised that the two moments that I had waited my whole life for were falling on the same night, naturally I was devastated.

Which should I do?!?…….Do I go to St. James’ to see Newcastle face some of the greatest players in the world for the first time in my lifetime? Or do I go to the arena and finally see the band that had completely changed my life, up close and personal??

I was stuck between the largest of rocks, and the hardest of hard places. After much deliberation, I had made my decision…………………………I chose Oasis.

I had been a season ticket holder for a good few years by this point and I had been to many, many matches. Surely the chance to see Newcastle in another great European night would come again!? (Yeah, yeah, I know) The chance to see my musical heroes for the first, and possibly only time, was just too much to turn down.

I’d already missed the two biggest gigs of my generation in Knebworth and Loch Lomond; I wasn’t going to miss the one in my own city. After having my teenage world rocked by Oasis, I felt duty bound to make my pilgrimage to the arena that night.

As it was, going to the gig and seeing Oasis for the first time was amazing. I got to belt out Supersonic along with 15,000 others, whilst and a black and white clad Liam Gallagher even kept us all abreast of the football score – not that anyone believed him at the time of course!

At the time I was happy with my decision, but all these years later, do regret my choice? Well, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that didn’t.

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I think at the time I had started to become accustomed to success as St James’. After the whirlwind of the Keegan years, I’d naively began to take it for granted. When I see clips now of Tino’s hattrick, I do feel a slight pang of disappointment that I wasn’t there the night my boys put Rivaldo and Figo to the sword. And, as it has since transpired, that night was not the only opportunity I would get to see Oasis.

Hindsight, as they say, is indeed 20:20.

Given a second chance, and knowing what I know now, I may well have opted for St James’ Park rather than the arena that night in September. The thing is, I think sometimes in life, it’s just all about the timing – and at that time in my life, I guess Oasis just meant that little bit more to me.

Now of course I wasn’t the only one who had to choose between their football team and their band that night. If you were there, then regardless of your decision, the night of the 17th September 1997 will undoubtedly live long in the memory. In Newcastle, it truly was a night that will live forever.

The Author

Jonathan Anderson

A wonderful man. Hero of the North. Devoted Son, Fiancé, Uncle, Brother. Lover of all sports but a Football man first and foremost. A long suffering Newcastle United fan due to some heinous offence crime committed in a former life. Master of Maps by trade, I write as a way of venting the overflow of thoughts that fill my head on a daily basis; if I don’t let ‘em out my head may explode. My views are my own and usually born of some kind of football based frustration; if you dig it and you agree, awesome, high five! If not, well, let’s not lose any sleep, chances are we’ll never meet anyway.

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