We revisit May 14, 2000 - the last time Arsenal visited Newcastle United on the final day of the Premier League season.
The circumstances were the same - but so very different.
This weekend, the team will be stealing itself for one final strong performance, maintaining the excellent league run and giving everything for the three points that will guarantee Champions League football.
|Newcastle 4-2 Arsenal
Premier League, St. James' Park
Scorers: Speed 6, 59, Shearer 23, Griffin 63; Kanu 7, Malz 53
Arsenal: Manninger, Luzhny, Weston, Keown, Cole, Malz, Winterburn, Vernazza, Parlour, Suker, Kanu
Subs: Silvinho (for Parlour 46), McGovern (for Weston 67), Gray (for Kanu 71)
Subs not used: Black, Lukic
Thirteen years ago, the focus was still on European football, but this time on a match to be played just three days later, when the Gunners travelled to Copenhagen to play Galatasaray in the final of the UEFA Cup. Ultimately the game in the Parken Stadium ended in disappointment, a 0-0 draw after extra-time and a penalty shoot-out defeat, Patrick Vieira and Davor Suker missing spot-kicks.
By the time the Gunners travelled to St. James' Park, eight Premier League wins on the spin had hauled the Gunners up from fifth to an unassailable second place - Leeds finished third, Manchester United were runaway champions - and Champions League football was assured for a third consecutive season, though it would be the first at Highbury following two years at Wembley.
Wenger understandably rang the changes to play Newcastle with the Galatasaray game the undoubted priority, fielding arguably his most inexperienced team to play a league fixture in his 17 seasons at the Club.
The team that travelled to St James Park has consequently gone on to inspire quiz questions for the Arsenal anoraks, as a number of players all made their most noteworthy contributions to the team in this single fixture.
The match was also notable for Alan Shearer scoring his 300th goal for Newcastle - a 30 yard free-kick blasted into the top corner. It was a feel-good moment for the Geordies in an encouraging end to Bobby Robson’s first season at the helm, with his team finishing in 11th position - their campaign had begun disastrously with just one point earned from their first seven games, costing Ruud Gullit his job.
Talk before the game was all about whether Thierry Henry would play and score - for if he did, he would break records for goals scored in successive Premier League appearances (he had scored in seven games on the spin) and for goals scored in successive appearances for Arsenal (he’d scored in the previous 11 Gunners games he’d played in).
As it was the French striker wasn’t even in the 16-man squad that travelled to the North-East, along with the majority of those who were due to play in the match in Copenhagen later that week.
There was also controversy surrounding the fixture. Arsène Wenger had pleaded with the Premier League for the match to be played after the UEFA Cup final, with the result not affecting any other issues in the league, but the authorities insisted the final games of the season were played simultaneously.
It’s unlikely the league were impressed with the Gunners fielding what was described in the press at the time as a ‘reserve side’ but the manager felt fully vindicated with the trip to Copenhagen so soon after the final whistle.
Of the side that started at St. James' Park, only two went on to start in Copenhagen - Ray Parlour and Martin Keown - with Kanu and Davor Suker used from the bench in Denmark. So whatever happened to that callow team fielded by the Gunners, on what was a sweltering Sunday afternoon?
AFC Games 63+1 Clean Sheets 22
Second choice to David Seaman for four seasons having joined from AK Graz in the summer of 1997, the Austrian left Arsenal for Fiorentina in 2002 and has enjoyed a long career in Italy, where he also played for Torino, Bolognas, Brescia, Siena and most recently Juventus, with a spell in Spain at Espanyol 10 years ago for good measure. Left Juve last summer and is currently with Bundesliga outfit FC Augsburg.
Games 91+19 Goals 0
Ukraine international who was ending his first season with the Club, following a move from Dynamo Kiev. ‘The Horse’ struggled to dislodge veteran Lee Dixon from the right-back position and left for a season with Wolves in 2003 before becoming player manager of Venta in Latvia. Headed back to Dynamo Kiev in 2007 to join the coaching staff and was temporarily manager of them on two occasions before becoming the boss of Tavriya Simferopol who currently sit 10th in Ukraine’s top division.
Games 2+1 Goals 0
This was academy product Weston’s only appearance in the league for Arsenal - he also made one League Cup appearance earlier in the season and one the following campaign. The Welsh international centre half moved to Cardiff in November 2000 and played more than 200 games for them, followed by spells at Viking in Norway, Port Vale, Walsall and Dundee. Most recently he has enjoyed more exotic climes, playing for KR Reykjavik in Iceland and he is currently captain of Sabah in Malaysia.
Games 408+41 Goals 8
The legendary centre half proved his warrior-like qualities by playing 90 minutes against Newcastle and 120 against Galatasaray. Twice a Double winner with Arsenal, he was in his second spell with the Gunners, playing for Aston Villa and Everton in between. Left in 2004, following a testimonial against England, for brief spells with Leicester and Reading. Now a respected media pundit he also still works for the Club in various capacities, most recently visiting Jordan for the Arsenal Foundation. Martin’s son, Niall, is in Reading’s academy.
Games 218+10 Goals 9
The academy product’s first appearance in the English top flight. Made his debut as a substitute against Middlesbrough at the start of this season in the League Cup before heading to Crystal Palace on loan, playing 14 games and convincing the Arsenal hierarchy of his talent. A fixture for Arsenal over the next six seasons, the Double winner and 'Invincible' moved to Chelsea in the summer of 2006 and has continued to gather silverware and international caps - he has now played 101 times for his country.
Games 6+8 Goals 2
German midfielder who was completing his first season at Arsenal, this match witnessed one of only two league starts in Stefan’s two years at the Club and his only league goal - he also scored in the League Cup that season against Preston. Moved to Kaiserslautern in 2001 before drifting down the leagues in Germany, went on to coach hometown club Arminia Ludwigshafen and, until last year, FFC o8 Niederkirchen in the German second division. His son Kevin is one of Germany’s leading junior snooker players and hopes to play in the world championships one day.
Games 572+12 Goals 12
Another legendary defender, Nigel was in and out of the team in this, his final season as Silvinho emerged as first-choice left back and was pressed into a central midfield role on occasions, including this fixture at St James’ Park. Won three league titles, two FA Cups, a League Cup and a European Cup Winners' Cup following his move from Wimbledon in 1987. After a spell playing for West Ham, the England international was briefly Blackburn’s defensive coach under Paul Ince in 2008 and now works in the media - not least as a regular on the Arsenal Matchday Show.
Games 7+5 Goals 1
A cultured central midfielder who grew up on Highbury’s doorstep, this was one of just two league starts Vernazza made for the Club, though he did score for the Gunners at the start of the following season against Coventry. Moved to Watford for £350,000 in December 2000 and later played for Rotherham and Barnet before drifting into non-League football. Now ‘Head of Football’ at sports management company Platinum One where he works alongside former Gunners, Graham Barrett and Andrew Douglas.
Games 390+76 Goals 32
The indefatigable midfielder ran his heart out for the Arsenal first team for 12 years, having come through the youth ranks. The only Arsenal scorer in the penalty shoot-out against Galatasaray three days later, he left for Middlesbrough in 2004, with two league titles and three FA Cups to his name - scoring in the 2-0 win over Chelsea to claim the 2002 trophy. After three seasons at the Riverside he had a brief spell with Hull City before settling in to a career in the media and is a regular on Talksport.
Games 15+24 Goals 11
Was to come off the bench in injury time against Galatasaray and miss a penalty in the shoot-out, Suker’s first season at Arsenal, following his arrival from Real Madrid, yielded 11 goals but he struggled to dislodge Henry, Dennis Bergkamp or Kanu from the Arsenal starting XI. The Croatian international moved across London to West Ham after a solitary season and later played for 1860 Munich. Opened his own soccer school on retirement, has worked as an agent and is now president of the Croatian Football Association.
Games 104+94 Goals 44
Also came on as a substitute in Copenhagen when he saw two efforts superbly saved by Claudio Taffarel, Kanu had arrived from Inter Milan in January 1999 to replace Nicolas Anelka and the lavishly-skilled Nigerian produced some memorable moments for the Gunners. Moved to West Brom in the summer of 2004, then Portsmouth two years later and played for them until the end of last season. Has returned to Nigeria where he lives in Lagos.
Games 66+14 Goals 5
When chief scout Steve Rowley couldn’t sleep one night, he stumbled across Brazilian football highlights on TV and was immediately taken by the talented left back. Joined from Corinthians at the start of this season, dislodging Nigel Winterburn from the left-back berth and started in the Parken Stadium three days later. Left for Celta Vigo in 2001 and then won the Champions League with Barcelona in 2006, at Arsenal’s expense. Finished career with a brief spell at Manchester City. Has since coached in Brazil at Cruizero and Sport and is now assistant coach at Nautico.
Games 0+1 Goals 0
Dubliner who played for Republic of Ireland Under-21s while with the Arsenal academy, this was his only first-team appearance for Arsenal. Left the Gunners for Norwich that summer and after two seasons at Carrow Road he headed to Peterborough before moving back to Ireland to play for Longford Town and Bray Wanderers before drifting out of the game. Now living in County Wexford with his wife and two children, Brian was recently working as a taxi driver.
Games 0+1 Goals 0
Linked up superbly with Ashley Cole during his time with the reserves, the talented left winger was another to make his only first-team appearance for the Gunners in this match. The academy product left for Crystal Palace that summer, where he played 144 games. He also had successful spells at Birmingham, Coventry and Walsall before moving to Cyprus to play for his current club Nea Salamina in Famagusta under English coach - and friend of Arsène Wenger - Stephen Constantine.
Games 1+1 Goals 0
Clever attacking midfielder who made his debut against Middlesbrough in the League Cup that season and also played the final five minutes of Arsenal’s previous away league game, a 1-0 win over Everton. Black left for Crystal Palace with Julian Gray that summer and played 153 times for the Eagles before moving to Southend and later Stevenage, Barnet and Grays. Now playing for Debden Sports Club in the Essex Olympian League. Tommy’s brother Michael made a solitary appearance for Arsenal in the Champions League, against Panathinaikos the previous season.
Games 298 Clean Sheets 114
Joined Arsenal for a second spell in July 1996 but didn’t play a game for the Gunners for over four years, when he became the Champions League’s oldest ever player on appearing against Lazio on October 17, 2000. His final game for Arsenal a month later, against Derby, made him Arsenal’s oldest ever Premier League player (39 years, 336 days). The Gunners' keeper when we won the league championship in 1989, John has worked as a goalkeeping coach since retiring and was at Arsenal’s recent game against Everton.