Newton on scoring starts and spot-kick success
feature Wed 16 May 2018
Ahead of the Legends Game, we speak to Eddie Newton about his end-of-season debut, feeling confident and superb support…
The end of a football season can be a beginning for some players, young ones especially with debut appearances given down the years to promising hopefuls who had made progress during the preceding months.
One such player was Eddie Newton, now a loan technical coach at Chelsea and one of our former stars who will be present at the Legends Game on Friday evening. He made his Blues bow in early May, 26 years ago, on the final day of the final top-flight season before the birth of the Premier League.
It was away at Everton, a 2-1 defeat, but it was the 20-year-old Newton who scored our goal and though on the face of it, it looks frustrating to be given a taste of the big time and have to wait the whole summer for more, he remembers that debut seemed like a natural step.
‘For me it was an end to what I thought was a strong season for me,’ Newton recalls. ‘I went to Cardiff on loan for the last three months of the season, we got to the Welsh Cup final and we had a good push in the league as well. At one time we were really competing to get promoted, which was good for me to have that feeling, and then Cardiff asked to buy me which Chelsea refused.
‘Chelsea said come back for the last match of the season. I was a substitute and I did not think I was going to get on. I thought it was a token gesture but it was exciting anyway, and then Ken Monkou was sent off and I had to come on. It was just my luck that on my debut I had to come on at left-back when we were down to 10 men, but a chance is a chance and you have to take it, no matter how or where it comes.’
Take it Newton certainly did and his 214-appearance Chelsea career began with the first of his 10 goals.
‘I certainly did not imagine I would score when I came on, especially when you have Peter Beardsley running at you every two minutes with the full-back overlapping as well! The first 10 minutes I could not breathe because I was under so much pressure. Then I got my second wind luckily and going up the pitch and scoring was an amazing feeling. The best part was Frank Sinclair running 30 to 40 yards to jump on my back to celebrate with me, because we had come through together and it was great to feel his genuine happiness for me, it was like he had scored.’
The goals continued to flow for Newton. Near the start of the next season he netted at Sheffield Wednesday, on a day when his strike was overshadowed by a solo effort from Graham Stuart, and in an away win at Aston Villa. There was a Stamford Bridge goal against Southampton and just before that, his famous double at White Hart Lane when injuries meant he was asked to be an emergency centre-forward. His goals won the game.
‘With that scoring spree I just remember thinking this is easy, I don’t know what everyone is talking about,’ he smiles. ‘I was playing wide right of midfield and it was working out alright, and then Glenn Hoddle came in and changed it all!’
That was because Newton was reinvented as a defensive midfielder, and a very good one too, and although he went on to score in the 1997 FA Cup final, and play an important part in our winning of the League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cups in 1998, a feat that will be celebrated at this week’s Legends game, it was in the months prior to his unfortunate leg break in 1996, when an England call-up in the build-up to Euro ’96 seemed a likelihood, that he was at the peak of his powers.
Team-mate at the time and future manager Ruud Gullit compared him favourably with Serie A’s best exponents of the holding midfielder’s art after one momentous FA Cup replay win at Newcastle, a match in which Gullit and Newton were among the stars.
Kevin Keegan’s side were flying at the time and top of the table when their last-minute equaliser at Stamford Bridge took the tie up to St James’ Park. Few outside of Chelsea gave us a chance.
‘We were all really calm, there was a belief that we were better than Newcastle,’ remembers Newton, ‘and when the game started I remember we were all on top, the movement and the passing, we were all over them, but we just could not finish the game off.’
‘It was 2-2 so it went to extra-time and penalties. I have never been afraid to take a penalty. Glenn Hoddle asked who wants to take one and Ruud went and sat down. I went to him, “You are Ruud Gullit, what are you sitting down for, you have been in European championships and all that?” and he said, “I don’t take penalties!”
‘I wanted to take one but I don’t like going first, so I said I will go five. Wisey told me that is the pressure penalty, and I said that not to me it isn’t and that his, the first one, was. Wisey argued that if he missed, there were four others who can score and get him out of jail whereas I didn’t have that. I told him I was not bothered, it is what I want to do.
‘He took his well and I took mine well, and it is in the history books that we won. I really enjoyed that game, it is one of those when you felt stronger than the opposition, physically, technically and tactically.
‘The other thing I remember from that night were the Chelsea fans. The fans when we went away were amazing. I remember being at Old Trafford and hearing them for 90 minutes non-stop in the corner, taking over the whole of Old Trafford with their voices. QPR away, Leeds away, Newcastle away, as a player you were proud, you knew the Chelsea fans were going to be there mob-handed.
‘You felt you owed them, and I had to clap them at the end of games. Sometimes that felt a little bit awkward when we lost but the support was great, I loved it.’