Newcastle must ruin Liverpool’s title dream to finally get revenge for 1996 heartbreak, says Toon legend Keith Gillespie

KEITH GILLESPIE hopes Newcastle will shatter Liverpool’s title dreams – and finally get revenge for breaking Geordie’s hearts in 1996.

Anything less than a win for the Reds at St James’ Park today would likely leave their Premier League dreams – and the Quadruple – in tatters.

Liverpool's 1996 match-winner Stan Collymore shows the joy and Newcastle's Phillipe Albert the desperation


Liverpool’s 1996 match-winner Stan Collymore shows the joy and Newcastle’s Phillipe Albert the desperation
Keith Gillespie says 1996 thriller still hurts to watch


Keith Gillespie says 1996 thriller still hurts to watchPhoto credit: Rex

It was 26 years ago when the tables turned and Liverpool ruined the Magpies’ own battle for glory in THAT 4-3 classic at Anfield.

Kevin Keegan’s entertainers had already lost a 12-point lead in April but a win would have put them level on points with Manchester United with a game in hand.

The scars remain today for the toon players involved – and Gillespie would love nothing more than to see Eddie Howe’s would-be kingmakers give the Merseysiders a taste of their own medicine.

The Northern Irishman told SunSport: “A win would absolutely make it that little bit sweeter.


“The defeat at Anfield had a huge impact on the league – and it’s great that Newcastle will now have a say in the title race.

“It’s really difficult for all of us to look back on this game because of the position we’ve put ourselves in.

“It keeps popping up on social media and you can’t help it. . . and then those late goals come!

“It looked like we could win the Premier League so a win on Saturday would be incredible – and many others from this side will think the same.”

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The events of that epic clash are well known, with Newcastle going 2-1 from a deficit and then leading 3-2 before Stan Collymore equalized and bagged a dramatic injury-time winner.

Anfield erupted when boss Keegan slumped over a billboard while the Toon Army – untitled since 1927 – was crushed.

Gillespie, 47, was an important part of that side but was benched on his return from injury to accommodate Faustino Asprilla, who signed in January.

The former flying winger added: “I sat right behind Kevin and it’s the best game I’ve ever seen. But it absolutely sucked and was so hard to take.

“Everyone was devastated in the dressing room afterwards. People had their heads in their hands and there was silence, but Kevin was brilliant.

“He said, ‘If you play like this every week, you’ll be fine. I’m just happy to be the manager of a Newcastle side that played like this.

“That immediately lifted the players and reminded us that we were playing in a game that no one will ever forget.”

The Mags rallied three days later with a win over QPR, but the killer blow came courtesy of Graham Fenton with two goals in a 2-1 loss at Blackburn.

Kenny Dalglish replaced Keegan that summer and Newcastle were – almost – back in the title hunt when they returned to Anfield the following March.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is aiming for title glory, just like Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan 26 years ago


Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is aiming for title glory, just like Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan 26 years agoCredit: PA

But they were, Gillespie says, “diabolical” in the first half, collapsing 3-0 down before staging an incredible rally after the break.

Gillespie pulled one back, Asprilla’s stunner made it 3-2 with three minutes left and Warren Barton equalized seconds later.

However, there was another thorn in the story in a somber reprise of the previous season when Robbie Fowler won it in death.

Apart from a three-year fling with the big boys under Sir Bobby Robson in the early noughties, there has been little to shout about on Tyneside since.

But now, under manager Howe and invited Saudi owners, something is stirring again.

Howe has taken them from 19th to ninth and said yesterday he hopes resurgent Newcastle and Liverpool will fight for title deciders again in the future.

And Gillespie said: “There’s no reason why they can’t be in a couple of years.

“We don’t want to rush but I really believe they can make a big leap forward next season.

“Just over tenth would be realistic but you can look higher – top six is ​​a real possibility.

What Eddie (Howe) has done is amazing and we know they have the money to step up even further.

Keith Gillespie

“Then you look at the Champions League places before you fight for the league.

“What Eddie has accomplished is amazing and we know they have the money to continue to strengthen themselves. The transformation was way beyond what anyone expected, but I totally disagree with people who say they bought security.

They spent money on Bruno Guimaraes but he was a bit unknown to everyone, Kieran Trippier last played in February and Matt Targett is on loan.

“They had money to spend but the players that were already there – like Joelinton, Jonjo Shelvey, Fabian Schar – were a revelation.”

Only Liverpool have a better record than Newcastle in 2022 so can the Magpies inflict Jurgen Klopp’s side with a Premier League defeat since December?

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A draw could also prove fatal for the Reds and Gillespie insisted: “Newcastle could easily take a point.

“At the New Year everyone would have noted that as an absolute certainty for Liverpool.

“But now, why not? St. James’ Park is always a difficult place.

“The place will bounce. The 12.30 kick-off is also an advantage after the game against Villarreal.

“So this is a huge opportunity for the players to show how far they’ve come – and have a say in the title race.” Newcastle must ruin Liverpool’s title dream to finally get revenge for 1996 heartbreak, says Toon legend Keith Gillespie


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