It was all there again in black and white yesterday at St James' Park. Last week it was Newcastle's 5,000th home goal, Alan Shearer's 200th Premiership strike and the 100th goal of the season for Bobby Robson's side. Yesterday the Magpies drew their two millionth spectator of the season and Shearer broke new ground again with his first-ever goal for Newcastle against West Ham. They also bade farewell to St James' for the summer with an ultimately comfortable victory.
Bobby's black-and-white minstrels have become the statisticians' dream team, but they remain, first and foremost, the Premiership's entertainers. The Toon Army turned up in their barcode shirts, rather than anoraks, to celebrate their team's success in securing a place in the final qualifying round for next season's Champions' League. For 40 minutes, a goal down, they had little to cheer, but then Shearer equalised, and goals in the second half by Lomana Lua Lua and Laurent Robert had the punters partying until long after the final whistle.
Robson fielded his strongest line-up, saying he wanted "to pay homage to the players who have got us to fourth place this season and to the fans who have supported us". The only notable absentee was Craig Bellamy, "shut down for the season", as his manager put it, after aggravating his troublesome knee on his return to action in the second half at Blackburn on Tuesday. Still, at least the will- o'-the-wisp Welshman retired for the season with his club-record tally of offside offences, 48, fully intact.
It is a statistical fact that Robson's side are twice as potent in the second half of Premiership matches than they are in the first, with a scoring split of 24-46 before yesterday. Their tame start hardly came as a surprise, then, though the natives were getting a little restless by the time they mounted their first threatening attack, with 23 minutes on the clock. It came to nought, Gary Speed miskicking wide from six yards, but Newcastle were already chasing the game by then. …