Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Intriguing Encounter on Banks of Danube; in the Fourth Part of His Look Back at a Long and Remarkable Career, JOHN GIBSON Recalls His Visit to Budapest - City of Revolt, Repression ... and Glory for Newcastle United

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Intriguing Encounter on Banks of Danube; in the Fourth Part of His Look Back at a Long and Remarkable Career, JOHN GIBSON Recalls His Visit to Budapest - City of Revolt, Repression ... and Glory for Newcastle United

Article excerpt

Byline: JOHN GIBSON

WE WERE supposed to be partying in celebration of one of the most auspicious days in Newcastle United's global existence.

The Magpies were on the River Danube preparing for their European Fairs Cup final second leg against crack Hungarians Ujpest Dozsa.

The tulip-shaped silver pot was but an hour and a half from landing in Geordie hands and the celebrations had already begun.

We had been invited to the British Embassy for drinks and nibbles, the official recognition of the success of a northerly city in the competitive arena of sport.

However, this was significantly different and, innocents abroad, we were about to be plunged into a world of espionage and intrigue where James Bond may well be secreted just round the next murky corner.

This was Budapest, behind the Iron Curtain and capital of a country crushed by Russian tanks. It was 1969, just 13 years after the brutal overthrow of the Hungarian Uprising.

The Cold War still existed, not like today. The metaphorical Iron Curtain wasn't dismantled until 1989 and several buildings we passed in Budapest still carried bullet scars from the bloody battle which claimed the lives of 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops.

This was far from our thoughts, however, as we enjoyed the light-hearted chatter in the Embassy and then, as our time had obviously elapsed, the signal came that we ought to head for the exit.

Casually, a couple of the girls and fellas asked if we would like to go on and have an impromptu party at their place.

Of course we would. The night was young and so were we.

It was mainly hacks who agreed. The players weren't involved. They were locked up in their hotel set amid the beautiful parkland of Margaret Island slap bang in the middle of the Danube. They had serious business to do.

We piled into a couple of official cars and sped through the Budapest streets where no doubt fighting had in 1956 been full-frontal. …

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