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Magpies class of 2013 backed to end trophy wait
WHEN players of the past turned up at St James' Park earlier this week for the club's Foundation dinner, John Beresford's name was on one of the two teams inducted in to the Hall of Fame.
He spent six years on Tyneside after moving from Portsmouth in 1992, forming an integral part of the team during Kevin Keegan's era. After helping the Magpies win the Football League in 1992 and securing third spot in the Premier League the following year, Beresford was part of the team which got back-to-back runner-up finishes in 1996 and 1997.
Such achievements - and the attacking style of the teams Keegan sent out - earned The Entertainers tag, but for all the excitement and satisfaction during that period there was something missing: A major trophy.
No matter what happened in those memorable years under Keegan, it remains the case to this day that Newcastle have not been able to win anything substantial since 1969. Domestically that run stretches even further back to 1955.
Beresford - speaking while former team-mates Peter Beardsley, Rob Lee, Pavel Srnicek, Faustino Asprilla and Alan Shearer walked around him - still finds it hard to believe such a fact remains.
But he thinks this year's group of Newcastle players could go one better. A Premier League crown remains fanciful, but Alan Pardew's team will head in to a quarter-final tie with Benfica in the Europa League with optimism high of success on Thursday week.
"You know what? This team's got a chance," said Beresford. "I want one team to do it because it would just take the monkey off the back from the North-East.
"This place has been desperate for success for so long. I think we've created the monster a bit when we were there because we got so close that it always gets referred to.
"This club would go further in the long run if it could just get over that first hurdle and win something. I look at Bradford City getting to the League Cup final this year, which I thought was absolutely phenomenal, but I was thinking 'How the hell have we not done something like that?' Swansea as well. You look at it, and sometimes things just fall - you get the right draw or the right team at the right time or whatever.
"I just think you sometimes need a little bit of luck. I look at them in the Europa League this time, and they've got the team, but they will need that little bit of luck along the way."
If Pardew can become the first Newcastle boss since Joe Harvey to lead the club to a trophy, Beresford and all of the club's former players will be overjoyed. When, or if, the drought does come to an end, though, there will also be a sense that it could have been them.
"Of course there will be. I look back all of the time - it's the only thing we talk about when we meet up and have a few drinks," said the 46-year-old.
"I still knock around with Rob (Lee) and we look back and go, 'It was that result' or 'It was that moment that cost us'. For the ability we had in the team and what we had in terms of the team environment, then yes, we should have won something.
"It's something I'll carry with me to my dying day, but I try not to look at the downside of it and try to look at the positive side instead. When I joined, I never expected for it to go the way it did."
One thing Beresford is impressed with at St James' Park these days is the plan to achieve progress. Rather than invest heavily in individuals regardless of their age, under Mike Ashley the drive is to develop a younger and less expensive pool of players.
He said: "Kevin said when I signed, 'Come and join something special'. We were in the Championship at the time, and he said, 'We're going to get promoted this year, we're going to do this, that and the other and we're going to be in Europe'. I was thinking, 'Yeah, all right'. But he sold the dream and then created. In hindsight, maybe everything just happened ridiculously quickly.
"The players didn't have the experience and the manager didn't have the experience, but all of a sudden within four years, we were competing with Manchester United. It probably just happened a little bit too quick. And scoring more goals than them was the way we did things.
"We were playing away at Arsenal once, and I remember going in to Kevin and saying, 'Do you not think we should do this to tighten things up a bit?' He just looked and me and said, 'Do you want to play?' So I kept my mouth shut. He was never going to change."
As part of such exciting teams and times under Keegan, Beresford felt every player had to know what role he had - particularly when he had David Ginola ahead of him on the left.
He said: "David was fantastic. At home, I wouldn't really get a sweat on or get under threat because the opposition was so frightened of Ginola that they would double up. When we were away from home though, sometimes it went the other way.
"People used to think that we didn't get on, but we were so close. I remember him doing an article in L'Equipe where he was describing players, and he said there were two types of players - butterflies and working ants. I knew which one I was!"
n John Beresford was back at St James' Park this week as a guest at Newcastle United Foundation's inaugural Hall of Fame dinner.