"Missed the results?" I ask.
"No, missed hittin' 'em with dirt."
The second half begins, and even an American can tell that the Uniteds have had a heart-to-heart in the 10-minute interval and have come to the realization that they will not beat the under-strength Coventrys by undisciplined attacking. Newcastle returns to its normal, cool style; a fullback dribbles the ball 15 or 20 yards, then slips a short pass to a halfback, who carries a few yards and passes to another halfback, who rips a curving, spinning drive around a defender and spang on the foot of a forward. The attack fails and begins again, fails once more and begins once more, and suddenly the Uniteds' left winger slams a sharply angled shot past the Coventry goaltender and the locals are ahead in a hail of screaming and shouting and clapping of hands above the head, not to mention a prolonged "sssshhhh" and a series of sharp jabs to my ribs.
Nine minutes later the ball rolls loose in front of the Coventry net and a black-and-white-shirted Newcastle player slams it in. This time the crowd makes even more noise, because now the game is salted safely away and, furthermore, the forward who has scored is Barrie Thomas, the same Barrie Thomas who "just canna get crackin'," the man they depended upon. Ah, there could be wondrous days ahead for the Uniteds, and one must doubly grieve for the poor man who died before the first goal was scored. Most likely he was one of those whose hopes and ambitions were displaced to the happenings on the Gallowgate ground, those whose childhoods were spent kicking around the little rubber balls given free with Robertson's marmalade, those whose lives were ordered like a biological clock into two parts of the week: six dreary days, and Saturday. Whoever the dead man was, he seemed to represent something clean and honest and decent as they carried him gently from the ground. He was the game, and the game is England.