By Jonathan Wilson
When Newcastle United FC last won a trophy, man was still a month from landing on the moon. There is arguably no other club on the planet where so many have so yearned for success for so long, which is why the second leg of their UEFA Cup semi-final against Olympique de Marseille has taken on such epic significance on Tyneside.
"It is a very, very big game," Portuguese midfield player Hugo Viana told uefa.com. He has only managed 27 starts in his two years at St James' Park, and there have been repeated rumours that he is looking to leave the club, but he is as determined as anyone to bring European glory to Newcastle for the first time since they won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969.
"I love Newcastle," he says. "It is a big club and a great city. The people here are very good to me. Even though I have not played very many games for the club they know who I am, and whenever they see me they come and speak to me and ask how I am and wish me good luck. It's a very friendly place, but they have not won anything for 35 years and that is a long, long time. It would be good for me if I could help them at last to win something."
Before they can realistically think about that, though, there is the matter of Marseille to be dealt with. There is no question that Newcastle had the better of the goalless first leg, but the liveliness of Didier Drogba, who hit the post at St James', and Newcastle's poor away record hardly inspire confidence for the return.
'A good chance'
"The problem for us this season has been the away form," Viana goes on. "At home we have been very good, but away we have drawn too many games. I don't know why that is, but it is something we have to put right. I think our chances against Marseille are 50-50. It will be difficult and Marseille are a good side, but we had a lot of chances at home and we probably should have won the game. Gary Speed and Shola Ameobi both had great opportunities and normally they would have scored. Marseille didn't get an away goal, so if we can score I think we still have a good chance."
With UEFA EURO 2004™ approaching, Viana has a more personal reason to seek success in the UEFA Cup. "Winning things is always good, but also it is a tournament that is seen throughout Europe, so if I play well in it I hope it will help me win a place in the squad for EURO 2004™," he said. "Not playing has been frustrating because as a footballer you want to play games. If I am picked for the full [national] team, that's great, but if I only play in the Under-21s, well that's OK as well, and I will play my hardest for them."
Over the moon
It has been a patchy season for both player and club, but the possibility of glory still exists for both. "We maybe have not played so well as last season but if we took fourth place in the league, won the UEFA Cup, and I could play in EURO 2004™ in my own country, then that would be a great year," said Viana. Were that to happen, then three and a half decades since man landed on the moon, Tyneside would be over it.
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