England have avoided Newcastle's 'group of death' fate and can seize chance to end drought

A lifetime ago - well 58 years is a long time - the Chronicle handed me my remit upon returning to God's own country: I would cover my beloved Newcastle United and England at all their major tournaments. Paradise is a place like this.

It all started so spectacularly I was indeed in heaven. Within a couple of months England triumphantly claimed the 1966 World Cup amid great national rejoicing and by the 68-69 season United had embarked upon a glorious adventure which culminated in them raising the European Fairs Cup towards the blue June skies of Budapest. Ruddy wonderful.

I thought I would be recording spectacular success with club and country on a regular basis. Neither has won an argument since.

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However hope is rising once again like the sap in Spring. Every Geordie is dreaming of the glint of silverware under new owners who encourage optimism and back it with positive action while before the Iceland chiller England's spirits were soaring as they approached their European Championship opener this Sunday bolstered by a new crop of players bursting with va-va-voom. Now comes a need to file a defeat by friendly fire as no more than a blip.

Of course we have endured false dawns before when it comes to waving the flag of Saint George. I have reported on them all since the Charlton brothers brought home the bacon with bursting pride regularly replaced by crushing failure. From the days when Geordie superstars Peter Beardsley, Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne under the astute guidance of Bobby Robson glimpsed the promised land of the World Cup at Italia 90 only to fall from the top of the mountain. When the goal plundering of Alan Shearer was backed at various times by Entertainers such as Beardsley, Rob Lee, Steve Howey, Les Ferdinand, David Batty and Barry Venison wearing both the black and white stripes and Three Lions. And of course the Golden Generation of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney which became dulled not garlanded.

Now England go again with another two Magpies within their ranks - Kieran Trippier and Anthony Gordon. Will they get their medals first with England or with United?

Whereas Newcastle were cruelly presented with the Group of Death in the Champions League England have the Group of Promise - Serbia as an opener on Sunday followed by Denmark and then Slovenia. They must qualify for the real thing.

Despite starting the last friendly neither Mag is an automatic pick of course. Trippier is cover for Kyle Walker in his preferred right-back position and for long term injury doubt Luke Shaw on t'other flank while Gordon has to fend off players who can operate in wide positions like hot shot Cole Palmer, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Jarrod Bowen and Eberechi Eze.

Still Gordon's international stock is high while Tripps was handed the honour of skippering his country at Newcastle in their recent warm-up game. A nice reward for loyal national service.

Are we talking from Geordie reality or bias when it comes to our boys? We have to get real and be delighted both made the final cut. They can make a significant difference while neither is the nailed-on selection that was Shearer or Beardsley, Gazza, Waddle or Lee. We will also remember those were still days of all consuming belief that turned into a somewhat different reality.

Yet like all Geordies we live in the world of possibility. Maybe it can happen. Possibly it will. Potentially it can.

Perhaps defeat to Iceland produced niggling doubts if not quite taking a pin to a balloon but let me offer half a dozen words of hope: Bellingham, Rice, Kane, Walker, Saka, Foden. Young men of exceptional ability. They are backed by talent like Palmer and Gordon all of which led to big bears Grealish, Rashford and Maddison being left at home.

England really will have to hope attack is the best form of defence because their strength lies in forward thinking.

As part of the Euros package I am linking up with a Newcastle legend Malcolm Macdonald to provide the pre-match entertainment for fans at the Gateshead Leisure Centre. SuperMac is the ideal guy to share a mike - he famously set a Wembley record by scoring all five England goals when they beat Cyprus in a European Championship qualifier in April of 1975. I was there in the Press box just as I was at many an England game across the globe.

Speculation is what keeps debate going. So who will win a significant trophy first? England or Newcastle? We are mired in the sixties while we are desperate to fast forward to the 2020s. Please let success come to both . . . but especially to NUFC!