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Features

Fairs Cup heroes enjoy anniversary celebrations in Hungary

Written by Mark Hannen

Over the weekend, Newcastle United legends Bob Moncur, Alan Foggon, Keith Dyson and John Craggs visited Hungary, as part of Újpest FC's 50-year anniversary celebrations of their Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final clash against the Magpies. Although the Magyars were beaten 6-2 on aggregate, it remains their only major European final.

The lads arrived in Budapest on Friday evening and Alan Foggon picks up the story:

"The flight from London with British Airways was slightly delayed due to a technical problem but we were only 45 minutes late arriving into Budapest and our hosts from Újpest FC were waiting to whisk us away to our hotel, the Mercure City Centre, which was located only a short walk from the River Danube.

"En route we passed Fenercvaros' new ground which looked like a smaller version of Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena. We found a nice place to eat in the bustling city streets (which incidentally had Liverpool v Huddersfield on the telly) and even though it was past 10pm local time, the city was alive, with locals and tourists everywhere. It was great to be back in Budapest and the four of us were really looking forward to the 50-year celebrations on Saturday afternoon.

"We weren't being picked up until 12 noon on Saturday to be taken to the stadium, so after a hearty buffet breakfast we took the opportunity to get out for a morning stroll along the banks of the Danube. It was brilliant because when we were here 50 years ago we didn't get to see the sights. We flew in, trained, stayed in our hotel, played the game and then left the following morning - with the trophy of course!

"Mark (Hannen), who was with us and organising everything for us, had a friend in Budapest, Laszlo Nemeth, who was a basketball coach, and he showed us all the sights and told us what all the various buildings were. The architecture was a sight to behold and it really is a very beautiful place."

The afternoon diary is taken up by John Craggs:

"Újpest had planned a VIP reception at the stadium with a number of their former players before the match with Debrecen so they picked us up at the hotel just after 12. It was about a 20 minute drive out of the city into the Újpest district which was much more industrial than the city centre we'd left behind. We also drove past Margaret Island which was where we stayed back in 1969.

"Anyway we got to the ground and it immediately brought the memories flooding back. Of course it had changed a bit but it was definitely the ground where we lifted the cup! We went down the tunnel and onto the pitch at which point their lads joined us for a few pictures. Sadly they didn’t speak that much English so we couldn't reminisce much, but it was really nice to meet them.

"Zambo, the Újpest press officer, was hand though and his bilingual skills proved very helpful. The changing rooms were in the same place and the pitch a little ropey but it was magic! We then went upstairs for the formal lunch and exchanged more pleasantries with Bob making a speech on behalf of the club and giving the Újpest officials some nice Newcastle United gifts to mark the occasion. The main gift we gave them was an engraved silver tray which aptly had the words, 'Fifty Years of Friendship' on, which was very well received."

And so to the game. Keith Dyson, who wasn't in the stadium back in 1969, continues:

"I'd been injured and as it happens I was in Amsterdam that week with the youth team squad, so this was my first visit to the stadium. That said I watched all the highlights on YouTube a couple of days ago just to familiarise myself again with the game and the surroundings, so I was up to speed!

"I could tell the lads from both sides were really enjoying being here 50 years on and from my perspective, I was just delighted to be here too. The home fans massed behind the goal to our left, the end where all five goals were scored in the final, were a noisy bunch and I'm guessing there must have been around 200 Debrecen fans housed behind the goal at the opposite end. Both sets of fans waved huge flags and to be honest the noise was pretty incessant, drums and all.

"It was goalless at half time but that's when the last part of the celebrations were to take part. We were asked to go down to the tunnel just before the half time whistle as when the Újpest and Debrecen players left the pitch, it was our cue to walk out on to the pitch to be greeted by the fans in the stadium. Following the PA announcement the applause from all four sides of the ground was tremendous and it really made us feel greatly appreciated. There were around ten of their team with us, which was a good turn out.

"A football suddenly appeared and an impromptu kick-about in the centre circle ensued. We were all a bit older but none of us had lost our touch! And I guess their lads were keen to show they could still play a bit. We were also joined by Ferenc Bene, son of their legendary player Ferenc, and he quipped 'so you are the players who beat my father'. He looked towards the goalmouth and said that's where all the goals were scored to which Bob countered, 'Yes but luckily three of them were ours!' Meanwhile Alan added, reminiscing on his goal which won the tie on the night for United, that 'this kick around is great but there's no way on earth I could sprint down half the length of the pitch now as I did back then.' Still great memories for him though, ones that will stay with him forever.

"The game continued shortly after and we were delighted to see our hosts open the scoring midway through the half. Sadly though Debrecen grabbed an equaliser late on, definitely against the run of play, and it was a case of missed chances proving costly. It finished 1-1 which meant both teams were still level on points with three games left; the season would still no doubt have plenty of twists and turns left in it.

"We met the president after the game and conveyed our thanks and appreciation to him too. He was a youngish chap, actually, with an interesting background, more in business than football I think: born in Antwerp, living in Barcelona, but with business interests in Budapest.

"That was about it then. We returned to the city centre just in time to catch the last 30 minutes of the Brighton game in a local sports bar and were of course very disappointed to have missed our goal but see theirs! Never mind, we're all used to the ups and downs of Newcastle United - that's just part and parcel of this great football club."

A meal and a few drinks finished the evening off and the next morning, straight after breakfast, it was off home after what everybody agreed was a brilliant 40 or so hours in Budapest. Captain Bob Moncur rounds things off:

"I had an immensely enjoyable career but this achievement, winning the Fairs Cup and lifting the trophy as captain, was undoubtedly my finest moment in a black and white shirt. And that's why being able to return to the scene of that triumph 50 years on was so extra special, not just for me but for Alan, Keith and John too.

"I must say a massive thank you to the management and players of Újpest for not only inviting us across to Budapest, but for their magnificent hospitality and genuinely warm welcome. They were the perfect hosts at all times and considering we beat them, I consider them to be true sportsmen in that regard.

"For me personally, meeting their captain Jonas Gorocs was a real pleasure, as was chatting, via Zambo, to goalkeeper Antal Szentimihalyi. I didn't mention the three goals I scored past him over the two legs, that would have been disrespectful to such a fine man. They told me about the years of success they enjoyed back in the 1960s and 1970s and how they were so bitterly disappointed to lose the final when they knew they had such a fine team back then. Leading 2-0 at half time, Jonas said, was perfect for us, even though we'd missed a decent chance to make it three just before the interval. We thought we could come out again in the second half and the goals would come if we were patient but he said: 'You killed us right after the break, Bob, and you never looked back after that!'

"Budapest is a really lovely city and I'm definitely planning to come back at some point in the near future with my wife Camille just to enjoy its beauty. We'll maybe sail down the Danube and visit the numerous cultural attractions that are dotted around everywhere, and maybe, like Mark, I'll even climb Gellert Hill to see the daunting Freedom Statue that guards and overlooks the city."

"Winning the Fairs Cup was my finest moment in a black and white shirt and that's why being able to return to the scene of that triumph 50 years on was so special, not just for me but for Alan, Keith and John too."

Bob Moncur

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