'A moment where a young man’s life is celebrated' - Newcastle United hero Cheick Tiote remembered on what would have been his 35th birthday
It’s a moment that becomes more and more precious as each day passes.
Saturday, February 5, 2011, Newcastle United are on the cusp of making Premier League history at home to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal.
Alan Pardew’s side, after being 4-0 down at half-time, have pulled the scoreline back to 4-3.
Three minutes plus added time remains.
Joey Barton, the scorer of two penalties, delivers a free-kick from wide right.
The ball is cleared by the head of Gael Clichy but only as far as Cheick Tiote, 25 yards from goal.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The Ivorian seals it. 4-4. His left-footed volley rocketed past the helpless Wojciech Szczesny.
Boom-boom, Cheick-Cheick, the room.
Those inside St James’s Park that day had never witnessed an afternoon like it is and probably never will again.
Newcastle, to this day, remain the only Premier League team to overcome a four-goal deficit.
Tiote tragically passed away on Monday, June 5, 2017, aged just 30.
Today would have been his 35th birthday.
His 87th-minute equaliser against the Gunners was, perhaps in some kind of way, quite fittingly his only goal during his seven years on Tyneside.
It ensures Tiote’s memory rightfully lives on, not just on Tyneside.
Something which often falls under the radar when remembering this game is the mood before anyone had even stepped into the stadium.
The mood around the city was flat and the St James’s Park crowd had barely finished their pre-match pints by the time Theo Walcott scored the opener for Arsenal after 44 seconds.
The Gunners’ second and third soon followed inside the opening 10 minutes before a fourth from Robin Van Persie prompted a number of empty seats to emerge.
The exodus continued into the break and for the best part of 20 minutes, those who fled home early either on the Metro or bus probably felt content with their decision.
But the tide changed on Barton’s 68th-minute penalty. For an indescribable reason, the mood had lifted. Bums were back on the edge of their seats. Something was happening.
Leon Best 4-2. Barton 4-3. The anticipation was building, yet no one could have envisaged such an iconic strike from such an unlikely goalscorer.
And a little over a decade later. Here we are, still talking about that moment and shedding a tear that Tiote is no longer with us.
As extraordinary as the comeback was and still is, it has essentially become a moment where a young man’s life is celebrated.
That is, not just in Newcastle but nationwide as well. The footballing community was quite simply left devastated by his passing.
Even after 156 appearances in a black and white shirt where he gave blood, sweat and tears, Tiote’s career was virtually defined by that one nanosecond of brilliance.
Because as far as late and spectacular goals go, you’ll find it virtually impossible to find one that conjures up all the emotions that Tiote’s does now.
That is what makes it so very, very special and shines the light of Tiote in such fitting fashion.
Rest in peace Cheick Tiote, forever in our hearts.