The night Mirandina and Steve Bruce went head to head at Carrow Road

The away end was filled with fans wearing sombrero hats. Yet there wasn’t a Mexican in Newcastle United’s starting XI.

Friday, 16th August 2019, 12:45 pm

There was, however, a Brazilian in the team which faced Norwich City at Carrow Road just over 22 years ago.

And his name was Mirandinha.

He was a first. The striker was the first Brazilian to play in English football. And his first game, ironically, pitted him again Steve Bruce, then a defender at Norwich.

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What stood out for John Anderson, also in the United team that night, was the atmosphere generated by the travelling Geordies, who had journeyed to Norfolk in in numbers for Mirandinha’s debut.

The game ended 1-1 – Peter Jackson scored for Newcastle – and Mirandinha, signed from Palmeiras would have to wait another 11 days for his first goal.

“It was a night game,” said Anderson, now a summariser for BBC Radio Newcastle.

“For some reason, all the Newcastle fans had sombrero hats on. It seems strange.

Joelinton. (Pic: Stephen Dobson)

“I remember we got a free-kick inside the centre circle and he shot from there. Everybody went ‘what we have we here?’. It was the best part of 45 yards. It ballooned over the top.

“But the atmosphere was unbelievable – it was unreal. He did all right, it was 1-1. It wasn’t the greatest game in the world.”

Mirandinha left the pitch unscathed after going up against Bruce, now head coach at United.

“He (Bruce) played that night,” said Anderson. “I don’t recall any real coming together.”

There will be a Brazilian striker in Bruce’s starting XI at Carrow Road tomorrow. Joelinton, signed from Hoffenheim this summer in a deal worth up to £40million, is looking for his first Premier League goal.

There was excitement on Tyneside at Joelinton’s club-record arrival last month, though it didn’t match the buzz in 1987 when Mirandinha arrived at St James’s Park for £575,000.

“There was a lot of excitement – he was the first Brazilian,” said Anderson. “Nobody really knew what to expect. He settled in well. The excitement was there. He was a good fella, no doubt.

“He had to get used to passing the ball. He liked the ball on his own. He shot from distance – from anywhere.

“His English wasn’t great, and communication was difficult. To be fair to him, he picked up the language pretty quickly, but he couldn’t get used to the weather.

“He didn’t do bad at all (in his first season). Him and Gazza (Paul Gascoigne) had a good understanding. He settled in quite well. The lads took to him and he took to the lads.”

Joelinton, meanwhile, scored in pre-season fixtures against Hibernian and Saint-Etienne after joining the club in a deal which had been proposed long before Rafa Benitez’s summer departure.

The 22-year-old, signed to replace former loanee Salomon Rondon, impressed with his strength, pace and movement as well as his goals.

“He did all right,” said Anderson. “He scored two goals pre-season. Against Hibs, he was excellent. I thought he played really well. He’ll get better. He’s got good movement.”

Newly-promoted Norwich were beaten 4-1 by Liverpool last weekend.

Anderson, however, saw enough from Daniel Farke’s side at Anfield to convince him that United, beaten 1-0 by Arsenal in their first game, will be tested at Carrow Road.

“I watched them against Liverpool,” said Anderson. “They got beat 4-1, but I thought they didn’t look bad going forward. They’ve got pace going forward.

“I don’t think it will be easy just because they’re a promoted side. We’ve got to be positive. I thought we had a go at Arsenal, especially first-half. I we show that kind of commitment in getting players forward, I don’t see why we can’t get a result.”

Mirandinha – who went on Brazilian TV a few months ago to ask for help with his debts after falling on hard times in his homeland – spoke last week about Joelinton, who has been handed the No9 jersey.

“I’m glad the club has turned its attention towards Brazilians,” said Mirandhina, now 60. “Joelinton has an opportunity to consecrate himself at a giant club. With those supporters, any player is motivated.”

Many Brazilians followed in Mirandinha’s footsteps and played in England. Newcastle have had Kenedy, Claudio Cacapa and Fumaca at St James’s Park.

Mirandinha, for his part, is proud that he was the first.

“I’m very proud of that,” said Mirandinha. “It was a mark in the history of both Brazilian football and English football. My name is always quoted by journalists and fans. I also came to help when Juninho went to Middlesbrough. But I look at it with humility. Each person has their own time. That was my opportunity.”

Mirandinha – who scored 13 goals in his first season in England and returned to Palmeiras in 1989 following the club’s relegation – is fondly remembered on Tyneside.

“To this day I’m remembered by the people of Newcastle,” Mirandinha told The Guardian. “I visited the city in 2016 for a Brazilian restaurant’s opening night. The club staff knew I was coming and took me to a home match against Manchester City where I received a tribute on the pitch at half time.

“People didn’t talk about that in Brazil. They treat me like a real idol there, with affection. I get letters with pictures and autograph requests from English fans.”