WHERE THERE’S HOPE: Our man’s ball-boy bother with Everton’s Earl Barrett

Craig Hope
Craig Hope

IF only Twitter had existed in 1995 then I would have shot to child fame.

Teenager Charlie Morgan this week found himself at the centre of a media storm – and Eden Hazard’s boot – when the Swansea City ball boy did his best to waste time during the closing stages of the League Cup semi-final with Chelsea.

Hazard was sent off and Morgan was hailed an innocent hero in some parts (mainly South Wales) but the general consensus was that his was a cunning, pre-meditated act (his Twitter account confirmed as much).

Either way, his social-media account soon had more than 80,000 followers and esteemed columnists up and down the land have found space to either extol or deride the actions of the 17-year-old.

I’ve mentioned him as well.

Anyway, back to my original statement.

Wednesday, February 1, 1995.

Newcastle United versus Everton at St James’ Park.

A certain SportMail reporter was ball boy that night, positioned behind the goal in the Leazes End.

It was a particular fractious match and referee David Elleray had already booked several players.

Among them was England international Earl Barrett.

It was early in the second half, the game was goalless and the home side – who I supported as a boy – were becoming increasingly frustrated.

I seized my chance.

With the ball loose behind the goal having been pushed to safety by Neville Southall, the Everton goalkeeper, I duly retrieved and rolled a pass to Barrett.

In turn he played a first-time ball back in my direction.

I had two choices – control and return the ball to the playing area, or let it skid away and towards the crowd.

I chose the latter.

Mr Elleray was watching.

Barrett, he deemed, was time-wasting.

Second yellow – off he went.

With The Toffees riled by this apparent injustice, Barry Horne was dismissed within 60 seconds.

Newcastle ran out easy 2-0 winners.

I was a hero.

But then, having milked my 45 minutes of fame, I drifted into obscurity – a typically sad tale of those who burn brightly at such a young age.

That is until now.

Morgan’s antics have reignited this tale.

I’ve had requests from the national press to feature my story having relayed it on Twitter in the wake of Wednesday’s incident.

But the one thing which differs between myself and young Morgan is, according to my friends and colleagues at least, that his was indeed a pre-meditated act.

Mine, on the other hand, was simply a case of miscontrol!