MICHAEL Chopra scores goals. It’s what he does.
He’s netted 117. And counting.
But the striker will forever be known, on Tyneside at least, for one goal, scored in the colours of his beloved Newcastle United.
Chopra will never be allowed to forget it. Not that he ever would.
The few seconds after his introduction off the bench at the Stadium of Light on April 17, 2006 are indelibly etched in Chopra’s memory.
With Newcastle 1-0 down to Sunderland, he replaced Lee Clark, a player who, like Chopra later in his career, crossed the Tyne-Wear divide.
Thirteen seconds later, United were level. The rest is history.
“We were getting beat 1-0, and I’ve come off the bench pretty much straight away and I’ve managed to equalise,” Chopra said.
“You can’t really put into words what it meant to me being a boy from Newcastle.
“I’d been to a lot of derby games with my dad, and to be involved on the pitch was amazing.
“Titus (Bramble) has taken the free kick, and it’s bounced in the box. I think Stevie Caldwell thought the goalkeeper (Kelvin Davis) would come out and claim it.
“As he’s come out to claim it, I’ve thought ‘I’ve got to challenge him’.
“Anything can happen. I’ve challenged him, and it’s pretty much fallen for me.
“I just had to poke it into an empty net. You can tell from my celebration – I couldn’t really believe it. It meant so much to me. The adrenalin and the situation took over.
“I just went crazy for about 20 seconds.”
A minute later, Alan Shearer would score what would turn out to be his last goal for Newcastle from the penalty spot before leaving the field injured. Charles N’Zogbia added a third, and Albert Luque, to coin a terrace song, “wrapped it up”.
“It was disappointing for Alan to be his last game and goal in the Premier League,” added Chopra, now at Championship club Blackpool.
“But for me to have played in a derby win at Sunderland ... it’s something nobody can ever take away from me.
“As a boy growing up, you can only dream about things like that, especially playing on the same pitch as Alan Shearer. It meant so much to me at the time.
“When I scored, I just thought ‘we’re on top now – we’re going to go on and win it’.
“We went 2-1 up pretty much straight away.”
And he would love to run out at St James’s Park again.
“What we’ve got is great team spirit, and all of the players have got that never-say-die attitude,” he said. “We work hard for each other. I believe we’ve got a good chance of getting promoted, and I’d love to play at St James’s Park again.”