Gary Sweet's Newcastle boardroom notes

Seven days ago, we traveled to the South Coast full of optimism. After competitive games against last season’s treble-winners Arsenal and Manchester City at Kenilworth Road, we anticipated another tough fixture against a team whose form had pushed them clear of the relegation zone.


What would then happen in the second half immediately overshadowed our hope of picking up a point or three, and made the game of football seem irrelevant. I do not wish to over-exaggerate the genuine, life threatening concern we all had for Tom in those moments and our heartfelt thanks go to everyone involved, particularly our own medical staff, in the rapid response and the treatment administered which, most likely, saved Tom’s life.

As we mentioned in a statement published on Thursday, Tom has been discharged from hospital following a successful procedure that saw him have an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator device fitted to prevent a repeat of Saturday’s incident. He has now started a lengthy period of rehabilitation from the comfort of his own home and our wishes – like those we received from the football family around the world – are with Tom and his family.

Our friends at Bournemouth were wonderful in the circumstances. Away from the incident itself, the levels of care and respect were magnificent. The genuine concern shown towards ourselves from the tunnel to the press box and the boardroom, as well as to our own supporters around the ground, was heart-warming and will not be forgotten.

It’s so heartening to see the compassion from every corner of the game at this time, which will help Tom begin his rehabilitation and will assist our lads, knowing they are supported. At whatever level, we have always prided ourselves on the duty of care and attention we give our players and staff with our primary focus on the fitness, conditioning and strength of our squad but much more investment has recently been put into our physical recovery.

We also recognise the importance of supporting the mental wellbeing of our players and staff involved so, with the brilliant supporting work of Sporting Chance, we have given those affected an opportunity to open up about the incident.

As you may imagine, as a Club and as individuals, we have reflected deeply on the events of last week and, as a Club we are immensely proud of the processes our good people follow in order to make our environments as supportive as possible, and which is why we never compromise on the level of capability of our specialist consultants.

Occasionally, we are reminded that there are more important things in life than three points. However, despite the circumstances, our players and staff have reacted professionally and respectfully in their conduct this week as they returned to training, without their captain, in order to prepare for this afternoon’s game. Their attitude has been incredible, to a man.

Our job now is to make sure that we can harness our unity and make ourselves and Tom proud by being as competitive as we possibly can in today’s Premier League encounter with Newcastle United.

We welcome everybody associated with our visitors today and wish them all a safe journey back to Tyneside. It’s hard to believe this will be the first time we have hosted the Magpies since that epic FA Cup replay under the lights here in 1994, when goals from John Hartson and Scott Oakes earned us a famous win.

More recently, for our last meeting, we travelled to St James’ Park as a League Two club for another FA Cup tie in which we gave our Premier League opponents a scare, especially in the second half.

Among their travelling party today is Graeme Jones, who I wish to extend a warm return to Kenilworth Road. Graeme’s career has demonstrated what a top-class coach he is, and Eddie Howe and his team are lucky to have a man of his talents on the coaching staff. His efforts during his short spell with us, in our first season back in the second tier, were not without real difficulties, but he remained incredibly professional and remains incredibly respected by us in the boardroom. Welcome back, Graeme!

Today, we’ll be entertained by the band from the Salvation Army, whose first visit for four years will remind us of the wonderful service they offer the vulnerable, so please give generously to their collection.

As we approach the time of year where our attention turns to family and loved ones. Please check on those close to you and embrace your time together.

Meanwhile, today, make yourselves heard, loud and proud for our captain! Merry Christmas one and all.


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