Tue, Oct


Laid-back Newcastle star Shaka Hislop last night admitted that the title jitters have hit the Toon Army.

The St James' Park fortress has become a cauldron of chewed nails as Premiership nerves sweep Tyneside.

And the cool Caribbean keeper confessed: "You can feel the nervousness coming from the crowd as games wear on. I'm tempted to say that, as pros, we can become immune to it.

"But we are only human. You can't escape the pressure. It is all that everyone talks about in the town.

"They have not had a title for such a long time and are desperate to win it. Sometimes they maybe think we are not as desperate but I can tell them we are."

Kevin Keegan's side have one home game left - and if the Championship rests on their last-day showdown with Spurs, the cardiac unit of the local hospital will be on red alert.

The Toon Army used to torment visiting teams ... now they torture themselves.

The cab driver taking me to the game with Southampton stopped twice in a five-minute journey to go to the toilet.

"It's the nerves, guv. I'm off to the match later," he explained. Inside the ground, two vicars - in full dog-collar gear - clasped their hands in prayer as Newcastle clung on to their 1-0 lead. And Hislop is the man in the firing line. One slip from the Shaka and the title could go west.

He went on: "This is all new to me. I was involved in the play-offs with Reading but it was nothing like this. And I certainly didn't experience anything like it back home.

"As a keeper you are close the crowd and can feel their anxiety. But you've got to try and block it out.

"Now I've got the biggest week of my career coming up. Three games in six days which will decide whether we are champions or not. It will be nerve-wracking for everyone involved. But if you want to be at the top of your sport, you have to cope with it."

Hislop is confident that Newcastle can somehow stay calm and clinch that elusive title.

But he also knows that one man could stand in their way _his Manchester United rival.

He said: "Not conceding goals is crucial at this stage and Peter Schmeichel is the best keeper in the world.

"He has done more than anyone to get Manchester United where they are this season."