Andy Carroll has had no shortage of criticism over the years – some of it deserved – but George Ramshaw refuses to hear a bad word about the Newcastle United striker.

A fortnight before football’s coronavirus-induced shutdown, Newcastle’s assistant kit man returned to work at the club’s training ground with a spring in his step. Thanks to a whip-round of Steve Bruce’s first-teamers, initiated by Carroll, Ramshaw had a new hip.

After raising around £15,000 to fund his surgery at a private hospital on Tyneside, the players were delighted to see their old friend back. Ramshaw is coy about his age – “let’s just say I’m a pensioner,” is how he puts it – but he is believed to be in his 70s.

“George the kit man has been here since the year dot,” said Newcastle’s manager. “The players paid for his hip operation. It was a lovely touch. Footballers get much maligned these days but they sent him off to get it done privately. I think it might have been Andy Carroll’s initial idea. Andy, of course, has known George for a long time.

“He’d only just come back to work in the past couple of weeks and he’s all fixed and healed. It seems to have been a big success. We were all thrilled to see him back because George is a lovely, lovely man. He’s as good as gold now. Before we closed down he was jumping around the place; I thought he’d be playing soon.”

There was a time when he might have given Carroll and company a run for their money. Ramshaw was a leading amateur player, who starred for the immensely successful non-league Whitley Bay side of the 1950s and 1960s. During the 1960s he also represented the Great Britain amateur side, variously touring and playing in Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda and Iceland and the former Rhodesia.

After hanging up his boots he moved into coaching and became assistant manager at Gateshead before joining Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle in 1995 as assistant kit manager, looking after the reserves.

“I’m eternally grateful to the players,” said Ramshaw from his home in Hebburn. “I was in a lot of pain with my hip and it would have been months before I could get an operation through the NHS given how busy they are.

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“The players said: ‘Can we do something?’ to our club doctor, Paul Catterson, and he put it in motion with the Nuffield. Within a fortnight, I was in and had it done. All the lads came together and put in. Me and my wife are both very grateful.

“I’m feeling great now. I was off for about four months but I’m back full-time now – or at least when the training ground reopens. It’s champion.”

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