Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Blair football 'myth' cleared up

Tony Blair kicks football in the Downing Street garden
The story was repeated many times

Tony Blair has cleared up an 11-year debate about his support for Newcastle United after a newspaper told him they had misreported him in 1997.

Mr Blair is widely reported to have said he watched Jackie Milburn play - even though the ex-PM was 4 and living in Australia when Milburn retired.

The Sunday Sun told him its reporter misreported him in a match report - "and the rumour grew from there".

Mr Blair said he had got lots of "stick" about it over the years.

Mr Blair has been mocked over the years about his apparent claim to have watched Jackie Milburn play at St James Park in the late 1950s - and not just because of his age and the fact he was living down under.

The reports also claimed Mr Blair had said that he had sat in the Gallowgate End of the club's stadium even though there were no seats in that part of the ground at that time.

But the Sunday Sun, the region's Sunday newspaper, has now told the former PM in an interview with him that it had misreported a BBC interview in which Mr Blair had talked about his support for Newcastle.

What a lot of trouble I had over it
Tony Blair

The newspaper said that one of its sports reporters had been told by a friend about Mr Blair's interview on BBC radio, but that the reporter's friend had misheard what the former PM had actually said.

The story was included in a match report and Mr Blair was told, "the rumour grew from there".

Mr Blair, a Newcastle fan for many years, jokingly said he wanted to launch an "official complaint": "It just shows how these things happen."

Explaining what had happened, Mr Blair added: "People asked two completely separate questions. One, when I used to go and watch Newcastle. Then someone asked me who was the greatest ever footballer so I said Jackie Milburn.

"The two elided together. What a lot of trouble I had over it."

Talking about Newcastle's recent history, Mr Blair suggested Alan Shearer could challenge Jackie Milburn for the status of the club's greatest-ever footballer.

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