Read this list once: cat, candlestick, bucket, roses, peppermint, flamingo, taxi, pyramid, hamburger, stained glass. Now turn away and see how many you can remember in a minute. How did you do? If you could recall more than four, you have an active, sharp short-term memory. But try again, this time by reading the list as part of a story.



I enjoyed one of the most thrilling football games of my life last week – and I wasn’t even at the ground. Newcastle United wereplaying Arsenal, and the Geordie team were facing their 30th trip to London without a single win.

So when a Newcastle evening newspaper contacted me to break the jinx, I knew it was a tough order. The enterprising editor had already hired an exorcist and two voodoo witchdoctors to combat the Curse of the Big City, without success.United’s directors had even flown a pair of stuffed magpies the club’s symbol – in a private jet to a London game … but Newcastle had lost. The old rhyme about Magpies promises, “One for sorrow, Two for joy” – but maybe it doesn’t count if they’re stuffed.

I knew my mission: it was Arsenal who had to be stuffed this time. No hard feelings for Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry: they are among the greatest players in the world. But this was a true challenge, and I love to be tested to the limits.

As the game kicked off, I headed for the gates at Highbury, where Arsenal play. I’d told the editor that positive thinking was the key, and I needed all the support of the fans both at the game and in their homes.

Great conviciction from the supporters can translate itself into great performances on the pitch. That’s why giant clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid believe that playing in front of their ferociously partisan fans is easily worth an extra goal on the scoresheet.

My manager video’d me as I rattled the gates and focused intense bursts of energy on Bobby Robson’s side. As I was chanting “Think positive, goal! Think positive, goal!” news blasted in of Newcastle’s equaliser.

I quickly predicted a winner from an Alan Shearer penalty – it’s all there on the video! And sure enough, the Magpies won a controversial penalty and smashed it home. A third goal in injury time wrapped it all up and powered Newcastle to the top of the Premiership.

The referee’s penalty decision has been much criticised, as minutes. I don’t claim to have brainwashed the official, Graham Poll … the Football Association might want to sue me!

But I do believe that no true football fan can ever doubt again the power of positive thinking.


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