As has been announced, we come to a close of the festive period to the sad news that Pavel Srníček has passed on. 

He suffered a cardiac arrest when out running on 20th December. On arriving at hospital, reports suggest that he was placed into an induced coma from which he did not come around. He passed on 29th December. 

Pavel’s life ended at far too young an age, 47. His departure will be a huge loss to his family as well as stirring huge waves of emotion among those of us fortunate enough to have experienced his presence.

Pavel of course had a life before he came to Newcastle, more of a life too after he left. It says much about him that his book reflects his time in the North East “Pavel is a Geordie”. 

Before coming to Newcastle as a 22 year old, Pavel had already achieved. He was the number 1 in his own country playing for Banik Ostrava. He was involved in the squads that achieved a 2nd place in the league as well as winning the Czechoslovak Cup as the club experienced financial difficulties. 

Pavel signed for Newcastle for the fee of £350,000, a considerable sum for a 2nd tier outfit. The manager, Jim Smith, was only here for a couple of months more before leaving. 

He was soon to discover that he was out of the Ostrava frying pan and into the Newcastle fire. Ardiles, who gave him his debut, took over at an underfunded Newcastle United. The squad ended up as young and inexperienced, albeit playing some beautiful football. In some games, his purchase price was greater than that of the rest of the team. 

The rest of his career familiarised him with the roller coaster than Newcastle football has always been. Initially competing with Irish international, Tommy Wright and veteran, John `Budgie’ Burridge, it took a little time to make the team. 

Keegan arrived as the club were on the verge of relegation. Srníček forced his way into the first team, next competing with Mike Hooper, later Shaka Hislop. Whether in the team or on the bench, Pavel cut a distinctive figure with his voluminous hair and energy. 

For those of us who followed the club away in those darker years, there are some memorable moments, not least ventures to the South West in blizzard conditions and an iconic moment at Upton Park when Charlton were ground sharing with West Ham. 

In the opening minutes, Pavel was pacing the edge of his area during a rare attack. From the right hand side of the field emerged a supporter heading straight for the Newcastle keeper. Pavel was clearly distracted. 

The supporter turned out to be a Newcastle fan, like us in a wrong part of the ground. Putting his hands up, apparently to defend himself, Pavel was embraced and kissed on the cheek before the supporter ran to the other end of the ground to join the bulk of the away support. 

During those Keegan years, Srníček was one of those players who experienced some of those immense highs. Whilst one result in particular will be remembered for the fantastic goal by Philippe Albert in a 5-0 win against ManU, Pavel was the man who kept a clean sheet. 

Eventually, Pavel gave way to another keeper who went on to be a legend, Shay Given who was signed by Dalglish. Nevertheless, Pavel made it to 149 league appearances, those being bumped up to 150 and 180 in all competitions, when he finally came back in an emergency to cover for the man who replaced him. 

It was not just at St James’ Park that Pavel made his mark. Having immersed himself in the community, he was always prepared to take time to speak with supporters and encourage local football, particularly at junior level. 

In between his two spells at St James’, his career took him to Italy, Portugal, his homeland and back to the UK. His spell with Sheffield Wednesday gave him a ringside seat for another historic moment in Newcastle United history, watching from the bench for Sir Bobby’s first game in charge. 

After retiring as a player, Pavel excelled in coaching, something else which allowed him to maintain his connections with the North East. Famous for greeting countless groups of Geordies on holiday or stag sessions in Prague, he also maintained a regular insightful column in the local press. 

Pavel’s charismatic warmth and charm shone like a beacon. It is a tribute to the man that he will always be remembered for his personality. It should not be forgotten that his role in the club was critical in taking the Magpies from the worst ever league finish to the highest since 1927 and into the Champions League. 

Whilst sympathies go to Pavel’s family, we are grateful for the times that they were able to share him with us. In the years to come, we hope that it gives some comfort and pride that for ever, Pavel is a Geordie legend.