Reading the recent Mag article ‘it’s all your fault Dad’ got me thinking about who I can blame for my love of NUFC. I don’t know who it was, but it certainly wasn’t my Dad, who much preferred motor sports and didn’t show much interest in football.
My first memories of football are from primary school, where having found out Liam O’Brien lived 3 doors away from me I declared him as my favourite player in the whole world. Given his scoring against the mackems ability, not a bad call for someone who had no idea what he was talking about…..
I couldn’t play football to save my life. Still can’t. But watching people play it was brilliant. I can remember watching England play Germany in Italia 90, and being sent to bed at the end of 90 minutes. I’m still bitter about that…..
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Growing up in a non-football household was tough, as there was no chance of being taken to see my first match. I spent what felt like years harassing my Dad to take me to the match. By the time he accepted he was going to have to take me, we were in the Premier League, and tickets were like gold dust.
Christmas 1994, and I was promised that tickets would be found. Then we sold Andy Cole, and 12 year old me was devastated, but still desperately to go to a match.
Finally, one day in March, I came home from school to find three tickets for Manchester City in the fifth round of the FA Cup! My Dad and Grandad had queued forever at St James’ Park to get them. How things have changed!
After what seemed like the longest few days ever, 19 March 1995 finally rolled around. The day itself is a blur of excitement. Excitement in which I forgot to take my glasses with me, meaning my view from the back of the Gallowgate was somewhat restricted.
It didn’t matter though, the day was all about the noise, the passion and the excitement. I can still remember how green the pitch looked against the greys of the stands. The raw passion shown by the crowd, and what seemed to me to be constant noise – even if I didn’t understand the chants. We won 3-1, John Beresford scored, and Keith Gillespie got 2. Who needs Andy Cole anyway?
It was 20 years ago this week. I’m getting old….. What a shame anyone whose first game has been recently won’t be able to describe noise, passion or excitement as their overwhelming memory of the day. Their highlight is probably a hot dog at half-time.
Those twenty years have been a mixture of excitement, disappointment and frustration. Everyone knows the recent history of our club, but a few personal highlights are;
Shearer coming home in 1996
Barcelona 3-2 in 1997
Beating Sheffield Utd and Tottenham in FA Cup semi finals
Falling over when Bellamy scored the winner in Rotterdam in 2002
Watching NUFC take on Inter Milan in the San Siro in 2003
The run to the UEFA Cup semi final in 2004 (especially the quarter final second leg against PSV)
The emergence of Shola as the mackem slayer
Shearer breaking Milburn’s goal scoring record against Portsmouth in 2006
Winning 4-1 at sunderland
The scarves being waved at Shearer’s testimonial
Steven Taylor’s ‘Forest Gump’ celebration when he scored his first goal
The day Keegan came back in 2008
Spanking Villa 6-0 on our return to the Premier League in 2010
Falling down the steps in the Leazes when beating the mackems 5-1
Tiote’s equaliser against Arsenal and finally…
Winning a game at Old Trafford.
Sadly, there aren’t any real trophies to remember. I’m not going to count our Intertoto certificate or the Championship…..
I cancelled my season ticket at the end of the first 3 year deal, at the end of the 2010/11 season.
I felt it was obvious then that Mike Ashley had no ambition for the club, he was content to sell our best players and appoint a yes man as manager/coach. The last 3 1/2 seasons have done nothing to convince me I was wrong, and apart from derby games, it’s easy to get a ticket for any game I want to go to.
NUFC have provided a huge number of positive experiences for me, and I desperately hope that one day soon we can see the return of an ambitious football club. That won’t happen while Ashley is here and with the recently announced TV deal I can’t see him leaving.
20 years ago this week I was excited to go to my first match against Man City. This weekend we play Man City again.
Are you excited about it? I’m not.