Remember when the Haymarket Bus Station was pretty much where Marks and Spencers is now? The Farmer’s Rest on the corner?
Then you’ll remember the little shops around the side and that one of them was the Newcastle United supporters club shop.
Before the Premier League, superstores and the black and white second skin (can you see through them, or do you just fall over stuff?), there was this little shop (independent of the club), barely more than a prefabricated hut.
This was many a fan’s introduction to the world of Newcastle United branding. There were more magpie, club crest and player badges in the window that I have ever seen since.
For my 12th birthday, I asked for a grey Newcastle United sweatshirt with black pinstripes. It looked a bit like the away kit, but in sweatshop form. I loved it.
Every now and then I took it off and it was a race against time for my mam to wash it and dry it, in time for another day of 80s pinstripe cool. My mam and dad also got me a Newcastle United cap, a fashion accessory very much of the time, and which made most fans look a little like Brian Johnson, but in my case, more Compo and Clegg.
My brother presented me with a new scarf with the NUFC-in-a-circle badge. I still have the scarf. I occasionally allow my children to look at it. One day, they may touch it.
Unfortunately, my granny’s dog chewed the cap a bit. It looked a bit funny on my head after that, and I was always slightly worried in case dried dog slava gave you dog nits. I don’t have the cap anymore.
And I wasn’t averse to a bit of knitwear. My mam made me a black and white stripey bobble hat, thirty five years before trendy folk started wearing them when it wasn’t even cold.
Even though my tea-cosy with a bobble made me look like a little kid, I liked that. It suggested the blind devotion and attempt at alleviating suffering which is the lot of most football fans. It was certainly our lot at the time.
My granny knitted me a scarf. I say a scarf… you know how some people can spell the start of banana but don’t know when to stop? The epic knitwear created by my granny was like that. “It just needs another black square,” she would say. “And another white one.” This went on for about half a season, until I had a scarf that could also be used to effect mountain rescues. I still have that, too. I’m terrified of washing it in case it either disintegrates, or gets even longer.
I asked some of the folk at work about prized Newcastle United paraphernalia. One of them simply replied, “Nowt. I’m bloody sick.”
Mind, that was before we dared to dream that Rafa might stay. But one of the others, who was in a slightly better mood, told me about a huge Newcastle United wall clock in the shape of a watch that his mam and dad must have got him for a birthday, years ago. He only took it down a week ago, possibly because huge Newcastle United wall clocks in the shape of a watch take up quite a bit of wall.
Now, I know loads of people who won’t buy things at the club shop anymore as they feel totally taken for granted. And I won’t even buy my running trainers from the running shops ‘he’ owns. But those old badges, scarves and huge Newcastle United wall clocks in the shape of a watch, are reminders of people and happy times, as well as the club.
And every time a little kid appears from the shop clutching a bag of Championship stuff, we’re only thirty years from them telling their own kids to, “Be careful with that, I’ve had it thirty years!”
So in some ways, it doesn’t matter that we’re in the Championship. Love is love, and pin stripes are back. With a bit of luck, Rafa will be, too.
Now that we don’t even know who we’re playing next, what is your prized NUFC possession?