Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, but the ending to the season, winning the division in the final minute, must have heightened the relief at promotion into unbridled leaping about for the vast majority of us. It would take a hard heart to temper that final minute with a ‘Premier League shopping list or bust’ caveat.

And in an intriguing parallel, wouldn’t it have been great if that final minute was the beginning of a story about your first ever match? If that game was your first, then gerrin! You are clearly very good luck, and it’ll be a gripping story to tell in years to come.

Rewind a few years to her first match, and the eldest asked me, as we shuffled and funnelled away from St James Park, if it had been a good one. It was, but it was not her first Newcastle match.

“Well, sweetheart, let’s just look at the day. You’ve just watched a Quarter Final of the Olympics, Brazil v Honduras, and you’ve seen Oscar and Neymar fall down a canny bit. There were five goals, loads of Brazilian samba bands, and understood the injustice of a man sent off. There’s been a penalty, a good game, and a peppered steak slice,” I listed.

“Yeah, dad, it’s been great! But dad, you ate the steak slice. It was a bit peppery for me. I am only seven and that was very, very peppery, but there was a football pattern on it so that was good.” A most considered observation for a seven year old. Best get her something to eat before we go for the bus, I thought.

“You know what?” I cheerily decided, to avoid the peppered steak slice becoming a downer on her day, “I think it’s been brilliant!”

“So do I, dad. Thanks for taking me!” This was a big moment. “Can we go a Newcastle match, please?”

“Yes. Yes, we can!” What a parent!

And when we did, for her birthday and the young ‘un’s first match, I taught the smaller folk of my family the value of disappointment and frustration. They watched, nay, endured, Newcastle losing 2-1 to Swansea, with a last minute penalty to Swansea to making Alan Pardew mutter some cobblers, like, “We was lacking that bit of quality.” Aye, Alan. Thanks for the insight.

Now, all of this reminded me about a conversation I had with a mate called Pete, a Sheffield Wednesday fan, a long time ago. We were discussing the perfect first football match. We had been drinking grown up pop, and our conclusions are reproduced here for you join in, worded slightly differently, but in exactly the same spirit.

We decided that, as this was the perfect first match, you team would probably win. But how? Well… we reckoned… an early lead, just to build up excitement and hope, would be good. It would help with the atmosphere, and solidify that connection with the team and whoever you were with. Your team plays well. You are Brazil 1970. Sort of. Optimistically, as the half ends, the prospect of some pop, either grown up or fizzy, would give an extra bounce to our perfect match. Maybe a Waggon Wheel, just to top up your energy levels.

You join us for the second half kicks off, amidst roars and the promise of more goals; though when the second goal comes, five minutes in, it silences the crowd. You now understand the stomach churning sight of the other team arrogantly running back up the pitch, cheering like the end of a long war (your team did exactly the same earlier, though with a degree of elegance and grace that this other lot lack)… and after a few seconds of silence, you become part of a banshee hollering that almost restarts the match itself.

But what’s this? You’re suddenly 2-1 down, after a breakaway from a corner, earned from the non-stop pressure you have applied since the equaliser. No! What is this abysmal feeling of gloom! You sing, you shout, you kick every kick, challenge for every header. It’s like watching a cat dream about chasing a bird.

I reckon by about now, Pete and little me were probably telling each other, “Yamebestmateye!”

Anyway; with ten minutes to go, the endless pressure and a substitution, bringing on a new wonder kid from the youth team, a local lad, results in him selling their captain a dummy on the outside edge of the box, and swerving a shot in off the post. A bit like Norman Whiteside’s goal in the 1985 FA Cup final, but obviously even better. Obviously.

It looks like the match is going to wobble out into a well-earned draw. Good feeling in the stomach, and that stuff near your throat and eyes… that’s pride.

One minute to go. A speculative ball over the top from your ice-cool captain releases your star centre forward, who is scythed down in the box. Thousands of voices scream for a penalty, and there is no hesitation; the referee points to the guaranteed spot of excitement and stress.

Up steps wonder kid. Silence. Agony.

And the cheeky little blighter puts the experienced goalie the wrong way. Cue Bedlam.

Floating away from the ground, singing above the smell of onions from the hot dog sellers, you try to reproduce this feeling every week. Sometimes you get very close.

Me? I was happy enough with my half time Waggon Wheel, and 1-0 win against Wrexham in 1979. Alan Shoulder from a penalty. Bukta kits.

Romantic? Maybe. You can tell me all about it in a minute. I’ll just get the pints in.

Fancy a peppered steak slice while I’m at the bar? I hope we’ll be here a while.

You can follow the author on Twitter @georgestainsby

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])



  • Wozzey

    76/77 Leicester at home, 0-0, Winston White came on as a sub for Leicester, Cassidy missing a sitter and my older cousin telling me it was ‘oh when the Mags…’ And not ‘oh when the blacks…..’ As I was singing! And it was on Match of the Day. Not a steak slice or wagon wheel in sight….

  • Jd72

    I remember my first toon top it was a Grimsby top ! Mydad is Irish and also tight , wore it with pride for about 3 months until someone took the Mick , I was 7yrs old it was 80/81 season

    • Jezza

      Ah yes those were also the days when you could still buy cheap generic football shirts. Just a basic black and white striped shirt with nothing else on it for half the price of an official Newcastle replica shirt. Probably for around £1.75 rather than £3.50 for the official top back then.

  • Lofty

    Not my first game, but Boro 1978. Lost 4-2 and Billy Ashcroft scored a hat trick I think? I had been before because my uncle pointed to the old main stand paddock where a massive fight was taking place, and told me it was where I went for my first game. I can’t remember a thing about it, a proper ‘what is a club’ moment for me!

  • MagpieG

    Stoke at home Easter 1967, we won 3-1. I was on the old uncovered Popular side, where the East stand is now. I was 7 years old and my overriding memory was the bloke walking round the pitch selling packets of peanuts ‘a tanner a bag’. They were horrible by the way. So started a 50 year love affair, still going strong.

    • Viru leckworth

      I quite liked his peanuts, and he had a remarkably accurate throw. We didn’t play well for ages after they elbowed the guy.

      • MagpieG

        You’re right about his accurate throw and he never failed to catch the tanner, which was a tiny coin. Mind even he might have struggled to reach level 7 of the Leazes End now.

  • Leicester Mag

    7 yrs old quarter final v Forrest. West stand. Pitch invasion 3-1 down, “won” 4-3. Mam went nuts after with dad and not allowed back for 2 years.

  • Viru leckworth

    My first match was Newcastle v man united. A young player from the reserves was getting positive reviews name of Bobby Charlton. It wa a long time ago, but my memory seems to tell me we thrashed Man U and Jimmy Scoular had Bobby in his pocket.

  • Big Al 1967

    First home game was Derby at home March 1975 when we were beaten 2-0. Don’t remember much about the game itself just the atmosphere
    First away game was Grimsby in September 1983 which ended 1-1. Remember absolutely battering them but their keeper ( Nigel Batch I think) having one of those days making saves he had no right to. I also remember the non stop incessant rain. Under cover for the game but soaked through on the journey from the coach to the ground and vice versa at full time. Great days and would do it again in a heartbeat!!

  • Terry R Fox

    1954. No idea who we played. I remember being passed over the heads of the crowd in the Gallowgate end, down to sit on the edge of the running track.
    65 freaking years of stress and heartache since but I still love the black and white buggers.

  • grantham mag

    Not my first match, but one of the best games of football I ever seen NUFC 3 MAN C 4 1967 I think, last game of the season. It was between CITY and MAN U for to become champions that year, and they were at home to, yes the unwashed from Wearside, score was MAN U 0 unwashed 1. CITY Champions.

  • Whitehurst

    1982 Derby at home. Won 1-0…Howard Gayle goal. Think an aging Archie Gemmill was playing for them? An all English Toon side…didn’t even make any substitutions as well!! How things have changed? Waggon wheels were indeed the half time snack of choice. Class.

    • Jezza

      An aging Archie Gemmill, ha ha. He was one of those players who always looked really old throughout his career. He certainly didn’t do himself any favours later on when he grew that big bushy beard.

  • Malcolm Fisher

    1956 10yrs old we played against man u. winning 1-0, ten minute flag came down, I left to avoid the crowd and catchy bus home. Got in saw the result, lost 2-1 goals from Tommy Taylor and one Duncan Edwards. But I did see The Busby Babes before their disaster in ’57.

  • Rich Lawson

    65/66 ? Liverpool, I’d be 10 or 11 me dad paid me into the paddock next to the Leazes so he could keep an eye on me from his season ticket seat in the stand above. Just after half time there were still empty seats near him so he slipped a steward five bob to let me come up the stand.We lost 2-0 and Ian St John (of Saint and Greavsie fame) got the second.

  • David2211

    September 1999….CSKA Sofia. Drew 2-2 and Paul Robinson scored. I believe Shearer grabbed his eighth in three games!