I thought I’d share my favourite St. James’ Park lock outs down the years. The times when I just couldn’t get in.
The first was a spectacular one and an occasion that has a bit of infamy about it. After beating Crystal Palace 1-0 in the FA cup third round, we were drawn against Swindon Town at home in round four. By the way I was there at the front in the Gallowgate for the Palace game.
Swindon were the visitors and their manager was Lou Macari. There were no household names playing for them although future Sky Sports knacker Chris Kamara was in their starting line-up. Trouble was I never saw any of it.
I was (alongside 10,000 others apparently) being jostled outside the Gallowgate with nowhere to go and then word got out that it was a lock out crowd and we all had to disperse. I missed a 5-0 win, an alleged betting scam with Macari allegedly betting on his own team to be walloped and subsequently Swindon being investigated a couple of years later and thus allowing the mackems get promoted through the police informer’s back door. No match that day but a tale to tell.
A few years later around August 92, I was outside the old Leazes end for the visit of Southend on the first day of the now celebrated promotion season. This was allegedly ‘sold out’, although this may have been porkies from frontline coppers wanting to get rid of drunken Mags at 3pm when they wanted to get in the ground and watch the game themselves.
Not much later against Tranmere Rovers on game number ten of the famous eleven game unbeaten run in Keegan‘s first full season, I was once again outside the Gallowgate and we were told no one else was allowed into the ground. I was right at the front of the bastard queue on this occasion. A couple of shifty Scousers asked me if I wanted to buy a ticket for the ‘main stand’. I declined, partly because of the vagueness of the location of the seats but also on being a veteran of experience of people with that accent selling you rip-off events in Benidorm and Tenerife while on holiday with the lads.
Since then things have changed. You put your ticket through a machine and the bar code recognition clicks open the turnstile and you go to your plastic bucket seat that someone in a high visibility jacket directs you to. That, or your regular seat has your name on it that you renewed every year by direct debit; my bolshie, socialist, Thatcher hating Grandpa would turn in his grave!
For old times sake I’d love there to be only cash turnstiles open for a cup quarter final against the mackems, or Manure, and that it’s not all ticket. Then you’ll see the crazy snaking queues round the block and the stampede from all-comers when word gets out that there’s only a handful of places left. In the meantime I only have my memories of those three separate afternoons that turned into queuing, barging and then turning tail and doing off home. Funny how mundane misery ends up as semi-folklore, I’m just getting ready for being a boring pensioner in years to come!