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University of Life (St James’ Campus)

11 years ago

It’s been forty years since I first ambled up to St James’ Park to watch us get beat 2-1 off Crystal Palace in October 1971.

Forty years. It’s what they give to terrorists and mass murderers. Perhaps I can appeal to a jury of my peers at the Hotspur or something.

Forty Years supporting Newcastle United is manifestly excessive for anyone………

Nothing prepares you for a lifetime of supporting Newcastle United which is why I’ve devised my degree in supporting them. After exhaustive consultation with the voices in my head I’ve based my world class tutorial on the decade I started watching – the 1970s.

Topics covered include mid-table finishes – what they are and how to get used to them.  Also on the curriculum, cup defeats so bad (Hereford) that recent reverses at Stevenage seem like a prize and an FA Cup final Wembley no show (0-3 against Liverpool).

I was closer to Liverpool’s Kevin Keegan that day than Newcastle’s defenders and I watched it on my Uncle’s telly. We had some great players but we sold them including Malcolm Macdonald to Arsenal for a semi omen-esque £333,333 (we’d sell our soul properly a few times in the decades to follow).

After the enigma of the legendary Joe Harvey’s long reign we employed non-crowd pleasers, Gordon Lee (a sort of Ryanair version of Graeme Souness) and Bill McGarry (imagine Howard Wilkinson without the gags).

In between that we predictably squeezed in a boardroom crisis when we signed a player without telling the manager (short-lived dugout fall guy Richard Dinnis). An NUFC tutorial without a board war would be like an episode of Columbo without a body. Naturally we managed relegation (1977/78). The decade ended with Newcastle riding high and chasing promotion. You have to love a happy ending. Except it wasn’t, we nosedived at new decade’s dawn and finished well down the old second division table.

As you’d expect for the fees (9,000 pints over three years), everything is covered and I expect the graduation photos to be hugely popular (grinning mags wearing black and white Tam O’Shanter hats holding a rolled up copy of the old football pink).

If you want to riot about the fees, can I refer you to footage of the 1974 pitch invasion against Nottingham Forest as a useful guide.

The 1970s then. All you ever need to know about supporting Newcastle United ever since.

We always threaten to soar, we always promise to self-destruct. Sound familiar?


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