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Newcastle United…Athletic Bilbao Remembered

10 years ago

In a previous web article I alluded to talking this time about how my match day mate became known as Bilbao.  However, after chatting with him about that game it was obvious that it would take more than a few words to explain, so I’m going to leave that for the magazine.

Instead, while searching through my ticket stubs and general football related crap, I came across a card I was sent after I wrote to one of the locals in Bilbao that we’d befriended on that night in November 1994.  I would have been 24 at the time.

This is what he wrote:-

I received your letter but I’ve waited till Athletic played Parma (who they drew in the next round after beating us).  Kepa went to Italy to support Athletic but I couldn’t because I didn’t have enough money.  I send you a piece of a newspaper and hope you recognise Kepa in the photo (front left).

If we wanted to go to Parma it is because I think it was great when you came to Bilbao.  A lot of people from Bilbao has told me the same, Newcastle United is as great as they are its supporters.

Whenever you come to the Basque Country my home will be your home. I hope you understand my handwriting and especially wish you a HAPPY CHRISTMAS

Your Friend, Ińigo

(In the photo from the left – Kepa, Horsey, Inigo)

I sent him a copy of ‘Toon Army News’, a Newcastle fanzine at the time which covered the Bilbao v Newcastle game, along with some photos. Unfortunately, I haven’t been back to the Basque region or managed to stay in touch with Ińigo but I have the photos and vague memories of that day, along with his Christmas card. I also have a Bilbao shirt framed on my wall, having swapped my black and white Asics one (see photo below – a young Horsey!) with a local.  I regret that now as it was my favourite Toon top, plus my mate called me a Mackem all the way home after the match.  I’ll blame the drink for impairing my judgement.

Maybe in this new age of electronic communication Ińigo might stumble across this website and have similar memories himself.  Part of me wonders if he was at those two games against Man United last season when they shone, only to be defeated in the final.

Hopefully we can enjoy some further trips into Europe, visiting some obscure and random places while making new friends along the way.  However, the pessimist in me is keeping his fingers crossed that we don’t balls up the qualifying round, or draw a home nations team and relieve ourselves of an opportunity we worked hard for in the first place.

My advice would be, if you can afford it, can get the time off work, get permission off your lass, to get yourself out to wherever we end up as you never know when the next opportunity will come along.

Or just tell your lass you’re nipping down the shop for a paper and come back with the Warsaw Chronicle.  It’s Newcastle United we’re talking about after all.

We’d love to hear your stories of past away trips, especially European ones – photos not essential. Send in your stories and we’ll put them up on the website for everybody to enjoy. Get writing!

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