Before the Spurs match that opened the 2012-13 season, I had never watched Newcastle United in public. Starting with the overhead kick by Obafemi Martins to hand Sam Allardyce his first win, through relegation, the cruise in the Championship, Andy Carroll’s hat trick and subsequent sale, and the many incredible moments of last season – every matchday was spent on my own, just the game and a way to access the Internet.
It is an experience shared in some way by many fellow Americans who follow Newcastle. We chose our club consciously, with varying reasons why we decided to hop on this remarkable rollercoaster.
My hometown environment could not have been more different than the cauldron of St. James’ Park, where a shared love of the club helps carry residents through frigid winters. I grew up in South Florida, home to some of the most notoriously fairweather fans in the country. It’s the sort of place where people come to games late and leave early. If one were to try to find a stateside Newcastle, Miami would have to be near the bottom of the list.
So when I set out in 2007 to adopt a Premier League club, Newcastle spoke to me precisely because it was so far removed from the culture I’d grown up in. Passion and history are in short supply on South Beach; they overflow the banks of the River Tyne. When I swept ashore, like most American Newcastle supporters, I did so alone – and had no idea what to expect.
I suppose it’s a measure of my impeccable timing that I started following a club which had never been relegated from the Premier League, only to watch it make that fateful plunge 18 months later. And it was actually a mundane moment in the Championship season that sealed my bond with Newcastle United for good.
Just before Christmas 2009, I rolled out of bed early on a dreary Saturday morning to watch the second-tier Toon take on Middlesbrough, glued to the ESPN feed on my tiny netbook screen. Celebrating by myself as Shola Ameobi rose to head home Danny Guthrie’s perfect cross, I acknowledged the ridiculousness of the moment, and haven’t looked back since.
Other American supporters have cited more logical reasons for their allegiance. Both of my co-bloggers hail from Wisconsin, and drew an immediate parallel between Newcastle and the tight-knit, intensely passionate following of their local NFL team, the Green Bay Packers. In their travels with the club on its pre-season tour of the United States, they encountered many fans who felt a similar cultural and climatic kinship with the city and club.
When our blog started up in early 2011, none of us could have predicted its success, or Newcastle’s, in the months to come. The summer tour, as chaotic as it was for the club, connected Americans who thought we were in it alone, forming networks that continue to expand and strengthen. Having a likable group of players, capable of producing some jaw-dropping moments, certainly helped bring newcomers into the fold.
Though the Toon Army is starting to grow its American ranks, US-born Newcastle fans are still a curiosity. We often get mistaken for off-work referees or shoe store employees. I’m sure that some people have seen my Hatem Ben Arfa shirt and assumed that I was a peculiar fellow wearing a jersey with my full name on the back. In fact, when I went to the pub to take in the Spurs match, I was the only American supporter of Newcastle in the group. Most pubs in the States mix transplanted Geordies with locals crazy enough to call the club their own.
The support we have received from Tyneside has been heartwarming and completely surprising. Geordies have taken us, and other Americans, under their wing, without any hesitation. You have vehemently defended us from the criticism of rival fans. You trust our analysis, delivered from an ocean away, over that of the local reporters who speak to the players every day. And of course, you have promised us the warmest of receptions when we do finally make it to St. James’ Park for a match later this season. We may have started our journeys with Newcastle United alone, but there is no doubt that now, we feel like family.
Though we may always be ugly Americans to some, we hope our contribution to The Mag will do Newcastle supporters proud, wherever they may call home. Howay the lads!
Thanks to Matt Feltz who is one of the three man team who produce the excellent I Wish I Was A Geordie – The blog of Newcastle United in the United States.
For those of us born into the Newcastle United way of life I think it is fascinating to hear why people actually CHOOSE to follow our magnificent, but mad, football club. Matt and his two cohorts, Bob Schowch and Tom Ziemer, have taken up our invitation to bring you the Stateside take on Newcastle United, on a regular/irregular basis. Check out their excellent blog now.
Writing for The Mag is open to everybody, whether you have your own blog or just fancy writing something as an individual fan,if you would like to feature like Julie on our/your website, get writing, we profile contributions from anybody who has something to say.