Reminded Of Why Newcastle United Is Such A Special Thing
I must admit that I wasn’t too excited yesterday morning.
It was my first game of the season, and whilst I was glad I was going and glad to be at a game again, I wasn’t excited.
After the exploits of the summer, the negative feeling around the club had drowned my optimism I must admit. The lack of transfer action over the summer coupled with the constant drain of having Joe Kinnear at the club being the main cause of that.
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The last week or so however, has reminded me why football is so magical for me, and why Newcastle United football club is such a special thing. The Steve Harper testimonial was a great occasion that I wish I’d been able to get to. I wish I’d gone to bid farewell to a top pro who is a top man as well, but I also wish I’d gone because for once everyone was at the game to support the same cause.
No agendas, no one arguing about Mike Ashley and JFK, but there to support a great player and see faces from days gone by. Some great gestures were on show too, like Gary Speed’s sons playing in the absence of the great man himself. Even Paolo Di Canio turned up, content in his role as pantomime villain. For all the talk of lack of money being spent, everyone was there to support NUFC.
I felt like that feeling of unity had carried into the game yesterday and the fans were wonderful. Certainly the best away atmosphere I’ve experienced for a while. We were allowed to have that because of a great team performance. The full-backs supported the attacks at every opportunity, whilst Coloccini and Yanga-Mbiwa were very strong and positive, especially in the air. Benteke did have a lot of time to bring the ball down on occasion but generally speaking those two played well. There were also times when the attacking Villa ranks broke through and we got lucky, which you could say our own attacking performance deserved.
Sissoko drove forward time after time, keeping Ben Arfa in the game, and he petrified his full-back every time he ran at him. He was simply unplayable. Cabaye seemed intent on proving to the fans and his teammates that he is still committed to the club. He did a lot of running and pressing and his passing at times was excellent. Anita was fairly efficient without being spectacular but kept the ball well and battled hard to win the ball back when we didn’t have it. Remy looked lively too with his direct running often causing confusion at the back.
Ben Arfa was the man of the match though without question. His running, willingness to commit players was superb, as was the movement for his goal. He should also have had a penalty too, but in the end it didn’t matter due to his strike towards the Villa goal which landed in the path of Gouffran, which he gleefully dispatched.
That goal was also my first “three rower” as a fan and something I enjoyed immensely. I think I jumped so high when Gouffran scored that by the time the blokes behind me had piled forward I was unable to stand as they had collected me in their wake. It was magnificent. We sang and we annoyed the Villa fans no end – they are a horrible bunch by the way. Simply, it began to feel like “our” club again. No backbiting, no complaining, not much mention of Ashley either. It felt a bit like what football should feel like being at a match again. All the off the pitch stuff was banished and it was pure passion, pleasure, joy and singing. It was great to be a part of.
I was also sat behind a little boy, who was only eight and attending his first away game. When the Newcastle fans started singing for the five minutes before the game, he stood on his chair watching the sea of black and white shirts and waving arms with a huge smile on his face, mouth wide open. It reminded me of my first away game – Manchester City about 12 years ago. I remember that feeling of seeing all those people and the incredible noise all mixed in together with the Geordie accent. It was a great feeling and the day I fell in love with Newcastle United. It’s the reason I love going to games. It’s the reason I enjoyed going to away games so much and the reason you make yourself do it when you think a defeat is more likely than a win. Yesterday was another one of those reasons and both that little boy and me had fallen in love with the club, for me all over again.
It may only be one win, it may only be one game, but the performance on and off the pitch had an extra special feeling to it yesterday. It began to feel like our club again and that truly is something to celebrate.
We have a long way to go to continue this form and play like it every week, but after a fair amount of negativity in recent weeks, it’s good to have something to smile about.
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