Watching Sunday’s game and seeing ugly Newcastle United play an even more ugly Stoke City, my mind wandered and drifted a bit.
The game was played in an almost eerie silence, the passionate bear pit that St James Park can be was indeed almost a library. I thought – has Mike Ashley broken the spine of the Newcastle support, are we now as fans doing the same as the club, simply going through the motions?
I looked at Stoke and thought this is not how football is supposed to be, maybe I was spoilt because I grew up seeing Malcolm Macdonald in his pomp, and the team that was built around him.
Seeing Terry Hibbitt play a long ball over the top for the marauding Supermac to run onto, leaving defenders in his wake before smashing the ball into the Leazes End goal. Seeing Jinky Jimmy Smith thread a ball through the tiniest of gaps and able to measure it to stop on a sixpence, and on a pitch like a ploughed field as well, no green carpets then!
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Of course the greatest of them all in Tony Green, only 33 games but an absolute master, injury curtailed him in the cruellest manner.
In those days at school I looked forward to the match with a great eagerness, I was the envy of classmates who were not fortunate to have a dad who took them at such an early age, and those who did go were able to tell exaggerated tales of marvellous goals on the pitch and exciting happenings off the pitch.
The old Leazes End enthralled me, it really was a sight to behold; throbbing masses, gangs from all over Newcastle having their fortnightly Saturday afternoon ritual of fighting to be top dogs; Longbenton, Daisy Hill, Ryehill, North Shields, Wallsend etc, it seems each area had its own gang (apologies to any old Boot Boys whose area I did not mention).
The instant mass chant of ‘Your gonna get your F^%*ing head kicked in’ whenever the opposition scored, the chants of ‘Supermac’ as the players warmed up, the Leazes End in full voice was louder and more passionate than the Kop or Stretford End.
In February 1978 the powers that be closed it for the last time, I often think even now that the heart and soul of our fan base was ripped out and stamped on that night, as soon to be relegated Newcastle drew 2 – 2 with Manchester City!
They were exciting times for a schoolboy who saw his first match aged 6 and it set me up for life, it must also be pointed out that the record books will show we won nothing, but the excitement was there for sure.
Why reminisce you may ask, after seeing the dross on the pitch on Sunday. Well it was our lowest crowd of the season so far, mainly due to Sky being there and the ugly opposition, but sensible pricing meant a father and son could get in for the grand total of £25.
There would have been a few kids at their first game yesterday, excited kids with their dads or uncles etc, will they want to come back? Was there enough excitement to hook a fan for generations to come? I seriously doubt it!
Earlier this season I wrote an article about how football had become fun again, talking of my middle-aged mates and their post-match budgie like excited chirping, yesterday the talk was of going to rugby, seeing the family, one even mentioned B & Q.
I wonder just how many fans are seeing their friends being driven away one by one, and while I know some fans who won’t set foot in the ground until Ashley has gone, it bothers me that Newcastle fans of the future won’t have the opportunity I had, and that is very sad indeed.
Of course kids have different things to take up their interest these days, it is a digital electronic world full of computers, IPads, Smart Phones, play stations etc. I only had a tin of ‘liggys’ and ‘striker’ (a football game where the ball was kicked by pressing the player’s head).
Reminiscing over and back to yesterday’s game, well apart from Cabella and Perez I thought we had nobody to set the pulse rating. Of course these players are not Supermac, Beardsley, Shearer, Gazza etc, but they should be good enough to beat Stoke City and at least leave us smiling.
This club is crying out for somebody to grab it by the scruff of the neck once and for all, anybody out there got a spare billion or two.
The one thing this club has always had is the fan base, and I have said before it is the envy of the world, and so it should be. Nigh on 50 years without anything silver and still the crowds come in en masse, but I fear if things don’t change in the next year of two then just like in 1978 when the old Leazes closed, the spine of our fan base will be broken forever……a sad prospect indeed.
Enough ramblings for now, see you at Palace on Wednesday.