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).

newcastle fansReminiscing 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.

  • RexN

    A really evocative piece here, Brian, thank you.

    I know that we are often called deluded but if we are deluded to want a bit of excitement, ambition and passion I plead guilty. A trophy would be nice but with only a Fairs Cup in over 50 years support, it isn’t an essential.

    It is only in the Ashley years that St James’ Park has become a nice quiet place to read a good book.

  • hettonmag

    Good  post Brian  even in the bad old days you got a rendition of Sack The Board  at least then  even  if the team was bad there was always  plenty of humour and banter, but now everything is so flat  its killing our club.

  • Brian Standen

    I agree, football is evolving, but we got a sniff in the league cup this season and nearly 5000 fans shook white hart lane to its rafters, then despite not getting a sniff in the FA cup another 4500 tuned up at Leicester. Man City are extending the Etihad yet their fans seem bored already, they have plenty empty seats at home games! I don’t want to be Man City or Chelsea, I just want to get involved every now and again, give the fans some hope…. And something to look foreword to

  • Sickandtiredstill

    Great piece which brings all the memories flooding back. “I was born in the Leazes end..” We would probably get arrested now if we sang that! 
    Times and football have changed without a doubt, but the current soul breaking regime is also having a huge impact on the last possession of too many fans – hope.

  • paul janes

    The sack the board era was really in the 80’s , 8 to 10 years after the Supemac Jinky era, I loved that era despite the football violence which in the main I managed to avoid.

  • GToon

    Brian, what do you think would happen if we had a Supermac or Tony Green or anybody remotely talented these days? How long would it take for the shopkeeper to get his helicopter out? Anybody with any talent is wasting his time at NUFC these days. Funny really as i seem to remember we would develop players, pay off some debt with their sale and then get to a point where we wouldnt need to service the debt and could re-invest the money. Unfortunately this debt seems to be never ending……. happy days eh!!

  • GToon

    Brian Standen even hanging on to our best players would be a start.

  • scotty63

    Think I’ve still got Striker in the loft!!

  • DownUnderMag

    GToon the problem isn’t with selling the best players for inflated prices, it’s failing to use that money to replace.  If the player was sold and then two or three brought in immediately to replace and IMPROVE the overall squad then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.  Hell, even if the player was sold and the money paid off the debt owed we could probably understand and accept it to some degree.  But selling, failing to buy and the debt remaining the same just seems far too much like Ashley making a killing off the club and the fans getting nothing in return.  Some will say we did spend the Carroll money, yes we did, but far too late for it to do any good and then we recouped extra on top of that anyway.   At some point Ashleys luck is going to run out and we will be right up a certain creek without a certain instrument of motion!

  • GToon

    DownUnderMag GToon Thats true but there will always be a Newcastle United long after that scumbag has sold his last player and pocketed his last bit of TV revenue. It’s just a waiting game.

  • Simon George Morton

    He’s just a passing fashion and he’s on his way out. #ashleyout

  • Peter Taylor

    Sack the Board and Harvey Out definitely happened along with ‘Westwood is a Pirate”

  • lupamac

    Your dead right about the leazes Brian. My first game was Man City 1964 /65 ish . i was 7 always remember the peanuts tanner a bag throwing the bags into the leazes .

  • scotstoon

    Great article, but how could you miss out the Denton Burn aggro boys in your piece. I think that some sort of safe standing could be reintroduced, they do it in Germany. If you had a truly singing end the atmosphere would improve. I remember my first time in the Leazes end, my brother had to take me and i was told to stand at the front and not move. He and his mates disappeared into the middle somewhere. Desperate to wait until i was old enough to venture into the middle. Then they knocked the bloody thing down.

  • newcastle7

    It’s easy to look back at the good times.Was at the games in the seventies and there was a group of thirty
    of us used to go.By 1978 there was only one of us left crowds fell to six and seven thousand with the worst football and facilities ever known.The problem with the atmosphere is the all seater stadiums as except for away games it’s hard to generate any noise.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    newcastle7 They weren’t exactly good times, granted. The declining numbers back then were for similar reasons as to what is going on now with Ashley.
    Except now there are no excuses. The man, our owner, is worth close to 4 thousand million quid on paper! We buy cheap and we sell only because that is what maintains the financial plan for this ‘business’.
    The problem with atmosphere is not just about being all seater. Undoubtedly that changed things. But when nothing is on the pitch, when no ambition is the dictat of the owner, then no atmosphere is what you’ll get from those still watching. 
    Plenty of noise was available when we were challenging for and in Europe and for the top of the PL.

  • Brian Standen

    Your probably right but for a young kid they were exciting times, I don’t think the young kids can get excited by Sunday’s game
    Of course crowds dipped in the late 70s etc but every club in the country had the same problem at that time and we stayed really crap for long periods.
    But the fact is we are now being left behind yet we still command more support and have bigger turnovers than most.
    It is frustrating beyond comprehension at times

  • paul janes

    I well remember being given the news we’d sold Supermac was in Sweden and I refused to believe until I found an English newspaper, by god I despised Gordon Lee for that.

  • Lofty9

    scotty63 What about Super Striker where the goalies arms moved!? Aaah jumpers for goalposts indeed!

  • Lofty9

    I asked my son the ‘If this was your first match would you come back’ question on Sunday, and surprisingly he said no! Maybe its up to the more ‘mature’ like us to give the ground some atmosphere, I know we should get an old fart section set up, I’m sure Jabba would be only to willing!

  • RexN

    Sickandtiredstill newcastle7 Maybe not too exciting in the pastbut we saw some effort. There was also a sense of achievement at being at the Wrexham game in the blizzard.
    Yes, the atmosphere changed after we lost the Leazes roof but it was still far better than is experienced now. It’s hard to get worked up over a balance sheet.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    RexN Sickandtiredstill newcastle7 Exactly right. No doubt fatty is attempting cartwheels tight now in his office because of the tv deal news.

  • PaulNewsome

    newcastle7 The lowest ever average crowds at Newcastle were around 16,000, though the facilities were indeed hideous. That was football back in thse days though and lots of grounds were hideous. It was more fun than now though.

  • martydee1

    I started going to games in 82 aged 9, me and me mates were scoreboard boys it was a tremendous atmosphere back then, I remember a bloke in the east stand used to make a super loud yodelling noise every home game, and when the crowds would swell the older blokes would lift us young uns onto the concrete barriers to stop us getting squashed