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John Alder’s friends plan permanent special tribute

7 years ago

John Alder’s Platinum Club seat – to be bought by the fans for the fans.

“We always said this was for everyone, the first four people to buy them are ordinary working Lads.”

So said Douglas Hall on the opening of the Platinum Club.

One of those people was our friend John Alder.

With the auction of John’s Memorabilia concluded, thoughts now turn to how best to preserve John’s memory.

In so doing, it’s important to remember his character. It’s no secret that John was an intensely private man, he shunned publicity and declined to buy into his reputation as Newcastle’s number one supporter.

If it were possible to see the reaction of others when a person is no longer with us, it’s safe to say John would have been mortified by all the fuss. It’s with this in mind that his friends began to discuss what, if anything, would become of his seat at St James Park.

Talk of a memorial being put in place of the seat, goes against his way of life. To that end one of the lads came up with this admirable plan.

First course of action was to check in with John’s family, this in turn triggered off communication between NUFC and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

Given that the first four platinum club seats were bought by four friends, one of the criteria was to keep those seats together. In many respects these seats mark a turning point in the history Of NUFC. If the Platinum club had failed, it’s no exaggeration to say that the entire business plan for the club, envisaged by the  Hall family, may well have failed.

Indeed it could be argued that the entire business plan for the Premier League was at risk. The then owners understood that, yes you had to attract the corporate customer, they could see where football was heading. However, they also understood that it would mean nothing if the club in particular, and football in general, lost touch with its traditional fan base, the common fan, as pointed out by Hall Junior.

Once given the initial go ahead by John’s Family, the next step was to check with the Club, this in turn brought in the administrators of the SBR Foundation. What was vitally important was that no one should be upset by a perceived over stepping of the mark.

Newcastle Fans are a strange bunch. Individually, everyone of us is behind the NUFC cause, but as soon as there is any attempt to create groups of protest, or indeed groups of any kind, then Newcastle fans can turn on each other.

An example of the psyche of NUFC fans came about when the club tried to introduce a bond scheme, a lesser Version of the Platinum Club. A meeting was called at the Bridge Hotel, with boycotts called for and plans to force the Hall Family to back down. However, this meeting soon dissolved when it became apparent that the first game of the so called boycott was Sunderland at home, some of the dissidents at this meeting, included members of the initial Platinum club. The team you see needed our support and nothing would get in the way of that.

This was discussed In detail and all eventualities gone over in terms of the plan to remember John. However, such was the provenance and integrity of the people involved, along with their impeccable Toon credentials, it was soon decided that anyone who couldn’t see the benefits of the plan, were, quite frankly, unaware of how John would have liked it. It must be stressed that there will be no mass publicity on this, other than perhaps close season from the administrators of the SBR Foundation, as part of the plan to purchase John’s seat, the Foundation is to receive a donation to its cause.

And so the following Plan is to be put into operation, subject to final agreement from John’s family. Firstly, the Platinum Club Bond will be purchased, either in John’s name, or by means of a trust.

The season ticket attached to the Bond will be purchased year on year in the same manner. John’s name will remain on the seat, however f this is not possible, a Plaque dedicated to his memory will be attached.

The seat will then be made available to John’s Friends, in order to ensure that the seat is treated with appropriate respect, but also to assure John’s memory that it’s is being occupied by like-minded people.

With regards to how John would have wanted to be remembered – this season’s round of applause on 17 minutes has been admirable, especially as the away fans have responded. However, there are signs that it is beginning to run its course. At the Aston Villa game, I noticed for the first time a slight reluctance of people wishing to stand up. In the area of the ground where I was sitting, a fair proportion of fans were not joining in, which of course they are perfectly entitled to do.

Going back to the earlier comment on the psyche of NUFC fans, the minute’s applause could well become a bone of contention. One possible scenario where conflict could arise is, if say a goal was scored during the applause. One thing John would definitely not want, would be any kind of disruption during the game on his behalf.

Tributes at football matches generally find a natural level, where fans gradually withdraw. I remember in 2002, Newcastle had a run of 2 or 3 games where there was a minute’s silence for past players who had recently died. The breaking point was a couple of weeks later when a minute’s silence was held for Princess Margaret. Repetition quickly leads to dissent. In many respects that is why there is a minute’s applause at grounds now, as opposed to a minute’s silence.

To this end, it may be time to look at a permanent memorial for our friend, and one which he most definitely would approve of.

Old Trafford has its Munich Clock. Anfield has its Eternal Flame. Iconic and famous grounds both. With this plan, another Iconic Ground – St James Park, would have the John Alder seat. A seat never empty, much like it was when John was with us.


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