The day I took my heart from Newcastle United and gave it to North Shields FC.
My name is Stuart Mole; I’m 28 years old, born and bred in Battle Hill, Wallsend, Newcastle upon Tyne. I am a typical football fanatic. Played the game, watched the game, dreamt the game, coached the game and love this sport dearly. I know nothing else.
I have supported my club Newcastle United since I can remember; honestly I can’t remember not knowing Newcastle United being there. Wallpapered black and white bedroom as a nipper, posters of heroes from the 90’s era; Andy Cole, Peter Beardsley, Rob Lee, Ruel Fox, PavelSrnicek.
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Playing single and double cup’ers in the street, banging the ball off garage doors trying to replicate goals scored by Geordie stars. Dragging the family to the training ground, in awe of everything Newcastle related, chasing signatures and photos from the players.
Signing up to the Junior Magpies and hearing Kevin Keegan’s voice on the other side of the phone as a recording, believing he was inviting me personally. Attending the yearly Junior Magpie events allowing me to meet Beardsley at Metro Land, having my hair ruffled by a legend.
Collecting every single Black & White magazine and video & the ‘Pink’.
My dear late Grandma, queuing season upon season for the latest replica shirt, sometimes working a12 hour shift as a Nurse in the West End of Newcastle, then going straight to the club shop to wait her turn in line. An amazing woman, driving my obsession of all things Black and White, not to mention her fancy for ‘her Kevin’.
I have felt the agony, and I mean absolute despair – at the departure of Andy Cole to Man Utd as a 7 year old in my swimming trunks at Tynemouth Swimming Baths. Experienced pure ecstasy, with the return of everybody’s favourite sheet-metal worker’s son from Newcastle. A world record transfer at the time, something we were capable of doing as a club then.
Endured heart shattering lows, missing out on the title to Man Utd after a 12 point lead was squandered, facing successive FA Cup final defeats 97/98 & 98/99. UEFA Cup Semi-final defeat at the hands of Marseille’s Drogba in 03/04 and relegation in 08/09 to name a few.
Although no ‘success’ in terms of shiny trophies, there have been many highs I am proud of, moments and memories I will never forget. The moment we set the Premier League alight upon our return in 93/94, qualifying for Europe with quick, exciting football a flood with goals and chances.
The 95/96 ‘almost season’, at the brink of title success.
Newcastle 5 Man Utd 0 in 96.
Sir Bobby Robson’s return in September 1999 and the subsequent 8-0 victory in his first home game v Sheffield Wednesday, with Shearer grabbing 5, European ventures, Champions League nights, and many more high notes to mention!
Rob Lee’s hat-trick of headers v Royal Antwerp. The 3-2 victory at home v Barcelona, Asprilla hat-trick and a Gillespie wing play master class, losing our first 3 group games in the Champions League, then winning the remaining 3 to qualify with a Bellamy last minute saviour v Feyenoord in 02/03.
Trips to the San Siro, Nou Camp & Delle Alpi, and never giving up hope of making history.
Our immediate return to the Premier League in 10/11after a record breaking season in the Championship, dominating opposition with only 4 defeats, creating a winning identity and culture at the club.
There have been unimaginable goals. Beardsley magic, jinking between defenders with his hip feints and shoulder drops; Shearer’s volley v Everton, out powering a defensive great in Desailly and rocketing a thunderbolt from 25 yards v Chelsea and breaking Milburn’s record v Portsmouth; Laurent Robert free-kicks from ridiculous angles and lengths; Hatem Ben Arfa mazy dribbles, only le wizard was capable of.
Draw dropping flashes of ability, that no fan on this earth appreciates more than a Newcastle fan.
I am proud to say I was there. I lived each moment, loved each nerve-wrenching high and low. We are Newcastle United, entertainment is what we want, and passion is what we are.
Nothing could break that link, between my beloved club and me, the years of bickering and making up, a painful yet magnificent relationship, could it?
4th of March 2015. Bouncing out of work at 17:30 and heading home, my thoughtful partner was busy trying to purchase a ticket for the Newcastle v Man Utd match for me as a surprise. Blissfully unaware, I was meandering around St James’ on my way back home, hoping to catch a glimpse of the BT Sport guys. I’d maybe catch them and grab a quick interview for the magazine – Hopeless Football Romantic.
Text comes through, “Stu, I’m trying to buy a ticket for you for the match tonight, but they are saying its £77, is that right?” Erm, No? It turns out she was calling the box office, and would be required to sign up to a season’s membership of £35, on top of the £42 cost of the actual ticket.
For a 1-off ticket as a surprise; £77.
Now, I don’t attend NUFC games as often as I would like due to a number of reasons; work, playing football, money, plus other responsibilities an adult has. However, I do enjoy selecting a few, maybe 2 or 3 games I can get to, so I can take in my team with my own eyes.
I have never been an advocate of the die-hard supporter (season ticket holder for 20 years, home and away travel) having more right or privilege to support the team as the average Joe that can get to what he or she can. Instead I applaud the loyalty, the enthusiasm and dedication shown, but you cannot determine ‘Love for Newcastle United’ on this scale.
The point I’m getting at, is the average fan, like myself, is being penalised for not attending every game. The simple fact is that I can’t. £77 to go and see the team you love is absolutely disgusting. Luckily I got home and explained this was ridiculous before my partner went ahead and booked. I will never ever pay £77 for 1 ticket.
So as I see it, I am being frozen out by the club. I am a commodity they can do without. They neither want me nor need me. I mean, why would they? Reportedly about to announce a huge operating profit for the last business year, something north of £50million is the unofficial figure currently circulating.
Why would they want a working class, lifelong Newcastle fan, from the immediate suburbs, whose family has most definitely put thousands of pounds into the club in my lifetime, who has supported the team through thick and thin, paid money to play on the hallowed St James’ turf, and watched thousands of games, talking fondly of my team, my club right around the world?
Collected hundreds of club merchandise items over the years, investing hour after hour to follow the club I love?
Unfortunately, my time is up. I have reached the end of my tether and have more important things in my life than Newcastle United, something I thought inconceivable; something that has never crossed my mind would be the case. £77 is 2 weeks shopping. £77 is a trip to Amsterdam on the ferry. £77 is 12.83 entries to North Shields FC.
29/03/2014 I attended my first North Shields FC home game. My friend had been going for a year or two previous and was a huge grass roots fan, from NE29 himself and had a broad knowledge across the region’s teams. The opposition that day was Chester-Lee-Street Town and the atmosphere was electric. The official attendance was 274, and the Robins had secured promotion to the Northern League Division 1, winning 3-0.
I immediately fell in love with grass roots that day. There was a familiarity with everything, although I had never been before. I could relate to the players on the pitch, the guile and effort was infectious. The crowd were buoyant and in celebratory mood, the crack was rife, and you could hear laughter and amusement from every angle. People were enjoying themselves, imagine that?
The manager Graham Fenton has created a unity at the club. The players play for him and the badge, they give their all every single game; hungry for success. Their attacking style pummels the opposition into submission, often scoring 3’s, 4’s and 5’s.
I have a particular reason to follow North Shields FC, my mate growing up, Kevin Hughes, captains the Robins. We had played together in our school team for many a year, and shared various lads’ holidays in our teens. He was always head and shoulders above any player in our year in terms of ability and commitment, and in my opinion if presented with the opportunities others in our regional year group had, would be playing at a higher level, because he wouldn’t have wasted it. Not in his make-up.
That was it. The deal was sealed. I loved North Shields FC. They followed me on Twitter, so they love me too.
My football drive and appetite had been whet; I had rekindled something inside of me that had been missing for years. It was a feeling of belonging, a pride in a collective effort. The bond between player and fan is uniquely strong;
I had cheated on Newcastle United for a club with more feeling and charm. And it felt good.
I am a Robin.
You can follow the author on Twitter @StuHFR
You can also visit his Hopeless Football Romantic website