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I wasn’t always a Newcastle United fan

6 years ago

I have a confession….I wasn’t always a Newcastle United fan.

Born in 1958, I grew up in Elswick in the early 60´s, large swathes of land were still bombed out from World War 2 and you could see Vickers Armstrong from our house, with a clear view all the way to Scotswood Road.

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Playing in the street wasn´t a problem because very few people round our way had cars, and you could still buy loose tabs and a book of matches.

Man from UNCLE was the best show on TV and I knew nothing about Newcastle United except what my older brother told me.

We kicked an old leather ball in the street or on the waste ground opposite our house, and everyone wanted to be Georgie Best!!!

That all changed for me in 1966, it must have been a special occasion because our TV hadn´t been repossessed and we had enough two bob bits for the meter.

My dad must have been in prison (again) because I don´t remember him being there with us to watch the World Cup.

I saw a footballer who changed my world, for better or worse: Gordon Banks!!

He could do things that no other keeper could and that was it for me, I wanted to be a goalie.

I was too young to go to the matches on my own and my older brother didn´t want to be saddled with me as he was a ‘Leazes Ender’, so I had to make do with him bringing me the Pink after every home game so I could find out how Leicester City were, or more precisely, how Gordon Banks was doing !!

Much to all my mates´ pleasure I was eager to go in goal for all our kickabouts (wasteground where we played pictured below).

1967 he got transferred to Stoke City and when he played his first match at St James´ Park for them, my brother decided to take me with him.

In those days the Leazes End was for the ‘Big’ boys and the kids would go in the Paddock or Gallowgate, and because I wanted to be right behind the goal to see my hero in action it had to be right down the front.

It was a good crowd, not full, but still a good crowd and I had a great view.

I can´t remember the score, but I was so close to the goal I could almost smell the linament on the goalie and when the match kicked off with Stoke defending the Gallowgate end I was in heaven, he commanded his area like Wellington at Waterloo, and when he pulled off an unbelievable save against Pop Robson, I thought it couldn´t get any better! Boy was I wrong.

The second half kicked off with my hero being at the other end of the pitch so I was resigned to paying more attention to the game, the crowd and the feeling of standing in St James´ Park.

I could say I remember all the players’ names from that match but I´d be lying.

I remember Wyn Davies and Pop Robson and John McNamee and Frank Clark and of course some Irish fella called Iam (that´s what he called himself in those days) McFaul in goal for us.

I think the match finished 1-1, but on that day something more important happened: I fell head over heels in love with Newcastle United Football club.

No more Georgie Best for me (when not in goal) It was Pop Robson (obvious choice for me) or Wyn the leap.

I lived and breathed everything Newcastle United and when my 3 older brothers left school and got jobs and money started coming in (in those days there was no welfare support if the head of the household was in prison) I started to get pocket money.

My brother still took me to home games and never let me pay him back, he would drop me at the Gallowgate and I had to wait around afterwards for him to collect me.

On one of my birthdays he even paid extra for a midweek game against Stoke City, but by then I had Black and White running through my veins, Gordon Banks was still the Best Goalkeeper in the world but my head wouldn´t be turned !!!

When I was old enough to have a paper round, I did mornings and evenings, before and after school and when we were playing away I did Billy Baggott’s round so that he would do mine for home games.

I could afford to pay for my own admission and life was perfect.

Reserve games were played on the hallowed turf at St James´ Park and were actually quite well supported. One of my mates got spotted by a scout and was signed up for Newcastle Boys, so I got free tickets to all the home games for them too and sometimes they even played at St James´ Park.

I´ve seen some great days and some oh so close seasons, I´ve travelled far and wide and visited some grounds that weren´t much better than the wasteland I played on as a kid growing up in Elswick, and I wouldn´t change a single thing about it.

I wangled prisoner escort duty when I was in Basic Military Training, just so I could get home for a match even.

I don´t like where the club is at right now, and if affirmative action is the only way we can get things to change, then so be it.

I don´t have to like it, but for someone like me who never thought I would see the day when I felt ashamed to be associated with a club that has been my life blood for so long, I can´t see any other way to make it a Football Club to make our city proud once more.

You see, when I was writing this, I could still feel the butterflies and that coppery taste of excitement from my very first game as a nine year old trying to catch a glimpse of his hero!!!

I want to feel that just one more time, and I´ll be damned if I let some ‘businessman’ take that away from me.

I´m not asking for the world, just a club that at least tries to be the best it can.

Is that really too much to ask for ?


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