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The Good Old Days

6 years ago

3rd May 1986

This was my first visit to Filbert Street as a 15 year old.  I’d probably saved up enough paper round money to treat myself to an away trip for the last game of the season.

I have vivid memories of a scorching hot day, the usual defeat (2-0).  I remember wearing a nice blue paisley short sleeve shirt and probably thought I looked pretty cool.  I stood on the terrace behind and to the right of the goal looking down the side of the pitch where our posher fans who could afford a seat were located.

However, maybe they weren’t that posh as there was also some excessive seat throwing out of the away end after the final whistle, although I have no idea why?  Maybe it was an 80s thing?  The atmosphere in the away end was brilliant and I couldn’t wait for the next season to start.

2nd May 1992

My second visit to Filbert Street was again on the last day of the season.  However, this time it was as a 21 year old with a driving licence whose turn it was to drive.

In many respects I’m glad I was sober, although given the potential consequences of failure that day, being blind drunk would have made things easier for many.  One fanzine was even providing free suicide pills in the event of disaster!!

Back then there were no loyalty points, so other ways of getting tickets had to be tried.  Fortunately for me, a bloke at work had a son who worked in the ticket office.  The usual 4 cans of McEwans Export for dad swayed some tickets our way.

Memories of that day include seeing some mates outside the away end who had been turned away as they had a dodgy ticket printed on one side only.  The real ones had a bottle of milk printed on the reverse.

They weren’t the only ones that had turned up on spec and been duped.  The real tickets were a reasonable £7 for a seat compared to today’s inflated rates.  Keegan joined in some kind of pre-match sponsored run around the pitch.  Newcastle fans were located along the side of the pitch taking up around two thirds of that stand.  I remember everyone standing on the seat to watch the game (rather than throw them this time).

Peacock scoring in the first half sent us into pandemonium and the backing to the team was second to none, as it had been all season.  The second half dragged as my fingernails disappeared at a phenomenal rate and in the dying minutes Leicester equalised.  While we thought we were heading for oblivion they were heading for promotion (or maybe just the play-offs, as that I can’t remember).

The sight of their fans around the touchline was unusual to say the least as they surrounded the goal.  Then the most dramatic finale as Steve Walsh who had scored the equaliser managed to steer one into his own net.  Cue more delirium in the away end and a mass pitch invasion…of home fans.

This is where things started getting a little bit edgy both on and off the pitch.  There was no sign of the game restarting as the players and officials had run for cover, notably Newcastle players in with the Newcastle fans!!  Nobody knew what was happening.  Had the game ended?  Was the ref going to bring the players out to play the final moments once the crowd had been dispersed or the ground was empty?

Most importantly had we won 2-1 and saved ourselves from having to rely on others at the bottom to fail?  Would it have to be replayed?  It’s fair to say that the fans on the pitch weren’t showing the love to us and it wasn’t being reciprocated either.

Eventually the crowd started to leave the ground with still no knowledge of what was going on or if the remaining minutes or seconds would be played out.  I can’t ever recall leaving a football stadium and not knowing for sure what the result was.

No mobile phones to seek clarification or SKY sports to confirm or deny any speculation.  I remember walking out of the ground back to the car with groups of lads chasing each other around the streets.  Walking along one of the main roads we were confronted by a group of dodgy looking lads.

Them – “who you looking at”

Us – “no one mate”

Them – “you from Newcastle like”

Us – “aye”

Them – “sorry lads” …as they quickly turned their attention to searching for locals instead, probably.

Passing back through Yorkshire on the way home we managed to get some results at a service station via the local rag “The Green Un” (equivalent of The Pink). Which seemed to indicate, or at least didn’t deny, that the result had stood and as it happened our competitors hadn’t done enough to overtake us anyway.

12 months later and it was Leicester for the last game of the season yet again.  This time at home and the famous 7-1 win for the Champions as we strode into the Premier League for the first time.  Talk about a quick turnaround in fortunes!!

It’s an awful long time ago now but still feels like only yesterday.  If you’d told me back then that we’d go on to play in 2 FA Cup finals, finish Premier League runners up and play over a 100 games in Europe, I’d have been on the phone to the crisis team to suggest they consider locking you up for your own safety.

Now we are about to go head to head with Leicester again.  They are on a bit of a revival whereas we are in freefall.  I’m sure Nigel Pearson will be looking to prove a point to his former employer.

The depressing thing is that I’m not really bothered what the result is.  That’s the current depth we have plummeted to under Mr Ashley.  I wouldn’t be arsed if Leicester won and survived and we went down, if it meant huge change for the better.

I’d rather enjoy some competitive Championship football with some hope of bouncing back (a purpose to the match if you like) than the drudgery of turning up at a soulless St James’ to witness what exactly?

Back in 1992, despite the perilous position we found ourselves in, I felt more connected to the club than I do at the minute.  The fans and the players were UNITED even in adversity.

Historically (for me anyway) it’s usually been a sad day after the final game, wondering how you are going to fill the summer months until we can start to dream all over again.

If only it was the last day of the season now, as the sooner this one ends the better.  As for hopes for next season…I don’t have any, what’s the point since the club don’t have any goals worth attaining.

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