My Grandad is a lifelong Newcastle supporter, now 89, and one of the more, shall we say, pessimistic members of the Toon Army.
We often chat about both the current situation at SJP and past glories/failures, unfortunately more often the latter. One of the stories I have heard the most is when he attended a home game against Charlton Athletic in October 1952 just months after Newcastle had retained the FA Cup beating Arsenal 1-0.
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With Newcastle playing poorly and 2-0 down with less than 20 minutes to go, my Grandfather thought nothing of it but to try and beat the post-game rush and leave the match early, exiting the Gallowgate End.
When he got back home later that evening his mother enquired about how the game had gone, “lost 2-0” was the blunt reply, according to him literally thirty seconds later the scores were being read out over the wireless….“Newcastle United 3 Charlton Athletic 2”. Vic Keeble(2) and George Robledo had both scored to turn the game around for The Magpies.
“eee John, don’t lie, you were never at that game” was the immediate response from his disbelieving and disappointed mother. My chastened Grandad then apparently had to spend the following hours, and maybe even days, convincing his mother that he had actually been at the football match in question.
Fast forward to February 5th 2011, and Newcastle United are trailing 4-0 at home to a scintillating Arsenal team who have the game apparently won just 25 minutes in. Footage from that game infamously shows quite a few fans leaving the match early, clearly sickened by the non-performance on show.
As the whole footballing world knows, we managed to make a come back and claim an unbelievable point, which not even the most optimistic of fans could have predicted at half-time.
I never leave early.
Never have and can never envisage a situation in which I will. It gets frustrating when people are moving around you and shuffling down the rows when the game is still on a knife edge, which happened quite a few times this past season.
I have learned to live with it though. Fans may have to beat the traffic or as is often the case, may just not be able to take much more of the dour football on show. Of course, I would rather everyone stayed seated whilst the game is going on, including ditching the half-time rush inside which can kill the atmosphere as the interval approaches but, we are not all the same, and we all have different ideas about the best way to support our club.
This extends itself to all types of debates surrounding our club, from what is the best way to remove Ashley to…who should we sign in the summer…and who should be made captain.
The fanbase is wide and varied so massive differences in opinion are to be expected, but when all four corners of St James do come together, as they did for our last-day win against West Ham, the atmosphere can be spine-tingling and genuinely inspire the players.
We may have vastly different opinions but one thing it seems we can all agree on is that ‘we don’t expect a team that wins; we demand a team that tries’.
In these two comebacks that I started my piece with, and in many more in-between, there was the hope that Newcastle could do something special (although clearly my granddad didn’t think so), and even if they didn’t they would go down fighting.
This hope which drives our support has being tested to the max and eroded over the past few months. Now Mike Ashley says he will invest and both my grandfather and I have doubts about whether he will, but there needs to be that hope and that excitement around the ground when we kick off against Southampton.
The possibility of hope is a basic need that can push us on in this first month of some tough looking fixtures, the ground needs to be unified in vocal support.
Steve McClaren needs a good start or he could be under pressure by October. I hope everyone plays their part in delivering the conditions that can lead to that good start, even if you need to leave early.
Enjoy the summer and let’s be ready to get behind the team in August. Howay The Lads.
You can follow Jack on Twitter @JackLaceyHatton