Well, my story has a start and a finish.
It includes love, loss, blood, sweat, tears and betrayal.
It has highs and lows with some villains along the way…both in person and as a collective.
It all starts around 25 years ago.
A 13 year old boy, born in the south (Luton), who’s immediate family not into football until a World Cup comes around, sits with tears rolling down his cheeks as a man named Waddle blasts a football over a crossbar and an Italian adventure comes to a cruel end.
Now the events of Italia 90 had stirred a passion for a sport I had up until then known only for taking a ball over the local park to chase after….jumpers for goal posts and all that.
It was my Granddad, Frank, that spoke to me about football, his days as a young lad, before the war, late 20s early 30s, growing up waiting outside the hallowed Gallowgate End, St. James Park for the flags to go up when there was only 15 minutes left to go. So he would be let in (for free) to see the end of a game, his favourite player ‘Wor Jackie’, tales of games/victories both domestic and in Europe had me captivated. His love for the Toon Army was absolute.
Fast fwd to 11th April 1992 at Portman Road, Ipswich. My first game. We lost 3:2. But the crowd, the noise, the passion was everything my Grandad has said it was and more…..
Then later that season I saw my first game at St. James Park v Portsmouth. April 25th. Gallowgate end. David Kelly, scored in front of the Gallowgate, second half to keep us up….wow!!!
What an atmosphere. The roar that went up as the ball hit the back of the net….I will never forget it!!! I was hooked…….for life…….?
As the seasons rolled by with promotion to the Premier league, so so close to winning it, adventures into Europe, I watched from afar, living in Bedfordshire/Northamptonshire. Trying to get to as many games as possible (as I worked Saturdays), watching on the telly, tuning into the radio, my passion was growing stronger and stronger.
Then in 2003, after I changed my job so I could have Saturdays free, my NUFC Season ticket arrived!!!
To say I was excited wouldn’t cover it!!!! Dream come true!!!!
I had always said to my girlfriend (later to become my wife), I will always go and see my football at weekends, which she didn’t have a problem with.
So, with my 2003/2004 season ticket in hand I started the 440 mile round trip every other weekend, plus about 50% or so of away games…loving every minute of it, totally hooked….even when Titus dropped a clanger in the last minute, which happened quite regularly if I recall.
04/05,05/06 seasons came and went, ups and down, highs and lows, loving every minute, and now at a stage where I felt all I wanted was to immerse myself in it, I felt drawn like a moth to a flame.
So 6 months after I got married I convinced my new wife to move with me to the north east. This would mean leaving all her friends, family and social life to be with me on my quest to follow my dream and my passion for NUFC.
Now throughout out all the time of supporting NUFC, home and away, I was forever questioned about why I supported them, due to the southern twang to my accent. Being as all of my family, except my Grandad (born and raised in Jesmond, Newcastle Upon Tyne) are from West London, myself living there as well as Herts, Beds, Bucks and Northants.
I had always felt I had to continually justify why I supported NUFC, although my north east friends would often remark at the journey that I undertook before my move to the area and suggest I was an adopted Geordie.
So with this in mind I, as it was something I had wanted for a while, had a tattoo on my upper arm. The NUFC crest. Proudly showing my support, now no one could question my loyalty, even with a foreign accent.
In 2006 my Grandad past away. I was very close to him, and I felt the passion we felt for NUFC was something I could use to remember him by and the plaque that I had placed at the ground. I will always miss him.
After about 2 years it become apparent my wife wasn’t settling in the area, missing her family, feeling lonely, plus with our new baby she was finding it tough.
So with a heavy heart, but I knew it was the right thing to do for the sake of my marriage, I made the decision to move back south, back to where her family, friends and social life were waiting for her.
Now it was me that was down, depressed even. I had loved living in the north east, felt at home there, had made some close friends, and now I was having to make a choice between my wife & child and where I lived…..this was nearly splitting my marriage up…….I would feel unsettled for many years to come.
The draw for me to live in the north east, near my beloved Newcastle Utd was overwhelming. For every home game I felt like I didn’t want to leave.
So the 440 mile round trips where back, but not one bit did it bother me, leaving at 8am, getting home at 10/11pm depending on traffic. Never a problem. It was like a drug. I couldn’t get enough. I even did the midweek games, getting home at 2/3am then up for work the next day……
Then during the relegation season 2008/2009, some players looked like they didn’t care, some weren’t good enough. My support was absolute.
While at Villa Park, with my dad, on that fateful last day that confirmed our relegation, with a backdrop of villains gleefully holding mocking cards “who is your next messiah Ant & Dec?” I saw Steven Taylor at the final whistles in tears. It hurt him, as it hurt me. Painful day, but there was a group of players I felt that it mattered to, it wasn’t just a job, it was personal. As a fan that’s what you look for. Sometimes that’s all you ask.
Over the next few years there was more rumblings as I still couldn’t settle back in the south, still wanted to move to the North east. Strain was on my marriage.
Now with Mike Ashley having his feet under the table, promotion back to the top table of English football was immediate. But slowly but surely over the coming seasons the soul that was NUFC was dying.
Sports direct all over the stadium, the “S***** D***** Arena”, empty promises, complete contempt towards the supporters, protests from the fans, some games there was a poisonous atmosphere, no communication from the board etc…..but I kept going.
When I took my daughter (then 4) to her first game against Cardiff, I was praying for a win so the atmosphere was a good one. We did (3:0) and on the whole it was.
So now we are up to the start of last season, 2014/2015. Great start, then not so good, more rumblings, ‘Pardew Out’ protests, Ashley doing his usual…… Nothing.
Then the season nosedives….big time.
At this stage the soul has gone. It’s been ripped out by a man who couldn’t care less about the area, the supporters, and the club’s future. All he cares about is MONEY. The millions of pounds worth of free advertising he gets, his company name beamed all over the world due to the Premier League’s ‘worldwide appeal/brand’.
NUFC start losing games at an alarming rate. The losses don’t bother me….well they do but it’s the manner of the defeats that killed me! The players didn’t care. It was obvious. Bar one or two they couldn’t care less. They collected their colossal pay cheques each week, while I was traveling 440 miles to watch dross. If we lost 4:0 every week but the players were all 100%, trying their hardest but just weren’t good enough then I could except that.
It’s at this point I’m starting to think, #enoughisenough.
I have given so much of my life, my love and risked my marriage(!) for NUFC and this is how you repay me, how you treat me.
It’s like have an amazing relationship for 23 years that you give everything to, have some great times together and then you are let down, betrayed, cheated on, treated with contempt, over and over again.
All the above was also happening at the same time as ridiculous sums of money were being pumped into the Premier League. It’s even more now than ever, overhyped with most clubs’ focus on revenue streams, supporters way down the list.
So I made the decision that I would give up my season ticket, support a local team, (I am now a season ticket holder at Luton Town, where I was born). Lower league football placing a lot more importance on their fan base as it makes up a much bigger proportion of their incomes.
The players also seem to be more ‘real’, they seem to care, happy to give blood, sweat and tears for the cause. I now feel settled where I live for the first time.
I will always have a place in my heart for NUFC, look out for the scores etc. But with a heavy heart I have had to go my separate way.
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