I am now sitting in the Family enclosure at Newcastle United / St James Park and it is certainly an education.
My life watching Newcastle United started off on the Leazes End (where Geordies never end…) terraces, the roof eventually ripped down and a little bit of NUFC (and myself) died that day.
I graduated to the Gallowgate Corner, though occasionally went in the benches (front of the East Stand) when feeling a bit flush.
Then I spent time in both the Milburn and East Stand, before the 90s redevelopment of the Leazes End saw me return to my spiritual home.
We had great seats around halfway up and I have always preferred watching from behind the goal, whether standing or sitting.
After may years I finally took the awful/hard decision to pack it in, giving Mike Ashley another penny was something impossible to do, he’d chipped away at mine and many others’ belief in the club, it just being a shell of what it had once being.
The arrival of Rafa Benitez and Mike Ashley having to accept that he had to do some things properly if he was ever going to get the club back on its feet, gave me a road back in.
So long as Rafa is here (like KK and Sir Bobby before him) the club is in good hands, I have little doubt Benitez will not tolerate any more gross stupidity and so as long as Ashley lets him get on with it, I’m more than happy to be back watching my team.
My 10 year old son’s mate and his dad were already up in the Family Enclosure, so when seats next to them were available this summer, it was an easy choice to spend a very reasonable £400 on our tickets up in the Gods.
It has been…enlightening.
The first and most obvious thing, is that it is a long way up. When I say a long way up, I mean a long way up. The same level as the away fans who often complain/comment on it, there are 20+ flights of stairs up to our seats.
I recall going to Monaco when we played in the UEFA Cup there and getting an escalator up to our (relatively low) level, that would be nice…
The view is good, as in you can see everything, but you don’t really feel part of it and identifying which player it is – is difficult/impossible.
More interestingly though are the people up in the Family Enclosure and the matchday experience.
As I understand it, to get tickets in the family enclosure you need a ratio of two to one as a maximum. So for every child ticket you can have two adults, for every adult ticket you can have two kids. Kids can’t buy tickets without having adult(s) as well, same the other way around – adults can’t buy a ticket without kid(s).
However, when looking around people watching, it looks clear that the club have taken anybody’s money prepared to buy one.
Groups of kids sit together, adults sit together. Some of the more bizarre sights are a noticeable number of 50+ year old males in Stone Island sitting together, amongst groups of kids and random family groups.
After five or six matches already, it is clear that it isn’t just that it is dads sitting together, with then their kids next to them, it is obvious they are not connected.
The atmosphere is terrible/non-existent. The groups of teenagers (with no adults in sight) are probably the worst and most depressing. They slouch in their seats, sing half a line of a song/chant and then lie back and get their smartphone out again.
That’s another thing, at times it is like a Take That concert, so many of the kids are trying to film parts of the match on their phones instead of watching it. I often think just how depressing it is compared to my great memories of standing in the Leazes and Gallowgate Corner.
Yes it was mental a lot of the time but it was so exciting. The closest these lot get to excitement is if they manage to capture a two yard tap in on their phones from 500 yards away, or however far it is away from the pitch up in the Family Enclosure.
We also have the dreadful 17th minute thing. The whole point of why the 17th minute applause ever happened now totally lost, Liam and John would have been both proud and embarrassed by that initial fuss and tribute when they were so sadly taken from us.
Now however, over two years later, it is just something that is a big negative – certainly in the Family Enclosure. It is a distraction from the match and where we are it is so pathetic, the kids/teenagers are obviously counting the seconds down and then as soon as the clock hits 17 they start the applause, only for then a fraction of a second later to boo the away fans as loud as possible – before even seeing if they are going to join in with the applause.
Needless to say, it is very tempting to give them a slap…
Other instances have already seen food and drink thrown from behind us, supposedly in an outbreak of anger at the away team/fans. The reality is of course that an Olympian couldn’t get even halfway towards the opposing fans/players and the said food and drink, hits other Newcastle fans.
Nothing has hit us yet but if it did, turning around and trying to find out who it was from the rows of gormless teenagers who have purposefully got tickets towards the back, would be pointless.
When the (imaginary) 80 minute Klaxon goes, I would say almost half the Family Enclosure start to leave or at least preparing to, this includes the groups of kids without any adults in sight. If Newcastle are losing (Huddersfield/Norwich) then this desertion happens even earlier for many of them.
The pinnacle of course was the Norwich match, those two late goals were celebrated by us (myself and my son, his friend and dad) wildly, I struggle to remember the last time I felt like that.
However, I kid you not, there were only around 10 or so other Newcastle fans still there, out of the 100 or so closest other seats.
Rather than National Service being the cure, the only answer is to get safe standing areas inside St James Park ASAP, this is an emergency!
Otherwise, we are going to have a whole lost generation of young Newcastle fans who don’t know how to support their club.