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What to get the Newcastle United fan who has everything…

4 years ago

I hope Santa has been watching closely through that little red light that also allegedly doubles up as a movement sensor. There’s the hope of a new bike; the new Furby; and a Newcastle United strip.

The kids have asked him for some stuff, too.

I used to like an annual from Santa. The Beano or Bash Street Kids; The Broons; Roy of the Rovers. And I still like a book, what with liking books and football. If you’re stuck for what to buy the football fan who has already bought the new top, and possibly even a Newcastle United Furby, let me recommend a few books that don’t make an unlikely funny noise you can’t turn off when you pick them up.

Duncan Hamilton’s ‘The Footballer who could Fly’ is a sensitive exploration of the relationship between a father, a son, and their love for their football team. For many of us, our first experiences of football were with our dads. But it’s more than that; as we grow up and our attitudes change, sometimes to the point of alienation, football can be a constant. It gives us something to talk about with people we don’t really want to argue with, but with whom we might disagree with on many things, if it wasn’t for the unifying love of a football team.

Spanning the years between being given his first, almost holy Newcastle United strip, wrapped in brown paper, and the beginning of the renaissance under Bobby Robson (he wasn’t ‘Sir’ yet), this book is a beautiful example of one central point of great sports writing: it is the people, and how their stories are inextricably sewn into the fabric of the sport they love, that really matter.

In contrast, Roy of the Rovers ‘autobiography’ carries one emotion throughout: utter hilarity. It’s always dangerous to harp on to someone else about how funny something is. I watched Mrs Brown’s Boys because someone at work kept on telling me it was brilliant, but I couldn’t see it.

Suffice to say, if you liked the Monty Python When I were a Lad sketch, or listened to anyone glaze over about the bloody dreadful sounding good ol’ days, when kids used rubble as footballs and football socks were made from asbestos, you’ll enjoy this.

A week ago, we were talking at work about the local football teams. Now, I work in Easington, so there are Newcastle United fans (more than you’d think; three), Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool fans. Mike supports Liverpool, but he’s taken his son to loads of Sunderland matches so he counts in this conversation.

The Far Corner: A Mazy Dribble through North East Football by Harry Pearson mentions all four clubs, but it is the tales of his visits to every non-league club that make this book the quirky and eccentric read it is. The background story of West Auckland, the first ever winners of the World Cup (The Thomas Lipton one, not the FIFA thing), is as frustrating and poignant as the rest of the book is funny. It is observant, and warm, unlike most of the grounds he visits.

Ever wondered why the North-East clubs haven’t won as much as the wealth of footballing talent, both playing and managerial, suggest they should?

Up There: The North East Football Boom and Bust by Michael Walker explores this bewildering anomaly. Dozens of League Championships, European Cups, UEFA Cups, FA Cups, and League Cups have been won by managers from the North East, often with players from the North East. So how come so many slipped through the fingers of the clubs in the area?

Bright lights? Big money? Bad management? The North East is a cliché of sleeping giants and footballing back streets, but this book isn’t. What it does, is make you wonder what might, and maybe should, have been.

So, there you go. There are loads of other books that would make a great oblong bulge in Santa’s stocking, ahem.

All with Smiling Faces: How Newcastle became United by Paul Brown is a fascinating history of the birth of our club; there are Newcastle United statistics and facts books by Paul Joannou; and the Oor Wullie annual is a must for dungarees fans everywhere.

Any more ideas, please let me know. I’ll tell Santa when I see him though that sensor thingy.

You can follow the author on Twitter @georgestainsby

(Don’t forget, the best place for the best eclectic mix of quality presents for Newcastle fans, make sure you visit The Mag’s online shop – for prints, cards, mugs, coasters, official personalised NUFC gifts, posters, keyrings, books, signed memorabilia and much more GO HERE)


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