Do you find that a song can instantly take you back to a specific time and place in your life?
For example, Cool for Cats by Squeeze puts me in the Hofbrauhaus before a match in 1979. There I am, trying to look mature in my Harrington jacket, drinking McEwan’s Export, while watching a bunch of disinterested strippers who were slightly less attractive than Peter Withe.
But with more facial hair.
Then there is that picture which is used now and again on The Mag, of fans on the terraces at Roker Park the day Newcastle came to town
What a picture it is (see above).
It epitomises just why my generation of fans fell in love with the game. It certainly wasn’t for the football on offer because let’s be honest, we were totally crap on the pitch. Somehow though that didn’t seem to matter when you could spend 90 minutes being hurled around various terraces, managing to catch the odd bit of the match now and again between the shoulders of the two six foot lads in front of you.
No matter what the future holds for Newcastle United, whether that’s beating Real Madrid in the Champions League or finally winning a trophy at Wembley, would that be able to compete with those wonderful days of travelling to games in the back of a van with a bunch of blokes whose constant smoking, coupled with hideous beer induced flatulence, made breathing virtually impossible.
Nowadays, I can’t believe that I actually did a thousand mile round trip from Germany via boat and train so that I could be at Roker Park to watch us get beat. No wife, no kids, no mortgage. The only thing that mattered in life in 1980 was Newcastle United Football Club.
As there is a remote chance that my wife and daughter may read this article, I had better say that I am blissfully happy with my life and wouldn’t change anything for the world…but if God would give me the chance to relive 90 minutes from my past, then I would probably ask to be transported to an away game from this period. Something like this game or Leeds away first game of 83-84, 1-0 John Anderson. God knows how many Geordies in Elland Road. Truly wonderful times.
Despite the obvious difficulties facing her, the lifestyle of my daughter in 2016 is still light years better than the one available to us in the 70s. For instance:
They have X-Box, we had Subbuteo.
They have the internet, we had the Pink
They have smart phones, we had the battered phone booth at the end of the street that smelt like a farmyard.
But one area I win hands down is football ground atmospheres. I regret that today’s generation will never be able to experience what terrace culture was like.
Why was it so good? Was it because the area and the team were on their knees, and match days was the one way the people, who were not prepared to roll over and have their belly tickled, could voice their defiance?
We were the best in the country, I genuinely believe that. Despite very little money being available, the followings we took around the country were amazing. It made no logic for people to spend what little money they had travelling to Orient, Wrexham and Shrewsbury, but when was being a football supporter ever about logic?
That’s why the massive turnouts both home and away this season don’t surprise me. This kind of support is in our DNA.
Yet, as each season goes by, blending into one, less and less people can relate to this picture above. You would need to be probably around 50 years old to have been in that crowd, So derby games at Roker Park gradually fade from the memory and become ancient history. Only to be talked about by the old farts with no hair and diabetes.
Just like the Fairs Cup or the FA Cup wins, they become nothing more than pictures in a book. The match day experience moves on and evolves into taking “I’m at the match“ selfies on your phone and putting it on facebook. God knows, I will never understand why, but I’m not supposed to. My world no longer exists.
Maybe that is a good thing, maybe it isn’t. However, go on Youtube and find footage of the Newcastle United 1974 semi final against Burnley at Hillsborough and decide for yourself. It still makes my jaw drop looking at twenty thousand crammed into that end.
While the Leppings lane end was to go down in infamy and bring about the end of terrace culture, it’s highly ironic that the other end was probably the greatest Kop terrace England will ever see. Anyone who was part of that seething mass of humanity, will never forget it.
I wouldn’t have missed this part of my life for the world. Even if I was dressed in a starry jumper, loon pants and cuban heels.