Well the season is over and everyone is now generally bored, Newcastle United have been linked with all and sundry, but I can’t get overly excited until someone actually signs on the dotted line…

The end of the season brought apparently joyous scenes to St James Park. I use the word apparently, simply because having missed only 17 home games since ‘my’ debut in 1970, I contrived to miss the last two home games due to reasons that were out of my control.

To make matters worse, as Sky were showing the happenings at the bottom of the league I was reliant on rubbish Internet, and due to the excitement at SJP, I was unable to get anyone to pick up the phone back in Blighty.

I must have been the last person on the planet to know that Villa had equalised – I hope you all enjoyed!

Congratulations to Huddersfield Town as well, who in all honesty probably were the best team out of the rest. Oddly enough, back in 1970 my first ever home game was against Huddersfield, where perched on a concrete barrier in the A Wing paddock I witnessed an exciting 0-0 draw.

First game, seeing a green pitch, forget the grass always being green as I had only ever seen snippets on Shoot or MOTD ( if allowed to stay up late). This was some two years before we had a colour TV so in my eyes the grass was grey, memories…then to my left the heaving mass that was the Leazes End. It would be some years before I stood on that famous terrace but the sight is as clear now as it was then.

Anyway, a few articles on here touch upon people’s first home game and why they were hooked, it’s a habit I certainly can’t give up and never will.

As time progressed I yearned to go to an away game but my dad did not drive and being a Brighton fan, he was not that fussed. Until one day in August 1977 he came home and announced ‘we are off to Middlesbrough tomorrow for an away game’!

He had two tickets and a trusted uncle was driving, before I knew it there we were, five of us wedged into a Hillman Avenger for the trip to Ayresome Park.

We parked somewhere in the labyrinth of streets close to the ground, where I was told by my dad to take off the Newcastle United silk scarf I had removed from my bedroom wall early in the morning.

This was a wise move as my first away game featured not just a two nil defeat where Tommy Craig missed a first minute penalty, but seeing masses of both sets of fans going head to head right outside the ground with very few Police present.

In all honesty, it was quite frightening for an excited 13 year old. As the fans separated we were spat on by the Boro fans who had realised we were not Teessiders, as we sought sanctuary from the fighting masses!

The fighting started and stopped for what seems like an eternity until eventually the police forced back the Boro fans into one of the streets opposite the ground. The fact it was the street we sought sanctuary in made things more unpleasant, as the spit and the odd stray punch was again aimed at the adults in our small group.

This was not the first time I was to see trouble when we played Middlesbrough home or away because as the years went by I learned that the place had quite a reputation.

Many years later, as a responsible adult I had my revenge because I was employed to inspect houses in the Middlesbrough area for abstraction of electricity (meter fiddle) – so there was plenty of revenge as houses were plunged into darkness (legally) by yours truly. Doing this job for five years meant I got to know the really bad areas and some really colourful people in and around Teesside.

Getting back to the car after the game was also a challenge given that there is street after street of terraced houses all around the ground, and as it was in those days, both sets of fans exited together – leaving the streets open for more mayhem. One particular sad memory of that day in 1977, was seeing an elderly Boro fan  being relieved of his scarf by a Newcastle fan as his grandson stood next to him crying.

Our aim was to get back to the car and out of this place, which we duly did without further molestation, and on the Monday at school I exaggerated the happenings as I relived the events of the day with my jealous friends.

These are vivid memories for me, I can’t remember what I did yesterday but I can remember every away game I have ever been to: the highs, the lows, the funny, the sad and yes in some cases, the nastiness that went with being a football fan in the 70s and 80s.

Everyone has their own memories of away games, I know I have plenty, but my first away game won’t ever be forgotten, later that season I was to visit Roker Park for the first time……but maybe that is for another day!

Enjoy the summer, we are back where we belong and while at an age where I dare not wish my life away, I can’t wait for the big kick-off.

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

  • Grahame Johnson

    For a early season friendly as a 13 year old I was sitting on the bus from my parents caravan to Sunderland, just past the Tyne tunnel a bloke said take your scarf off son I didn’t (clueless) a little bar steward was one of the polite things said and one punch on the back of the heed, alas I was hooked and Armstrong galleys became a regular to away games till train and private bus in the 80s, I used to love seeing private buses from rougher areas pulling up looking like characters from the viz getting off and the prisons day oot, lugs missing, old school tattoos, donkey jackets, doc martins etc once at man u away (5-0) a bus from north Kenton club pulled up near the ground the copper said wait far a escort after a few people got off he said just walk up shaking his head and laughing. We have had many a character who followed the toon the lad with Newcastle United tattooed on his forehead was great in the 80s I seen him after a rough old time at Chelsea once with it covered in plasters to hide it ha ha.

    • Davey drape

      crazy days

    • Leazes Ender

      Never mind

  • Albert Stubbins

    yes it was a nasty little spot to visit in the 80’s and early 90’s. The police wern’t very friendly down there I know that- lol- perhaps with good reason in some cases. Great story. Can’t wait for the sunderland experience.

    • Jezza

      Ha ha, the coppers were often even worse than the local hooligans at Ayresome Park back in the day. Strange thing is I have spent a lot of time in the town of Middlesborough over the years and when you’re not there as an away supporter you find that the people there are generally very friendly and having a Tyneside accent doesn’t cause any problems.

  • Jezza

    “five of us wedged into a Hillman Avenger ”

    Could have been worse, at least it wasn’t a Hillman Imp.

  • Leazes Ender

    I remember getting flattened by a fist the size of a waggon wheel coming out of Ayresome…. happy days

  • HappyToons

    Boro away wasn’t as bad as Stoke or Milwall, I can recall them getting a good kicking at Ayersome park in their own seats, and I still can’t remember why we were put in two separate corners for a mid week game. I think if boro were honest they had it pretty rough at our place until CCTV.

    I was reading a Leeds fan and Man City fan saying that in the 70’s and 80’s when Newcastle went there it was like Scotland playing at Wembley to play England, a mass invasion of a load of nutters taking over the place, no fear, drinking in their main places, where ever we could park a transit! That really sums those days up pretty accurately when we went away!

    • Brian Standen

      Been to both and Stoke in 95 was possibly the worst, it was odd because by then things had mellowed
      But 70s and 80s our lot probably had worst reputation in the country!
      Boro was rough, everywhere was really but wherever Newcastle went the pubs became black and white and nobody ever came into NE1 with the same numbers!
      In 84 Portsmouth had a bit of a go but the bouncer from the canny lad chased them away on his own ! Different these days , some would say for the better , others may disagree

      • Mal

        That Stoke visit was frightening. Definitely the most scary away game I’ve ever attended. After the match we were just been hunted down by Stoke supporters. My favourite away ground is now Brighton and I’m so glad they’re going up with us. Away fans are treated by stewards with respect and they even keep the bars open after the end of the game so you can have a drink while the crowds clear. Never seen any trouble there.