Before the days of a magnificent all seater stadium, and before the magnificent all seater stadium went to the gym and pumped up a couple of extra tiers, St James Park didn’t look quite finished.

In the late 70s, the old Leazes End was demolished to make way for a development that would not happen for many years. And in the middle of that vastly reduced, underdeveloped terrace, was a scaffold. Every now and then, the Match of the Day TV cameras would find their way up north. More likely would be highlights on Shoot! as Newcastle United were a sleeping giant having a kip in the old second division, there would be more chance of edited highlights of losing at home to Barnsley, than a Sunday afternoon, Greatest League in the World, live match against, err, Swansea City.

While I do enjoy my rose-tinted spectacles of those years of going to the match as a young ‘un, I also remember the dread of seeing those TV cameras. We didn’t just lose at home to Barnsley when we were on the telly. We seemed to lose a lot when we were on the telly. My dad, who hardly looks at the footballing world with any optimism, used to think as much.

I’ve spent half of my adult life thinking pretty much what he doesn’t, but his declaration that, “We’re on the telly, we’re going to lose. It’s like the telly people want us to lose!” just sounded like a bar stool conspiracy theory. But could he, like a grizzled old detective with a week left on the force, a mystery, and a hunch as to the answer, have a point?

Thinking back to Liverpool v Newcastle United in the FA Cup, 1984, we were a sleeping giant making some waking up noises, on the way to promotion. The BBC were full of it; Kevin Keegan going back to his old club, memories of ’74 (not for me, I was more interested in rusks and going for a walk in my pushchair), and Liverpool were at the peak of their powers. Perhaps not surprisingly, we were taken apart, live on a Friday night.

Looking back, I can’t help but feel that we were deliberately televised as the whipping boys. Let’s watch this lot get thrashed by the big lads. Mind, I also remember watching the telly and only hearing Newcastle fans. Must have been amazing to be there.

Surely the BBC weren’t just setting us up to fail? Jimmy Hill was very excited about a new talent called Chris Waddle. Nah… it’s all in my head.

Sky TV used to love us. ‘The Entertainers’ they called us, maybe after we came back from 2-1 down to beat Sheffield Wednesday 4-2. And they loved us for a while longer; but the love turned to pity following Kevin Keegan’s now famous rant after the Leeds match. And following our last Premier League season of amazing away performances, our away matches seem to be on a surprising amount. Surely this is good? Surely it’s better than being on Shoot!?

Well, this brings us to their pundits, who don’t seem to have a lot of time for Newcastle United. To be fair, some of them don’t have a lot of time for anyone. It’s a bit like a football version of the Jeremy Kyle show. So it’s just in my head.

Frustratingly, I’m always amazed at the slightly defeatist attitude of pundits. When a team goes two goals down, the pundit, who, having usually played in the modern era with some experience of sports psychology and a positive approach to sporting difficulty,  generally think that there is no way back, and the losing team might as well start selling their stuff in the club shop because no one will ever want it. Michael Owen is the worst for this and his approach explains his ‘efforts’ to help us survive in 2009.

And yet, the BBC pundits seem so grudging in their praise.

Is it because Newcastle United parted company with Mark Lawrenson and all of the other pundits seemed to be his chums?

Is it because they genuinely believe we are deluded?

This would be lazy punditry at its most dismal.

I’m not giving up. I’m being too sensitive. I’ll go on thinking that it’s just a coincidence, and that the pundits are maybe just a bit miserable, creating a TV character of themselves. They think everyone apart from about seven teams ‘are going to struggle’ or are ‘in a relegation dogfight.’

How could we possibly feel so singled out? Anyway, soon there will be the FA Cup to take our mind off it all.

Hang on… Ronnie Radford. Every. Year.

The plot thinkens.

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  • Ivan

    I was at anfield in 84 and your right we were the loudest I’ve ever been amongst, I think we also knew we were being singled out for the anti Newcastle brigade even back then for the honour of live tv

    • Brian Elliott

      I was at Anfield that night and it was amazing despite the scoreline. Took us most of the night to get home on the football special, someone kept pulling the emegency cord. Good times.

    • grantham mag

      Back in the 70s we would go to Blackpool after every match in the our thousands if we played any Lancashire team, happy days. before SKY TV ruined the game.

  • Rich Lawson

    As a schoolboy in the 60’s I used to turn up early for a home game and spend an hour hanging about the steps of what was the main entrance then and collect autographs.Ocassionaly Kenneth (”It is now”) Wolstenholme would walk up,nice bloke,always up for a chat.I would then know we were the game on MOTD that night.I always thought it was great that I could watch it twice.Used to enjoy Shoot after lunch on a Sunday as well.The match was generally whoever had been at home between us and mackems,although you’d get caught out sometimes by a contractual obligation to show so much of Boro and Darla in a season! Good times.

    • Geordiegiants

      The late eighties early nineties were the best times for me, when the fans got together and made a difference, yeah it was rough, but it was exciting, I used to turn up p!ssed and pay £1.50 in the kids end, get patted down by the police and told I was stinking of drink. Good times!

      • Tony Mann

        Took my ex, ex ex to SJP in the early 80’s . Sheffield lass who knew a bit about footy – She loved it, even with the wee flowing down the Gallowgate cos we only had one potty between 10,000.

      • Rich Lawson

        Ha ! Ha ! Brilliant.

    • Philippines

      Reminds me…. is there anywhere on the internet we can watch the old opening sequence of MOD when Wyn the Leap heads a goal from around the halfway line?

      • Rich Lawson

        Must be on Youtube,if not someone on here will know.


    Good old “Shoot”. They would commentate on a goal then show you a picture of the ball in the net. No picture of it being scored. They did get better as time went by. It was all very amateurish, a bit like listening to the Commentary/Pundits on BT Sports.

  • Steve Pearce

    I’ll never forget the dread of seeing the TV cameras at St James’s Park – just as I was in the middle of streaking the whole length of the pitch…..

  • Geordiegiants

    I remember being in the paddocks as a young kid, and when the cameras were there, people would always be shouting “Howare lads make some noise man, we’re on the telly the neet”.

  • Philippines

    I was there in 1971 when Supermac made his home debut and we beat Liverpool 3-1. I think that was televised. I left UK in 1975 and unfortunately have not seen the toon live since then. Closest I got was to watch on television in a pub on Percy Street around 2000. Luckily, I and many other overseas supporters can now watch a decent internet feed in the Philippines. Talking of which, Spurs are 3-0 up on Huddersfield at 23 minutes.