While the early season fixture list was kind to Newcastle with no Man U, Man C or Chelsea to play, when it came to the Newcastle fans who travel away, they have been faced with trip after trip to the other end of the country .
On a Sunday afternoon.
Nevertheless, we have seen the full allocation at every game taken up, despite the inconvenience these intrepid travellers have faced. Sitting on the sofa watching these games, I found myself looking at our 3,000 fans and asking the question …
Who are you ?
That may seem to be a pretty stupid question to ask but stick with me for a few paragraphs. Back in the day, when I belonged to the away game brigade, that question was very easy to answer.
White, blue collar, age 18-25, living local, virtually all single and virtually all male.
Oh, and far far too many mullets on show.
The benefits of the 1980s were that you could choose to go to an away game at last orders the night before, usually after the 7th pint of snakebite.
Who fancies Rotherham tomorrow? No problem, Jed has the works van, so be at the market place for 10am.
No 100 points were needed in order to buy the ticket four weeks in advance and as virtually every game was on a Saturday afternoon, you didn’t need any time off work either.
The down side was that as you sat in the back of a transit van that was held together by the rust, you were looking at a driver who had also sunk seven pints of snakebite just a few hours earlier.
Talking of which, does anyone travel to the match in a transit anymore? On the one or two away games per season that I get to these days, the car park is full of company car Audis and Passats.
Anyway, back to my original question. Who makes up the away end?
How many are still in the 18-25 single male category?
How many used to be…but are now the middle aged dad taking his kids?
How many exiles, whose work has taken them elsewhere, but still making the effort to follow the lads?
How many females make up the group? You certainly are more visible these days but are we as enlightened as we think we are? Do you still suffer from “shouldn’t you be at home making the tea” comments?
And finally, how many non-white Geordie followers do we have? It still looks few and far between. If you are reading this as a first or second generation immigrant to the area, was it an easy choice to follow Newcastle? Choosing us certainly shows you are not a glory hunter.
I hope you are made to feel welcome because back in the 80s, if you had walked up to St James Park it would have been a very brave choice.
In 1984, I was in Catterick on a course, with a lad who was a big Leeds fan, so when Leeds were playing at St James Park one Wednesday night, I invited Dev to join me.
The fact that Dev was Asian, never crossed my mind as being an issue, so at 18:30 that evening, we walked into the Labour club under the shadow of the ground.
The piano stopped.
It felt like every pair of eyes were upon us. Correction, every pair of eyes was on Dev. Even the reception he got from the lads I was drinking with was muted. If I remember rightly, we won the game, but our time in the Gallowgate corner wasn’t pleasurable, so much so that we left after 75 minutes.
As I said at the start, to be part of the gang in ’84, you needed to be a clone of those around you.
In 2017, regardless of who you are, it’s a massive undertaking, as Brighton, Swansea, Southampton graphically illustrated. When you look at the stats, you are hardly guaranteed to see a win either. In our last couple of Premier League seasons, it was a grand total of 5 wins out of 38 matches.
The away match gang all share an amazing commitment. The planning, the money required, the time sacrificed.
And thank God you do, because you are a massive part of what the club is all about. What makes you do it ? Is it as simple as ‘I’m a Newcastle fan and it’s in my DNA’?
I have a feeling that it is, so in the words of a bloke I would listen to on the radio, traveling in our transit van to Rotherham.
Same as it ever was.