I am a 57 year old living on the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia- perhaps as different a place to Tyneside as you can imagine, and all through our hot summers, my early mornings and late nights revolve around watching my Mags in their struggles and more recent triumphs on the other side of the world.
Sitting on my couch I throw arms in the air in disappointment at misplaced passes, have involuntary foot flinches when mishit passes and shots gone astray, and my cheers yesterday woke the house just after 6am when Matt Ritchie hammered that Newcastle United winner in past Cech .
Here in Australia, if you pay, you can get most of the matches on TV-and it’s money I‘ve always considered well spent and provides one of my weekly highlights.
There are not many Mags here- the so called Big 6 get the majority of the support, although I do see a guy in the full Brown Ale kit- socks and all at the local beach on weekends.
Back in the 70s when my family moved to a small town in Central Queensland, the only teams supported by my mates were Man U, Liverpool and Arsenal, and no one could understand why I was a Mag. The only football was an hour long highlights package of 1st division games that must have been flown out from England and was shown on Tuesday night at a late time, that I needed permission to stay up and watch on a school night, and would watch hoping Supermac knocked in a few.
I was born in the North East and my Grandad installed in me a love of the Black and White. I could not fathom that any of my schoolmates did not support our local lads, and would beg Grandad Ted to take me to matches.
We would stand behind the goal and I have a memory of kicking a ball back to Willie McFaul when it came to the hoarding and watching MOTD to see if I was on TV, I wasn’t.
The last game Ted took me to before we emigrated to Australia in 1970 was our 5-1 win over a Man U team with famous world cup winners, although my memory is wrong in that there was no George Best as well, according to the records. Love to have seen him and as Ted pointed out, Bobby Charlton who got their goal was one of us anyway…and I will never forget the choruses of Blaydon Races when Pop Robson got his hat trick.
I started backpacking around the world in the 80s and saw a team with greats of Waddle, Beardsley and Keegan get thumped by Chelsea in 2nd Division while I was living in London, a sad day.
In 1984 I was travelling through the Middle East, and while in Israel, saw in an English language paper that we were top of the 1st Division- early season but looked like where we belonged, and that was an excuse for lots of beer and celebration. That was the first time I realised that we are most people’s second team because I had no shortage of fellow celebrators.
From 1986 to 89 I lived in Madrid within earshot of Real Madrid’s stadium (they are my second team – I wish we had had their success but then everyone would wear the Black and White and not just the passionate). The English papers would arrive a couple of days late and I’d be at the kiosk bright and early to see the match reports – we were not breaking any records and I was gutted when another relegation came along.
And then the glories and ultimate despair of 96. I was making my second trip through football mad South America and all the European results would be in the local papers but no reports, so I knew we were going well and scoring almost at will, until one day in Columbia the front of the National paper had a full page photo of a Mag player with Tino Asprilla’s head superimposed, along with the news he had signed for us (I still have a belief that all Columbians love NUFC from that time, and one day a Falcao or James will follow their hearts and not their wallets and join us).
For the next 2 months in Columbia there were full match reports, but after flying up to Central America it was back to a dribble of information until I bought a tape deck with a shortwave radio and would spend the weekends trying to find BBC world service’s frequency, which seemed to change in every region and would drop out at the vital moments, but kept me praying it was going to happen.
I arrived in Mexico City and for the first time had a TV in my hotel room, I always travelled on a budget, and turned it on as soon as I checked in and lo and behold the second half of Mags V Man U had just started. What a coincidence and what a horror when a French seagull feeder scored the winning goal.
You all know how the rest of that story finished.
For the rest of the 90s I lived in Sydney, and in pre pay TV days the only free to air matches were the midnight kick off FA Cup Finals, which were always a gathering of the boys drinking lots of beer until kick-off and for 2 years in succession, one very pi..ed and teary Mag among the soulless supporters of the usual suspects – Man U and Arsenal as I recall.
I hope so and every season I believe, but even if it’s not in my lifetime, I will keep getting up at the crack of dawn to watch and feel the passion of The Toon.
I have something that has been with me for as long as I can remember and has taken me on an emotional rollercoaster, and as a wise man once said: “it’s is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”