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Twenty years ago I decided to have a weekend break in London…with 25,000 others

3 years ago


I wasn’t one of those who took off ti London two days early, so  I missed out on a night or two of Geordie parties in Trafalgar square.

For me it was the first train leaving Newcastle on the Saturday morning, arriving in London for around 10am, a rush to find our hotel, drop the bags and then set off to the twin towers.

My memories of the trip to Wembley on the tube were that it was wall to wall zebras, with hardly an Arsenal fan to be seen. I guess you don’t need to leave for the ground four hours early if you live just up the road.

Those of you who were there, will remember just how hot the day was, making the tube like a pressure cooker. The amount of people crammed into these saunas was unbearable but my Geordie colleagues graciously gave me a load of space to myself.

Probably this had something to do with me chucking up the Greggs pasty and three pints I had devoured on the way down – 35 degree heat and regurgitated corned beef did not make for  a very pleasant  environment.

Anyway, back to the day, which surely would get better.

We arrived at Wembley station and took off to that pub, whose name I can’t remember, which had the massive beer garden.

Obviously the only way to settle my stomach was to drink more lager, which seemed to work for a while.  In hindsight, possibly a gallon of water to re-hydrate would have been a better idea.

This was because my ticket was in row A, which in this dump of an old stadium meant being at ankle height to the pitch and absolutely no protection from the baking sun.

The noise coming from our end was incessant building up to the game. I did my bit to add to the noise, which helped to dehydrate me even more.

Then, as Dalglish led the lads out, the Sahara heat, lack of water, and too much alcohol, hit me like a train.

I had waited all my adult life for this moment to come along. I had dreamed about it at the start of every season for 20 odd years and as the game was just about to start,  I was going to collapse and die.

My mates implored me to head into the stand and get first aid treatment but that was not going to happen. I wasn’t going to miss seeing Newcastle United win the FA Cup.

Sadly, within minutes, you started to get the inevitable feeling of how this game was going to pan out.  We just were not good enough to take this lot on.

I had double vision by the time Overmars put them ahead and the second goal hardly registered

I do remember virtually all our end staying on after the final whistle to give our own team a massive ovation and also to clap the Arsenal team doing their lap of honour.

It was at this moment that  I nearly did something very stupid and get myself arrested.

The spotty teenage oik in a yellow jacket in front of our section decided to celebrate Arsenal’s victory, goading us with poncy dance moves. My delirium meant I lost control of my senses and decided to march toward him .

Luckily for me, the Wembley pitch was surrounded by 20 feet of trip wires, of which I failed miserably to get over the very first one, and fell on my face. Much to the delight of the spotty oik Arsenal steward.

By the time we left the ground there wasn’t an Arsenal fan to be seen. They had evaporated into the London evening air. Just 25.000 Geordies singing defiantly to themselves.

My night in London was a pretty miserable experience, with all the energy and passion of the day having drained me completely. I must have looked a basket case, because I even got accosted by a bunch of Hare Krishnas dancing down the street, who offered me hope and salvation if I listened to their message

I have come to the conclusion that no Hare Krishna has ever been a Newcastle Fan, or they could never be that bloody happy.

Despite this utterly disastrous trip, it didn’t stop me heading back to do it all again the following seasons, because despite my head knowing what was likely to happen, my heart told me  that this year could be the year.

And one of these years it will be….probably


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