A couple of years ago, I wrote for the Mag about the topic of potentially leaving the match early.
My grandfather recounted a story numerous times over the years, of him leaving a home game against Charlton Athletic not long into the post-war years. With Newcastle United playing dreadfully and 2-0 down with less than 15 minutes to go, my Grandfather thought it best to try and beat the post-game rush and leave the match early, exiting the Gallowgate End to catch his bus home to Byker.
When he got back home later that evening his mother enquired about how the game had gone, “lost 2-0” was the blunt reply, according to him literally thirty seconds later the scores were being read out over the wireless….“Newcastle United 3 Charlton Athletic 2”. Vic Keeble(2) and George Robledo had both scored to turn the game around for The Magpies. “eee John, don’t lie, you were never at that game”, was the immediate response from his disbelieving and disappointed mother. My chastened Grandad then apparently had to spend the following hours, and maybe even days, convincing his mother that he had actually been at the football match in question.
It meant that in my first season as a season ticket holder (although I had been a regular match goer for a number of years previously) I never considered leaving early. Even when we were being pummelled 4-0 on a freezing cold wintry night against Tottenham did I ever even consider it, because I always remembered the above story.
I tell this story, although my grandad was actually a man who despite this (which we all heard a number of times), always tried to see things through to the end, including Newcastle United. He was ill for much of this year but I remain convinced he was desperate to see the season through to its end.
He managed to attend two of the three cup final victories in the 1950s while working at Swan Hunter’s shipbuilders in Wallsend on the banks of the Tyne. It annoyed me that despite being on this earth for 93 years, he never saw the Mags win the league title. I hope I am luckier but in some ways I already am.
We were generations apart, but the Toon provided the groundwork of our relationship, as I imagine it has for so many other families. Many of the memorable, important conversations I remember having with him revolved around Newcastle United, and the others were probably facilitated by the same subject. The goings on at SJP have never been far from the thoughts of either of us.
Over the last few months when his health deteriorated, and he was virtually tied to a hospital bed every time I went to see him, the first question was inevitably…. “well what’s going on with our team.” This is why family and football are so important, the shared experience. You don’t feel so alone in the rough times when you can talk it through with your family and this goes for Newcastle United as well. The link across generations is to me everything that’s brilliant about this club.
To me this is a fundamental piece in the fabric of all football clubs and particularly ours. The cross generational link. I went to school outside of the North-East, I was the only Newcastle fan in my year and pretty much the school. Thanks to my North-Eastern roots though, I never felt on my own during the worse times, and as we know there are plenty to go around when supporting Newcastle United. Plenty over the years. As the curtain called at his funeral, at which I spoke, ‘local hero’ was played. I hope that it will make it that little bit more special to me when I hear it for the first time next season.
When at his final live game at St James Park in 2011 against Wigan Athletic, my Grandad turned to my uncle at half time and apparently serious, did ask “shall we go?” I am genuinely very thankful he stayed till the last minute to see Fabricio Coloccini bundle in a late equaliser at the Gallowgate end. He was mobbed by surrounding fans who he had never met before in his life, almost being knocked down to the next row. Similar scenes probably would have occurred when Newcastle completed the astonishing turn around against Charlton some 60 odd years previously.
We as fans always learn the lesson in the end, sometimes it just takes a little longer.
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