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Opinion

Newcastle United – Retro appears to be all that we have got

5 months ago
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It has not, despite getting an away draw at a team we used to struggle at even under Keegan, been a great week for Newcastle United. Or month. Or start to the season.

We’ve played the big lads, lost, albeit by not much, but we are short on attacking options, shots, and above all else, points. The players seem to have bought into the plan, but the plan doesn’t create much in the way of chances. Or perhaps more pointedly, the plan doesn’t have anyone on the end of it who can score.

I’m looking for something to cling onto. Something that makes me feel good, or positive. It’s bloody hard work.

No one is going to buy a club in which one of the major future revenue streams seems to be sewn up, Sports Direct seem to benefit from fans buying club merchandise, and that’s unlikely to change, even if Ashley sells up.

That makes little difference this year in our house. The kids don’t like the new home kit and the young ‘un prefers the retro away top that the current Puma kit is based on. So do I. I got it out of the loft the other day. Can you remember how baggy football shirts used to be? Can you remember how cool David Ginola looked in it? Can you remember how rosy the future looked?

Retro is blue S&N stars, Umbro, Asics and Adidas (without the logos), Bukta (with the logos).

Retro is McEwan’s Lager, which was £1.01 when I started drinking in the town, and Brown Ale, with its strong, sweetly Siren charms my dad warned me about.

Retro hasn’t quite got around to being Northern Rock, ushering in the difficult financial measures we live through now. Maybe, Retro will never quite see that uncertain rush on the high street.

Retro is rosy. It’s the kit you loved as a kid. It’s the kit you played in until it went funny at the collar.

It doesn’t need to be a kit you remember Newcastle United winning anything in, because the chances are, you don’t remember such a thing happening, unless you were old enough to remember 1969, or blimmin’ Nora, 1955.

Retro is Greenalls, which I dimly remember from plastic glasses in the Mayfair. It could have been anything –AC/DC, Faith No More, Aerosmith; my ears were opening as wide as the football shorts were tight.

The flags around the Gallowgate rightly acknowledge this nod to a past, giving us that fuzzy feeling. Your favourite flag might be a badge; a player; a shirt design.

Who else thinks we should have a yellow and green away strip? Blue? Is it an age thing? Is it a memory thing? Is it these intangibles that makes ninety minutes take up so much of your weekly thoughts?

There are a myriad of brands locking into retro. Score Draw, Spirit of 69… they all know where our hearts lie, and those evocative titles take us back. For a sport –and a club- in which hope seems to play a key part, that hope is built on former glories and memories. Even phone covers remind us of amazing matches and pivotal moments in our history.

Ashley recognised this a long time ago. The club shops stock the Score Draw brand of retro tops. Walk around the town, and you’ll see supporters who couldn’t possibly have remembered the team who wore them in a match, but we know our history. You don’t need to be in your sixties to recognise the 1955 FA Cup shirt, and wallow in its symbolism.

While these glories just aren’t going to happen this year, I’m hoping that one of the other feelings of the past is also temporary.

Leaving St James Park after a match in the dark days of 1980-81, in which all hope was pinned on Bobby Shinton, I remember the look on my dad’s face. It was pathetic. It was half disgust, half need for a kebab. The disgust which made him seek solace in sliced mechanically reclaimed seasoned meat was caused by the lack of ambition from the then Newcastle United board. All seemed hopeless. But it came to an end.

Retro might be rose-tinted, but at the minute, it also seems like all we’ve got.

I don’t know whether that’s rosy, or as grey as the 80s away kits, only without Chris Waddle.

You can follow the author on Twitter @georgestainsby
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