A lot has been said about the old days at St James Park.
As a lifelong supporter my attendances at matches are now limited by finances and anno domini, I attend only when I’m feeling flush or in need of rejuvenation.
It was at the recent game against Leicester that stray thoughts entered my head. For example – why does a family bring small children to a match when the kids have absolutely no interest in football, let alone Newcastle United?
For reasons I won’t bore you with, I found myself sitting in the Sports Bar stand, a departure from my usual choice of East Stand, and on both sides of me were young couples with a total of four small children, including two small girls. All four of the kids were obviously bored witless and their demands for anything that was unrelated to football got more tedious as the game went on.
Now I’ve got nothing against kids, as my grandsons would testify, but it did cast my mind back to the ‘good old days’ when kids loved the opportunity to go to the match with their dads. Their pride and interest was palpable even though they had to endure some foul language, woodbine smoke, and heaving crowds (my mother always was an embarrassment!). They didn’t have computer games to keep them occupied or M&S gluten free snacks.
More than likely they got transferred to pitch side over the heads of the crowd to get a better view (the H & S people and Social Services would have the parents locked up these days!).
But it wasn’t just the kids, it dawned on me why my match day outings were fewer these days. My passion was as strong as ever at the Leicester game, and my bitter disappointment at getting trounced was the same, but there was something else. My mind went back to the golden days – the 50s and 60s (oh not another old codger banging on about Jackie Milburn, I hear you say!).
The present stadium is absolutely fabulous but it no longer has that “Saturday afternoon” grass roots feel about it.
Where’s the man who threw bags of peanuts into the crowd and you threw a tanner back?
The clock above the directors box?
The half time scores box where numbers were displayed manually?
The brass bands at half time?
The policemen walking round the pitch?
People hanging out of the windows in Leazes Terrace?
The men with handcarts selling fruit outside the ground?
The chance to have a cigarette, an oxo and a pie at half time?
Transfer gates to other parts of the ground?
Oh what heaven!
Then, there are the players. All Johnny foreigners with only a few exceptions. Where is their passion for NUFC as they drive off in their Range Rovers and Mercs? Money talks of course and the attraction of a weekly wage that most men earn only over a few years has something to do with it.
And what about club ownership? No longer do we rely on local solicitors and businessmen who, bless them, hailed mainly from the area and invested in their local football club. We now aspire to owners who can provide enough wonga to compete with other owners who have even more money than they have and who can enlist the best players from all over the world.
On the rare occasion when we compete to secure a top player, we find that, unfortunately we are geographically bound to fail as most of these players firstly, don’t fancy moving anywhere north of Manchester, and secondly, apart from Alan Shearer, they haven’t even heard of us and think we’re somewhere in the wastes of Greenland.
So it was these thoughts that ran through my ageing brain on that day and floundering at the foot of the table hasn’t helped.
Still, a few wins and another hero or two on the pitch (regardless of their nationality) might help, although next time I’ll definitely be sitting in the East Stand with a sausage roll from Greggs.