Remembering Newcastle United and the battle of Goldthorpe
Just a few short weeks ago, I tried to put two of our more regular commenters on The Mag in the same room, fans from opposite sides of the Newcastle United divide, you could say polar opposites given that one is seemingly pro-Ashley and the other like the rest of us, anti-Ashley.
It was not to be, as one accepted the invite and one declined, hopefully however both will still continue to contribute their views on this fine site!
This brings me nicely onto the subject of how I first met a certain fan, and to avoid any conspiracy theories and in the interests of the truth, I will refer to him only as Simon, the fact it is his real name is irrelevant.
I am going to take you back to a time when football was a game when you could simply turn up at an away game and pay on the door, where supporters would travel in the back of hire vans, rickety old transits and sometimes even converted hearses, often they were so fully laden with people and beer that the only suspension they would have would be the air in the tyres!
I am going to take you specifically back to May 9th 1987 and it’s the last game of the season away at Nottingham Forest.
I got to know through a friend of a friend about a regular coach that would travel from Whitley Bay/North Shields, this trip was ran by Simon but for some reason he had earned the nickname “Guru” and from that day on, the trips were known as Guru travel. He had spare seats on the bus, so we were on, four of us from Forest Hall with some good lads from the coast.
The day was normal enough, 7am outside the Vic in Whitley Bay armed with lager waiting to be picked up….which so far was so good, however, the journey down proved less than fun as the bus seemingly powered by smart price batteries, was struggling to do 50 mph and four cans into the trip it broke down on the A1 somewhere near Wetherby. The car horns and laughter from passing fans was enough to tell us we would have quite a large following. Guru was however taking severe stick for using the cheapest coach company.
The police were also less than happy that 50 or so slightly merry Geordies were sat at the side of the road supping cans. It was a bright sunny day I will hasten to add, the only seemingly really ticked off person was the very sober driver, encouragement was had to get a replacement bus ASAP, however it is not always that easy. Eventually one duly arrived complete with a new driver, however time was getting on, as we had been stuck for a couple of hours and it was now after 1 pm and still a fair distance from Nottingham.
I would have been happy to miss the game and go on the drink in the nearest town but Guru was having none of it, he does not miss games and to this day nothing has changed. This latest bus/coach did have modern technology called Radio 5, however, it was powered by the same smart price batteries and the journey was painfully bladder burstingly slow. We eventually reached the outskirts of Nottingham at about kick off time, Radio 5 meanwhile had informed us of the surprisingly large number of away fans at such a meaningless game, a large number it may be but 50 of us were still 20 minutes away.
We did eventually stumble in at half time for a match where the game is a bit of a non-event, we lost 2-1, highlight being a pitch invasion by the home fans quickly countered by the visiting fans, the local Police having a bit of a job keeping the masses apart. Brian Clough appeared wanting to do his bit, but unlike previously where he had clipped a couple of fans who ran onto the pitch, he quickly sought sanctuary in the dressing rooms given the visiting fans remembered his Sunderland connections, yes somebody did take a swing at him!
Now anybody who knows me will know I was not really a wannabe football hooligan, for sure in those days it was rife, but I hold my hands up and say in the interests of health and safety I generally always managed to avoid the serious stuff. I found it was safer if chasing opposing fans to run slower than your mates and on occasions (there were some) when roles were reversed, to simply run faster than your mates, it was a good practice and worked well! Guru however was, and probably still is, of the opposite to me, a backward step was not his way, nor that of his mates if memory serves me well.
Anyway, the match is over and outside of the ground cleared so it’s back on the bus, the one advantage of being last bus in is generally you were first bus out. This was convenient as we planned to stop on the way back in the sleepy little village of Goldthorpe in south Yorkshire for drinks and merriment!
Bus full and off we go……except we didn’t, the second bus had now failed to start and to make matters worse was blocking the exits for the many others, oh dear what do we do? Simple, we pile off and straight into the nearest pub and leave others to push our bus out the way.
The landlord was genuinely delighted to see 50 very thirsty customers suddenly appear in his pub, in fact an hour later when the fidgety constabulary came and told us the bus was fixed and time to move on, he was disappointed to see us go, not a bit of bother but pints aplenty. We lingered as long as we could until ordered to go.
So onto the bus at about 6pm for about a 90 minute journey to the aforementioned Goldthorpe.
Goldthorpe is a quiet tiny little village in South Yorkshire…except it’s not, it’s a working class pit town between Barnsley and Doncaster and was one of those towns deeply affected by the miners strike and conflict just a couple of years earlier. It is a town steeped in mining history with locals like those from the NE of that hardened breed, tensions to this day still run high when discussing the miners strike and what Thatcher did in those areas.
Anyway, I digress, we duly arrive and pile off the bus into the nearest pub, where a good night was planned and had by most, the group broke up and a few of us sampled a few different pubs where there was no sign of anything out the norm, except in one club.
We were standing close to the bar and this local giant who was sat close, spoke without looking up, and with the broadest of Yorkshire accents said something along the lines of “you know our Bill you lot”, it was a statement not a question, so I enquired who Bill was, his reply was “Billy Whitehurst, my brother, he does not like you lot”, I retorted “why?”, but now he looked up and his facial expression told me it was time to sup up and go elsewhere, clearly us friendly Geordies had upset the Whitehurst family and they held grudges.
I then had the following words with Billy’s brother but it’s doubtful he heard me say them as I was now outside “quite frankly he is useless, can’t score goals and his only contribution to NUFC had been nearly crippling the whole Everton team in one challenge”, fact he played for Sunderland later backs up my statement, he was not very good so have it!!
The night went on and eventually it was back to the first pub where in the back room a disco (disco, remember them) was in full swing, with the local girls being the target for the affections of my fellow travellers, I had noticed at this point the local lads were now getting a little bit fidgety too, how dare these Geordies have fun on our patch, there was a certain edge to the evening.
Guru however, it must be said, had been on his best behaviour and was enjoying his night, chatting to locals and friends alike.
At 10.30 the local DJ announced these legendary words “would all our guests from Newcastle please make your way outside where you bus is now waiting”, I went back into the main part of the pub and peeked through the front doors where indeed the bus was waiting. However, also waiting was a rather large gathering of locals who looked intent on mayhem and murder!
I made my way back into the disco room with the intention of getting back onto the bus unharmed and I thus managed it, this was a tight group of lads from Shields and Whitley Bay and not a backward step was taken, they mostly left together and skirmishes and subsequently fights broke out all over the main road, the locals were repelled but came back with anything they could get their hands on.
This went on for about ten minutes before the police turned up, but to be fair they were not that welcome as the locals had a problem with them as well. As for me I led a charmed life and still do, walking calmly through the chaos and back onto the bus. I remember seeing fence posts being uprooted and used as weapons, it was fairly eye opening stuff.
The Police numbers doubled and control was regained and our lot were forced back onto the bus, some showing the proud scars of battle, some wanting to go back for more. Guru to be fair was trying to calm people down, the driver just wanted to go and the police wanted us out of town also. So to that end we pulled away with the police holding the locals back as bricking the bus was now their aim. About quarter of a mile down the road a head count revealed two were missing, so Guru asked the driver to stop and wait. Of course he would not, at which point Guru lurched over the driver, yanking the keys from the ignition and bringing the bus to an abrupt halt, quite simply we were stopping!
He then calmly announced we are ALL going back to get the other two missing, this should be fun I thought to myself as everyone to started to get off the bus. Yes even me (more slowly than the rest). Guru kept the keys and said to the driver “I’m keeping these until we are all back on”, he meant it as well.
As it happened, within seconds the missing two appeared having been in a different pub and side-stepped the trouble, we were then able to get back on and leave, meanwhile I breathed the heaviest sigh of relief in history!
The driver obviously very irate had his anger quelled by receiving a huge tip from the collection that went round the bus, and we arrived back home at about 2am with nothing more to report.
I have been back to Goldthorpe many times through work and nowadays it is the most friendliest of places but I always remember that night, times have changed now but pinching the words of someone else, the evening was “As it was, when it was.”
As for Simon (Guru), he rang me on the Monday morning asking if we had enjoyed the day, of course I had I replied and he then said we were welcome on all his trips, we did go on a few more but eventually we lost touch until recently.
So that was my first time of meeting him, and love him or loathe him, he is an interesting character. We totally disagree on his opinion of Mike Ashley but we can talk about it without any animosity and that’s how it should be. Alas some people take their comments too far, Simon included, as he also can over step the mark, but like us all he has NUFC in his heart, but takes a differing view!
Here is to better times ahead, a win on Saturday will go a long way to ensuring safety.
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