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I returned to St James Park after over a year away

6 months ago

For the first time in over a year, I walked up to St James Park, went through the east stand turnstiles and took my seat.

I then watched a team in black and white stripes put in a gutsy performance which led to a narrow victory that helps in their fight against relegation.

The date was March 23rd.

Now you may be thinking that Newcastle United were not playing on March 23rd and you would be quite right. My trip was to watch the Falcons take on Sale in the Guinness premiership.

I realise that for many reading this piece, you would rather stick needles in your eyes than watch Rugby and I get that. It takes a little getting used to. However, take it from me, once you understand why a gang of 16 stone men stick their heads up each other’s backsides every ten minutes, it all falls into place.

Anyway, what’s that to do with this football club?

Well just like an alcoholic who has been dry for a year and now thinks that he is safe to have a pint, I found myself sitting in the ground and feeling those addictive urges build up. I found myself wanting to come back and watch the team I have supported for 50 years, once again.

I get regular offers to take up a friend’s ticket for matches, which I always turn down, but this time I thought, why not? Let’s go to the Palace game.

I took up the offer of a seat in the lower Gallowgate and a quick look on the website allowed me to hand over £35 to get another ticket a couple of seats along in order that I would have company for my day out. I know many do attend by themselves, and I have done that in the past, but for me a match day has to be shared.

So on Apr 6th it was into town a couple of hours beforehand for an Italian and a couple of Peronis, then up to the ground.

The match has been covered by others, so my quick assessment was that we looked just like the team I thought we were, from watching them on the telly.

We are well organised and not likely to get gubbed by many teams playing the way we do, BUT we are missing that spark of inventiveness that could break a team down.

I really don’t like the man, but Willie Zaha is just that player, he has just what we need.

I have sat in the lower Gallowgate before and nothing’s changed. There is obviously a law that says you can’t enter this area unless you have had your larynx removed.

It was totally silent, which is hardly surprising given that to my left was a 50 year old woman by herself, to my front a young lad with his lass on a day out, behind me a guy with his young kid and to my right two empty seats. Then when you add myself and John to the mix, who have a combined age of 120 years, you can see that this bunch of Gallowgate casuals aren’t likely to be very rowdy .

From my seat, you couldn’t hear a thing from the Palace fans, but I think that’s more to do with the acoustics of our ground. I’m sure they couldn’t hear the Gallowgate either , who despite our mute section were singing.

There was a bunch of lads in the upper Gallowgate who did try and make a racket and gee up some atmosphere. I don’t know where you have come from since my last visit but good on you lads. It was like an away section had got together in the home end.

Now to the controversial bit. Does my attendance make me “part of the problem”?

Have I gone from being a fanatical follower of Newcastle United to nothing more than a day tripper, sitting on his backside and not singing?

Well, yes and no. The grounds are now full of people like me who will watch the game but are not going to stand up and scream, waving their arms around like an electrocuted orangutan.

I did see two or three totally tanked up, belting out the Rafa song, which reminding me of the lad I used to be, but these guys are a minority, not only at St James but in every ground.

You can argue whether that is a good or bad thing until the cows come home but it makes no odds.

This is football in 2019. It is now a civilised, family friendly and comfortable experience. I guess it’s a bit like Rugby Union.

Without the backside sniffing.


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