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A Must Read: An ex-pat’s story after leaving Newcastle (United) at the age of seven

1 year ago
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Leaving the North East in 1976 was never something I wanted to do.

As a football mad seven year old, leaving Newcastle and Supermac was the worst thing that could have ever happened to me.

At my young age, I didn’t understand my parents’ need to leave for better job prospects down south, I only understood that I wouldn’t see my family and school friends any longer and there would be no more footie games at the end of the close with my pals, where I would score goal after goal, pretending to be one of my heroes in black and white.

For those that have made this exodus, you will empathise with the issues it causes, joining new schools, trying to make new friends, the embarrassment of schoolkids taking the micky out of your Geordie accent, getting you to say “Why Aye” on repeat, and asking why you don’t support a real team like Spurs or Arsenal. They just didn’t get it!

This made my trips “home” all the more precious in the school holidays, a chance to return to normality, a chance to see my family again and in the Summer holidays the treat of my Grandad driving me into town to buy the latest Newcastle shirt from a sports store in the town centre (think it was on Grainger St?).

As the years ebbed by these trips became more infrequent but the love for the area never subsided. When I passed my driving test the first trip I made was from Kent back to the city I loved, I took my girlfriend (now my wife) as I wanted her to understand the culture of the city and to meet the people I loved and see the team I talked relentlessly about.

My family always welcomed us back and we would often stay with my cousins and grandparents and of course always visit the old club shop in Eldon Square and take in a game if the Toon were at home. These visits became more frequent as we then made friends in the area and we would take our three kids to St James Park as often as we could. I even had the privilege of my own season ticket for three years during the late 90s. A trek and a half but every mile worth it!

This is no doubt a familiar story for many an ex-pat Geordie, the pain of leaving your home, but your heart remaining forever there.

These days, not living in the region any more makes you feel like a detached nosey neighbour, peering northwards through the curtains, making any snippet of news from the front lines welcome, it gives you that warm feeling of inclusion again to be part of the extended family you miss so badly.

NUFC would be the focus point for the love of the region and the people I missed. It would be what you talked about on the phone, an excuse to contact old school friends, a reason to take the kids north again for a game. Because of the distance between you, it would make you obsessed with finding out every last detail of what you were missing and like that sad seven year old from 1976, you could name the team, the reserves, every player linked with the club, every journalist or ITK account on social media. It gave you hope, a raison d’etre!

And this is the crux of it, more than 40 years on, the city is still my city, the team is still MY team, it was my Dad’s team and my Grandad’s team and bless them, it’s the team my kids love.

Like many, I’ve seen the highs and lows, yet my love hasn’t wavered, until now..

In 2007, it was enter the Mike Ashley era and the gloom and negativity it brought with it.

Throughout my working life, I have never experienced a person, company or football club that actively uses its own PR to mislead and publish disinformation to its own stakeholders. Its hugely apparent that this is used to try and convince the gullible that the club is being all it can be. When we know this is simply not the case, as Rafa said quite clearly.

The fans aren’t stupid ,they know what’s going on. as Rafa has known all along!

What we don’t understand however, is the need for Ashley to do this, it’s not normal behaviour, it’s not rational, unless of course he is trying to mislead and misinform on purpose. And why do this if not to hide something. This is of course the case.

I recently likened my relationship with Newcastle United now, to that of dating a cheating girlfriend, you love her but you know she’s doing the dirty behind your back, but you keep giving her chance after chance in the hope that she will stop. She doesn’t and then one day the penny drops, and your head says to your heart, sort this out, its not good for you and so you take the decision to call it a day. Yes, you see her again and it breaks your heart to see her with other guys, but time heals all and you do get over it. That is my NUFC today.

Because of this, I have not bought anything from the club shops or Sports Direct for several years now, that was my stand against his ownership, but now this summer’s farce with the Fakeover, Rafa being eased out, the continued lack of real investment and then the ridiculous situation with Sports Direct’s corporate governance and tax bill scandals, as usual all being covered up with positive PR spin when we all know the club isn’t what it was or could be any longer. This is why I can’t do this anymore, I’ve made my decision, I will not go back to SJP until things change. I need to make my own stand.

Let’s put this in context for the Newcastle United diehards.

I’m no longer a season ticket holder, I’m a member who makes five or six trips a year to the Cathedral on the hill, a ten hour round trip, sometimes stopping off to pick my Dad up so that three generations of my family could go together. But no more, enough is enough. My head has told my heart, this isn’t good for you and my head sadly is right. The relationship is broken.

Mike Ashley has ruined this club for me, he is a sociopath with no empathy for others, only for himself and his pursuit of wealth.

The PR statement riddled with self-promotion and inaccuracies put out through the Daily Mail drove this home to me, apparently his parents would be upset to lose the box at St James Park, my heart bleeds(!)…. yet again it’s all about him. What about the others who have lost their club, what about the fractured fanbase you created that he once called the club’s greatest asset?

I live too far away from the City to immerse myself in its culture on a regular basis, to touch and feel what’s going on first hand and this absence of touch makes me spend too much time searching for news, hoping things will change, hoping he will have a change of heart and act like a caring human being, empathising with the millions of emotional stakeholders of the club and area. Its becoming unhealthy.

Breaking that habit is hard and like kicking alcohol or drugs, it’s something most don’t want to do but must do so, for the good of their health. They need support. I will need support, my kids don’t understand fully my pain but feel its reflected agony as brothers in arms, one day when he goes and things do change, they will understand what he did to the Geordie nation and its beautiful focal point.

My heart is still with the team I love, it will always be. But like the cheating ex, I’m letting it go, I’m not going back.

From the north east to the north west to the south east, outposts of ex-pat Geordie resilience bred through years of love of the Toon, knows that this is wrong and whether you think my need to detach myself from this pain and stand against him is easier or not from afar is a moot point, what is clear though is that through his actions he is losing fans across the world, his greatest asset.

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