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Opinion

The undeniable truth – Newcastle United chooses you

3 years ago
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The ball gets flicked on to a suspiciously offside-looking Ayoze Perez, he smacks it past Jordan Pickford to cap a late comeback against Everton. A 33 year old adult leaps uncontrollably into the arms of his 70+ year old father in joy.

A few seconds of pure ecstasy and another memory to add to the catalogue.

He (the 33 year old adult…) had done it a few weeks earlier as well, when a Newcastle United team ran out 2-1 winners against the unstoppable Manchester City, although on that occasion his best friend nearly fell over both of them as well .

From that to the question of whether or not to boycott the match, within five months. Only in football.

There’s a well used cliche in football we all know. However, just because something becomes a cliche, it doesn’t make it untrue. I refer to the fact that you don’t choose your football team, it always chooses you.

Newcastle born and raised, I was brought up to love where I came from. My Dad attended games regularly (up until he had his own strop when Gordon Lee sold Supermac!) so it was inevitable who I would end up supporting and to be fair, we connived to convince my Mam everyone else at school had season tickets, which was a total lie, but she fell for it. By fell for it, I mean she knew exactly what was going on but decided against stopping it!

I remember my first game like it was yesterday. We all know the famous Bobby Robson quote, “the small boy gripping his father’s hand”…well there was an element of that to it, though a bit less romantic. Turning up two hours early in the Milburn Paddock so I could not only get to the front, but there was a little raised manhole we could “baggsy” so I could see, my Dad standing the whole time with his arms around me so I was protected. How his back tolerated it I still wonder.

But I did fall hopelessly in love, just as Bobby said.

That first season in the Premier League, every game two hours early, and afterwards my Mam would meet us near the old “Big Luke’s” car park. I remember getting soaked through as Alex Mathie defied physics and the Entertainers beat Sheffield Wednesday 4-2 in a monsoon. Not seeing the ball (the curve on the pitch meant I couldn’t see the East Stand side well) as Sellars scarpered down the left and crossed for Cole in the snow, as Souness looked on hopelessly as his Liverpool defence collapsed.

I also had my first away game that season when my Dad and now deceased Uncle and myself went to White Hart Lane. Anyone who saw Beardsley dance through the entire Spurs defence that day and smash it in the net on the 90th minute will never forget it. I also had my second away game, where despite defeat at Sheffield United, we’d secured European football, and fans happily mixed in the streets afterwards. Surreal in many ways.

We then moved to the newly opened Gallowgate end, and remain in those seats now (having convinced my Mam again that the Bond scheme was essential to our health or some such excuse).

But yes, I’d fallen in love. And, like any love affair, it has been tempestuous. I look back now in shame at my childhood self, blessed with Keegan’s revolution. I would throw a right tantrum when we lost (or drew), it just wasn’t right in my head. But as I grew up, I grew up with the club by my side, and my Dad sat beside me. And, boy the memories now…

Yeah we messed up the title in 1996 but we gave it a good go. After that, well I got soaked at Wembley in 1996 and got a bus back that took I think five days to get home. Albert decided he would slow down time itself when chipping Schmeichel, perhaps saying we needn’t have broken the world transfer fee a few months earlier after all. That one season with Al and Sir Les up top will be hard to beat by any club again.

Then came the Dalglish/Gullit years. Rubbish I know. But the night when Tino and Gillespie decided we were better than one of the world’s great football clubs will stay with everyone there (obviously Mrs Forster if you happen to read this, I wasn’t there, having been off school ill through the day, honest like!), as will the Cup Semi finals if not the trips to Wembley.

Around this point I became old enough, and more mature, to see football more broadly and not just throw a strop when we drew against say an Arsenal. Then came Bobby. The 8-0 home debut and I was really off. Now the club was like a friend, a comfort blanket that helped me escape from stresses. At that time, exams (an inebriated trip to Bayer Leverkusen on a coach helps you forget your mock A level next week!) and in later years work and associated stresses. I also started going to away games with my lifelong best friend and my Dad always sat in the Gallowgate with me.

We could win, lose or draw but it was hope. It was fun.

It’s pointless me writing here about the myriad of issues since Ashley took control of the club. It’s all on record already. For me, the tragedy is not the daft appointments, the bizarre business model, or even his using the club as an advert for a tracksuit store. The true tragedy is the disconnect the club now feels from the city, its people, its lifeblood. There’s not much hope now. It isn’t much fun now. But it is still a part of me and always will be.

I suppose this is a long and rambling way of saying that this football club is now so much of an important part of my life that it hurts me to see what it has become.

I deeply admire those that have and will boycott completely the home matches. You’re stronger people than I am. But some of my happiest memories remain linked to this football club and with my Dad and my best friend

I still, however naively, dream we’ll all still see us win a trophy at Wembley together.

The Arsenal game looms large and I fully intend to boycott that, although I know come kick off part of me will be a little heartbroken. I do want to do my bit to try and highlight the sheer mismanagement of an institution I love more than anything.

However, excuse me if I’m sat next to my Dad in the Gallowgate come the 31st when Watford roll up, sorry but it’s what I do.

Howay the Lads.

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