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Opinion

West Brom v Newcastle United 1974: 400 miles in a car held together by rust along with 20,000 others

5 months ago
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My father was not a happy man back in February 1974.

That is because his son was not turning out the way he wanted.

No doubt due to spending far too much time with an undesirable bunch of wasters who dressed in Harrington jackets, Sta prest trousers and ridiculous big red boots.

Something had to be done before it was too late, so my mum suggested that he take his wayward son to his first ever away game.

For Hughie, this was not a good idea, because he was the only Scotsman I have ever met who had “nae interest in fitba” whatsoever, but against his better judgement he agreed and chose the FA Cup Fifth round cup tie at West Brom to be the day.

So off we went to Birmingham in a car that was held together with rust.

1970's CarsHow it did the 400 mile round trip I have no idea, because it was similar to the one that Fred and Barney had in the Flintstones, where your feet went through the floor.

Obviously, it’s a long long time ago but I can still remember the atmosphere at the Hawthorns that day. It was like nothing I had ever experienced in my short life.

Was it 10,000 away fans? 15,000? 20,000? No one knows for sure but what we do know is that Newcastle United were utterly brilliant and Jinky Jim Smith (hence the name…) had arguably his best game in a black and white shirt, despite the ploughed field of a pitch.

Such was the atmosphere in that ground that even my grumpy dad was totally swept up in the occasion. I know that he did because he took his tie off and he never took his tie off.

I think he even wore it in bed.

On the long drive home over the M62, which would be at 70 mph going downhill and 25mph going up the other side, we were buzzing and he promised that should Newcastle get an away tie in the 6th Round, we would go.

Of course, fate (and 5,000 parka clad scallywags) was to take a hand, and after the pitch invasion, our match with Nottingham Forest had to be replayed at neutral Everton.

Once again the away support was phenomenal. So many were on the Goodison terrace that once you were in, you weren’t getting out any time soon.

These days, I wonder how did everyone get to Liverpool that night, because there were not that many cars on the streets of Chester Le Street back in 1974. There must have been a hell of a lot of work transit vans go missing from the building sites that afternoon.

For me the most remarkable thing about the night was the sight of my tie wearing, mild-mannered dad coming to blows with two blokes standing behind us, who had began to pee on his shoes when the game went into extra time. Its hard to believe but it’s just what people did back then

Truly a different world.

As we travelled back through the night in our British Leyland design classic (an allegro I think), a realisation began to dawn on me. The lad who previously liked Newcastle United, was now a complete Newcastle United addict.

This would lead to years of putting the club before work and family.

Not attending weddings and birthdays if they clashed with a ‘big’ game. Travelling through the night from Germany to watch a rubbish second division side get gubbed by the likes of Millwall and Cambridge. You know the type of thing.

So I guess it’s fair to say that the reason I am the emotional wreck that you see before you today, is completely down to my dear old dad.

But you know something? I wouldn’t change a thing.

Well apart from:

Supermac forgetting to turn up at Wembley

Dennis Tueart’s overhead kick 1976

Marco Gabbiadini 1990

Graham Fenton ever being conceived

Eric bloody Cantona

Dalglish choosing Pistone in 1998

Gus Poyet at Wembley 2000,

Drogba in Marseille in 2004

The last 18 minutes capitulation in Lisbon in 2005 etc etc etc

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