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Opinion

‘Newcastle United give me memories, comfort, a place to call home, pride, a belief that I am not alone’

6 months ago
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Today somebody asked me “why”?

You see, for me, it all began in the 1970s with Newcastle United, around August 1977 to be a little more precise.

Richard Dinnis the schoolteacher, managing the likes of Bird and Burns, Craig, Cannell and Cassidy to name but a few.

Wide eyed and in sight and awe of the ground, my first and lasting memory was the smell. The bovril, the body odour, pies, farts, beer, tobacco and stale p.ss. It is that everlasting memory of going through the turnstile that remains with me today, the foul congregation of vapours of it all and how beautiful it was, and still is.

After the smell, it was the noise and sights, the swarm of the crowd, losing sight of my father and him grabbing my arm pulling me to safety. The stairs, the scarves and the fashionable flares, the rattles, tight knitted jumpers, black and white hats, all swirling visuals, a cacophony of colour and noise, the energy of it, the sheer elation, this was nothing I had ever experienced before, nowhere near.

Walking up the stairs I was overwhelmed by the singing, fully grown moustachioed men singing songs with vigour, passion, verve and heart. I had heard nothing like this at school assembly nor on top of the pops, this was different, this was real.

Past the top of the stairs, getting pushed along down the terraces and catching sight of the brilliant sea of green. The pitch, the hallowed turf, this small piece of land where history was made and all the greats had played and will play. St James Park.

“Eighteen Hundred and Sixty Two on a summer’s afternoon…..” the team ran out to a chorus of Blaydon Races, cheers and whistles. Butterflies leapt about my stomach, I was grinding my teeth, clenching my fists all in terror and delight as I saw the black and white stripes and the players. What a moment when the whistle blew for kick off, the loudest roar so far and the 90 minutes of football began.

We were playing Leeds United and although I don’t remember too much about the actual game I do remember Burns scoring and Newcastle going on to win 3-2. It was when we scored and I got lifted up a height that I saw everyone’s face of joy and sheer happiness. A sight to behold and one I’ll always carry with me.

Of course the days and the weeks followed, I was taken to pretty much all the home games that season. And as the years rolled on, I loved every moment.

The 1979-1980 Season, I was selling programmes with my father outside the Strawberry, a penny a programme you got and free entry to the match. Not bad.

Signing Kevin Keegan and watching him play with Waddle, Beardsley and McDermott.

In 1983 my first season to go alone but I was safe in knowledge that I would be looked after.

Watching a young Gazza, getting promotion, Keegan’s farewell in a helicopter!

We’ve got Mirandinha, he’s not from Argentina, and a whole host of characters that graced the pitch in that era. Too many to name or write about.

Newcastle United have taken me to a plethora of different towns, cities and grounds all over our fair isle. Spending hours, days, weekends and even weeks all over the country following my side over the last 30 odd years. It has introduced me to people I would have never have met. It has taken me out of my comfort zone, lifted me up to be a better person, it has opened my eyes to England and all its glory. It has also taken me abroad.

The stories and memories are endless…

Meeting Ant and Dec in the back streets of Barcelona, singing with Zico Martin in the Catalan Capital and Shola scoring in the Nou Camp.

Milan where we were lost in the city and drank far too much wine so ended up staying for a week.

Marseilles where I spent three days trying to get back to Newcastle via hitchhiking, buses and trains.

Benfica, where I brought over my good pal from Mexico into the only Stadium of Light, only for him to end living and married there now .

Bilbao where I met a local chef after the game, who has changed my life when it comes to food and drink.

Many more countries, many more people, many more stories, many more cities all over Europe and even USA, Australia and beyond. It has taken me around the world.

For all of the lows, the downs, the pain and there have been many, I still follow.

And so it goes, that it was at St James Park, in August 1977 that a voice resonated in my head, it spoke with such ache, such comfort and tranquillity that I knew it was to be forever. It said, no turning back, this was it, an eternal relationship of me and loyalty of my city, my stadium, my team and my people.

Newcastle United give me memories, comfort, a place to call home, a sense of pride and a belief that I am not alone.

I belong, that’s why.

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