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Opinion

My love affair with Newcastle United all began with a game of cricket…

1 month ago
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In 1978 I began playing cricket at Derriaghy which is situated between Belfast and Lisburn.

A lot of the cricket players also played football and in 1982 a group of players and social members of the club decided to form their own team and entered the local Lisburn league.

The team was reasonably successful gaining promotion and reaching a cup final.

As with a number of amateur clubs in Northern Ireland, a ‘football trip’ was organised to an English league match before the end of the season. The first couple of years it was to Manchester via ferry and bus to see the other ‘United’ play.

Stanley Dewart, a great cricket player at the club, was also manager of Lisburn United FC, an Under 18 team. Paul Ferris had signed for Newcastle from Lisburn United (not Lisburn Youth as quoted in his book ‘The Boy on the Shed’) around 1981 and Stanley had naturally kept in contact with Paul and followed his career. The club received £100 as a ‘transfer fee’.

When the 1985/86 football season started for our team, thoughts soon turned to our ‘annual trip’ and someone suggested we ask Stanley about getting tickets for a Newcastle match, using Paul as his contact.

Plans were made for us to travel by bus/ferry over to Stranraer then on to the Toon to watch us play Spurs on Saturday 22 March 1986. When our group of around 20 arrived on the Friday evening at the Jesmond Road hotel we were staying in, Paul was waiting to greet us.

Unfortunately, he was injured again and was not therefore in the squad for the Spurs match the next day.

Paul made sure we got the ‘full SJP treatment’ the next day, getting us in through the players entrance, a tour of the old changing rooms with sunken bath, meeting a few of the players and a programme signed by the match day squad, before taking our seats, close to pitch side, in what is now the East stand.

The game itself finished two each (31,028 in attendance), Billy Whitehurst and John Anderson got our goals – Hoddle and Waddle for Spurs.

I can still recall the singing and cheering before and during the match, however the one abiding memory for me were the howls of ‘Judas, Judas’ every time Chris Waddle touched the ball. Waddle had moved to Spurs at the start of that season and this was his first appearance back where he’d previously been such a hero.

The rest of the weekend involved a lot of drinking, as you can imagine. Paul lived near Heddon on the Wall at the time and our bus driver stopped at his local pub (The Three Tuns) on Sunday lunchtime on our way back to the ferry. Within 45 minutes the bar was sold out of vodka then brandy – our lads enjoyed a drink or three…

By the time we reached the outskirts of Carlisle: Stanley, Jake and big Kelly decided they did not want the trip to end that evening so they got off near the train station and headed to Morecambe where a friend of Stanley’s’ lived. It was Wednesday evening before they arrived back in Lisburn.

In the next few years our club made frequent return visits to watch the Toon and there are many tales of nights out etc that will always stay under the title of ‘what goes on tour stays on tour’.

Little did I realise that 1986 was to be the start of a beautiful relationship with the Toon and every year now I still get over to at least two games.

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