I realised that a decision needed to be made – supporting Newcastle United or Sunderland?
It’s a question nearly all of us will have asked ourselves at some time or another.
Why on earth do you support this football club?
I can think of a few.
Like coming away from London after a 6-0 defeat at Chelsea or walking out of Manor road after Oxford stuffed us 5-2 in 1992
But the truth is that the vast majority of us had no choice but to take this road.
Your dad supported United, Your brother supported United, Your mates supported United. It was pre-ordained that you were heading to St James Park as soon as you could walk.
But there are some of us for whom this was not the case.
I was brought up in one of the “disputed territories”, the Chester le Street / Birtley area. The Gaza strip of the North East.
My school was pretty much 60 / 40 between us & them.
Despite my mam being a Geordie from the fishing village of Craster, I’d spent the first six years of my life in Ireland, so you can see how it would have been very easy to have swung either way.
I would just like to say a massive thanks to Rosie in 3C , who made the decision which way to swing, a very easy one to make.
But that’s another story.
Because of the Irish blood in the family, I had a liking for Georgie Best and Man Utd. However, after being on the receiving end of too many cuffings from the big lads in the year above, I realised that a decision needed to be made.
Was it to be Black “n” white or Red “n” white?
Some of the blokes who worked with my dad decided to help me make a call. Sid would take me to Sunderland and the following week Jeff would take me to Newcastle
So my very first football match was to be at Roker Park.
For 90 minutes I stood on the exposed Roker end, being soaked to the skin, not being able to see the pitch while watching a 0-0 draw. It was an utterly rubbish afternoon and it nearly put me off football for life
The following week it was off to St James. Jeff was a bit more posh and therefore this time I had a seat in the old west stand.
I had a perfect view of Newcastle winning 4-0 while all the time drinking Tizer and eating Tudor Cheese and Onion Crisps. Then it was back home in time to see the Pink Panther on the telly.
I assume that he was pink, but in our house he was more of a light grey panther, because we couldn’t afford to get a colour telly from Radio Rentals until 1973.
This had been the perfect day out and the decision was made. Newcastle United had to be my club.
Now its It fair to say that not every match day experience since that day has quite lived up to the first one but there have been just enough highs to get me through all the lows.
There have been some amazing days such as the Spurs League Cup semi back in 76, Keegan’s last game against Brighton, Leicester 7-1 etc , but instead I thought a more fitting anecdote to sum up being a Newcastle fan would be this one.
It’s Wembley 2000. Chelsea in the Cup Semi Final. I get up at 5am to drive us to London, spend the hours up to the match drinking diet coke while those around me get happily bladdered. We finally take our seats in the lower tier of the tunnel end, 30 minutes before the start.
As the teams come out, ‘right here right now’ blasts from the tannoy and the hairs on my neck are standing up because this is a day I am never going to forget.
Then it starts to rain on myself and Barry, which is strange because it’s a lovely sunny day .
Except its not rain, it’s the upper tier toilets overflowing and somehow, out of 90,000 seats in the ground, we have managed to get the two directly below the toilet leak. You just couldn’t make it up.
However, this moment is probably a perfect metaphor for being a Newcastle fan. They have been peeing on my head since 1969.
As you may remember from previous articles, I wasn’t too healthy last year, with the low point being about Xmas time. Down to eight stone and being fed through a tube in the belly
So a good mate comes to visit me, with a six pack of beer. He thought he was being funny.
My “why don’t you sod off ” stare, told him differently.
He looked me in the eye and said: “Lighten up Mal, this cr.p is temporary. You will get better, it will just take time”
“Besides, count your blessings…you could have been a mackem”
I guess he had a point.
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