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My greatest ever Newcastle United season? Maybe not

3 days ago

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Dale Thompson’s recent article (Top 10 Newcastle United disappointments) brought back some memories and galvanised me into writing this piece.

Now I’m not going to pretend that I’m an expert in English Literature.

To be honest the only things I remember reading when I was a teenager , were Mayfair and Men Only, but this quote did stick in my mind from a mind numbingly tedious study of A tale of two cities – ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’…

The reason I mention it, is that I think it’s a very good way to sum up 1995-96.

Sure, it was our best finish since 1927, sure we won 17 home games (yes I did say 17) and sure we played football that was universally admired by the rest of the country, but it was such a gut wrenching horrible last month to endure that it has left scars that haven’t faded in 25 years.

Is it just me who has never watched the 1995/96end of season video?

I just can’t bring myself to watch Graham bloody Fenton score his two goals for Blackburn.

However, whether I have watched the video or not, my memories of that season are still vivid.

Recently my wife started talking about a cousin’s wedding we went to around that time, which I had totally forgotten about, however, ask me about the pivotal games in that run in and it’s like it was yesterday.

That season I was working in a huge factory, making televisions. I worked what can only be described as the stupidest shift pattern ever invented.

Basically, I worked every Saturday and Sunday plus alternate weeks. For single time!

It’s fair to say that it made life a bit awkward for a Newcastle United season ticket holder, yet somehow, by taking half day holidays and swapping day shift Saturdays for nights with a mackem, I still got to the games.

Mind you, having been to a match during the day, did mean that the 12 hour night shift that followed it felt like 24. Many a Mag would fall asleep standing up at his work station by the time three in the morning came around!

The factory was in Durham so our workforce were split pretty even between us and them.

The company even had season tickets for Newcastle United and Sunderland . You could enter a draw for each game, for just a pound.

So bitter were our Wearside cousins that some would enter the Newcastle United draw and if they won the ticket they left the seat empty.

Just to really really annoy us Mags.

It’s fair to say that for Sunderland fans, many would have accepted relegation to the conference rather than see us win the league

I was on 3 to 11 shift for the last week of the season ,which included the trips to Leeds and Forest.

The games were relayed to the workforce on the factory radio and Keith Gillespie’s winning goal at Leeds led to heated words and a bit of pushing and shoving breaking out on the line.

Management were so concerned that they considered not playing the upcoming Forest game on the radio, but decided that to do so would have led to half their workforce not turning up for work, so they decided to go for it

A big mistake.

A bit like the Aston Villa bed sheets episode, some mackems came prepared. When the final whistle went and we had lost, they stuck post it notes on the TV screens that were going down the line to Newcastle United fans.

Comments like “Geordies fkd it up” and “I would love it if Man Utd win the league”

The place went up, with colleagues who had worked together for years, laying into each other. Mind you, it was quite funny watching a couple of overweight 50 somethings trying to knock each other’s lights out .

HR had a very busy week dealing with the aftermath.

So we came to the final game of the season, which was on Sunday afternoon. We went to St James’ in hope but in our hearts we knew it wasn’t going to happen

And of course it didn’t. I walked out the ground afterwards feeling nothing. Just numb.

To cap it all, I couldn’t even go for a pint because I had a 12 hour nightshift ahead of me.

When I turned up for work I found a picture of Collymore’s last minute goal at Anfield stuck to my locker

Suffice to say, I have had better days.

So 1995-96 isn’t my greatest season, 1993-94 or 1983-84 would get my vote.

However, it was a season like none I had ever experienced and sadly not likely ever to experience again.

One day I will get the video out.

One day.


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