Only Newcastle United can do that – Whatever troubles you have in life forgotten
The stadium is eerily quiet. My heart sinks in my chest. It shouldn’t be like this. We should be celebrating.
Instead I feel like I’ve disturbed somebody’s funeral.
The players in black and white pass the ball across the lush green turf, pleased with their achievements but with disappointment lingering in their movements.
An acknowledgement that they have achieved something but that the possibility of doing something really special is slipping from their grasp.
Newcastle United are leading the game 2-0. We are heading back to the Premier League. It’s been a successful season, but the news about Brighton taking the lead against Aston Villa has knocked the wind out of our sails.
As things stand, the title is heading to Brighton.
Sat on my right, my Dad gets up to go to the toilet.
To my left, my brother and sister are both checking their phones in vain for any news from Villa Park.
I am an eternal pessimist but for some reason I still feel like something might happen.
I’ve had this feeling before. A certain crackle in the air, a charge in the atmosphere, when you know something special is brewing.
That you will go home happy. But it’s out of our hands. Time is running out, the grains of sand slipping agonisingly through our fingers.
Come on Villa.
With a couple of minutes to go, Rob Elliott punts a long ball forward. Mitro rises highest and flicks it to the onrushing Dwight Gayle who pokes it past the despairing dive of the Barnsley goalkeeper.
This gets us on our feet again.
Sunderland are going down. The Mags are going up.
We sing and stand and applaud. Ok, we might not be going up as champions, but we are going up and that’s an achievement to be proud of.
Out of the corner of my eye I see my Dad come up the stairs, a smile on his face and a shrug in his shoulders as he realises he missed a goal.
And then it happens.
It starts quietly at first, over in the corner on the opposite side of the ground. It spreads like wildfire.
I can physically feel my heart thumping in my chest, adrenaline coursing through my veins, my legs turning to jelly.
My Dad has yet to make it back up the steps and my brother and sister are already in a scrum to the left of me. With no other option I run across the concourse and hug the first person I can find.
Is this actually happening? This sort of thing doesn’t happen to Newcastle United. It just doesn’t.
I make my way back to my seat. The man in front of me provides confirmation that Jack Grealish has equalised for Villa. My body is shaking uncontrollably. It means that much.
The final whistle blows and a cheer rings out.
Now the tension begins.
Villa and Brighton are running late. We must wait for the final whistle at Villa Park before it’s confirmed. Villa have had a man sent off so it’s still very possible that Brighton can steal a late winner and break our hearts.
You can hear the hum of conversation around the ground. People are talking but I can’t decipher the words.
The players are huddled together, many on their phones like us, desperately waiting.
And then it comes. That roar again.
Like nothing I’ve ever heard in a football ground. An announcement comes over the tannoy.
Brighton have drawn. We are champions.
This is why we do it. This is why we travel thousands of miles every season, following the team home and away, suffering the endless heartbreak and defeats.
For moments like this. For moments when football transcends everything. When nothing else in your life matters as much as what is happening right in front of you.
Whatever troubles you have in life forgotten.
Only football can do that. Only Newcastle United can do that.
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