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‘In the past, unthinkable to book a holiday before the end of the football season but…’

4 weeks ago

A strange sense of nostalgia kicked in for me approaching the end of this Newcastle United season.

See, this piece that I’m writing here has a sense of symmetry with the first thing I ever wrote for The Mag, just shy of 20 years ago, as both were sent in from the USA.

Back then, life was quite different, as I spent youthful summers working in the States, coaching football for MLS Camps. Moving around on a weekly basis and seeing different parts of the country, staying with people who had hired the camp and being very well looked after.

Back in 2002, I ended up watching the start of the Premier League season with a family who were kindly putting me up, but perhaps weren’t ready for the mood swings of a Geordie watching Newcastle. I wrote about this for The Mag, but you can’t follow a link to it here because it existed only in real magazine format back then (ask yer da).

This year one thing remains the same. Having taken off to Florida after Man City, it was still easy to watch the Arsenal and Burnley games on TV here (probably a fair bit easier than in the UK). However, the journey is different, as I’ve spent the whole time at Disney World with my wife and three kids.

It was maybe a bit of a hard sell to call time on our first day at Magic Kingdom to head off for the Arsenal match, but if someone fetched me here when I was a young un, I wouldn’t dare complain. It served as a decent time out from the sun anyway, plus I’d learned the craic for breaking up the day into a split shift at the theme parks, by the time Burnley rolled around. I don’t think I’m in a minority in viewing Leeds as a better away trip to a superior city with a bigger allocation, so relegating Burnley was a nice bonus and the kids got the advantage of both matches, putting Dad in a great mood.

This is something that I’ve written about before, that has followed me through life and probably has many of you too. There are times when you might find yourself prioritising other things in the interests of living a full life, but I have never managed to completely detach myself from whatever Newcastle United are doing.

I’ll never forget the almost perfect weekend in the beautiful Whitsunday Islands when my wife and I got engaged after a day on the Great Barrier Reef. Almost perfect because United lost 3-1 at West Brom.

When my first child was born, it helped wet the baby’s head that we beat Liverpool 2-0 that weekend.

The Mag Issue 160 11 September 2002

Issue 160 – 11 September 2002

That game in the US that originally led me to contact The Mag was an excellent comeback to draw 2-2 at Anfield.

The magnificent spectacle against Arsenal will go down as another such memorable event. It looked like one of the great games to be at, however, it’s hard to begrudge missing out on when you’re in a place like this surrounded by family. However, this is another factor that makes me think.

In the past, it would have been unthinkable to book a holiday before the end of the football season, imagine you missed something awesome? But this trip has been pushed back a couple of times due to the jolly events of 2020, and when these dates came up for a reschedule we were bang in the middle of the low part of the Ashley reign. I have to admit that the spirit was so sapped by this point I really couldn’t have cared. Best case scenario I’d have maybe missed a successful relegation avoidance for another 12 months. Possibly I might manage to avoid having to watch another unsuccessful attempt.

As it turns out, the change in circumstances in October have seen the situation revert to what it was in 2002. A position of real hope, excitement and ambition. A sensation around every Newcastle United home game where there seems to be nowhere you’d rather be in the world, regardless of how brilliant the other thing is you could be doing. Next year’s holiday(s) will be outside of the season, with the caveat of keeping a bit of time back for those potential European jaunts in the autumn.

I wonder how many people out there have a similar outlook. The match as a social event was becoming more of a chore, but I suspect the forthcoming season ticket sale will tell us just how high it has become on everyone’s list of social priorities.

Looking back once more to 2002, there were discussions at the time about the possibility of a longer term stay in the US. A few of the lads I worked with took the offers and are still here, married to American lasses and completely immersed in life Stateside.

I sometimes wonder about how this “sliding doors” moment might have turned out for me, but it was never really likely. I didn’t have a job in the UK but had family and friends that were factors in heading back, but a huge pull was the lure of Sir Bobby’s Newcastle United.

The Mag Issue 168 22 March 2003

Issue 168 – 22 March 2003

I enjoyed it for a bit before the 14 years of limbo, but now that lure is well and truly back.

I’ll see you again soon America, but it’ll be strictly between late May and early August, and definitely on a temporary basis.

You can follow the author on Twitter @Mr_Dolf


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