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Opinion

‘I have never been a Newcastle United season ticket holder but felt obliged…’

1 month ago
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I have supported the club since the early seventies but have never been a Newcastle United season ticket holder.

Recently, a small number of season tickets went on sale and I logged on in the forlorn hope that I might get in.

Timer crawls down for the best part of an hour and bang! I’m in. Can’t believe it, I have choice of tickets all around the ground. I have a 10 minute window and time is ticking and my heart is racing. I have an eleven year old son, so go for the family section. Row Q seats 75 and 76, result! Click on seats and go to pay. Sorry your son is not registered, cannot process payment as you cannot buy two tickets. And there it ends.

Make of that what you will. So, me and my son are back to relying on pot luck, being able to buy random home tickets and hoping for the best.

Fortunately, I have plenty of friends in Newcastle, even though I have not lived there for more than thirty years, but they always rally for me. So, I am sure I will get to see some games this season. It has been something I have had to get used to living away from Newcastle and when paying at the turnstiles disappeared, following Newcastle became dependent on friends.

Cue six lads coming down to London for a birthday beano and it’s West Ham at the Boleyn Ground (must have been early noughties), they’ve made sure there is a ticket for me. Pre-match stop off at the blind beggar in Whitechapel for pre-match drink. We got beat I think and David James was in goal, that’s all I can remember now.

Out the ground after the game we head in to a low-rise housing estate with typical seventies pub. Landlord knocks up platters of ham and cheese sandwiches for us (tells us he supports Arsenal). I wrote a piece about Millwall away and lots of people commented about the violence back in the day. Yea, we were dubious about going into an estate not far from West Ham’s ground, but that’s all part of the away day experience. It simply gave us a bit of time and drinks before going for the tube.

I’ve never seen Newcastle in a cup final at Wembley(*), though I did see a semi at Old Trafford when we edged past Sheff Utd. My mates have been to two, as I missed out living away from Newcastle and had to watch defeats on TV.

However, living in London I did manage to enjoy the pre and post-match antics with my mates. Pre-match drink and laughs, confident of winning, before my mates depart for Wembley and I head off to Camberwell to meet fellow Geordies living in London to watch the game at the Grove pub on Camberwell Grove. Defeat to Wenger’s Arsenal follows.

Ah well, meet my mates after the game so off to the Cantaloupe in Shoreditch (Pre-trendy times) where the barman feels sorry for us in defeat…and gives us free drinks! Later moving to the Electric Showroom Bar, then onto the 333 club at Old Street and more late-night drinks and music. Result! The barmaid is our mate Ritchie’s ex-girlfriend and the drink flows free of charge.

When we eventually get to my home, one of the lads staying with me decides he wants food. Only one place, open so late, the local chicken shop. He says to the guys working there, how much for everything you got? A price is agreed. We walk home with buckets of chicken and the staff can have an early(ish) night off. The next morning my place is one hell of a chicken mess and there are some heavy heads. Enjoy the train journey home lads (but not before a few beers in my local The Royal Oak, finished off with the landlord Irish Tony, handing them a free palette of Stella).

The relevance of this story? I’ve never been a Newcastle United season ticket holder, yet I felt the need to try and get one for me and my son because we are in a moment in our football history which I do not want to miss.

Having said that, supporting Newcastle is more than having a match day ticket.

I have been to countless games home and away and been outside grounds ticketless in the hope of getting in somehow. The bottom line is, I would have loved to have been at Wembley even in defeat. However, the shared experience of a football game with friends before and after is something special. Maybe one day we will get to a final and I will be lucky enough to get a ticket and to see us win.

(*Footnote My mates were back a few years later for the Charity Shield game against Man U and had a ticket for me. I’ll leave it at that.)

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