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I turned around and Amanda Staveley was right behind me – A taste of the high life

12 months ago

Monday last week started off just like any other for me. I was logged in at work, making my way through the daily grind. I had a slight case of the Mondays but nothing worse than usual.

Then I received a call from my girlfriend telling me that she had won member of the match for the Wolves match.

For those of you not aware what the unfortunately named ‘member of the match’ is, it is a monthly draw to win Newcastle United directors box tickets for a game. All members and season ticket holders can apply each month and a draw will be made for each of the home games in that month. Not sure how many free tickets are given away each game but I know the odds of winning this are going to be reasonably low.

Having a handful of kids to quickly sort out and living in Somerset, meant that my girlfriend’s first reaction was that she’d have to pass up the opportunity. I soon talked her around.

We travelled up on the Sunday morning, checking into our hotel at 2.30 and dashing across to St James’ Park for 3ish, giving us time to soak up the experience.

I found it all fascinating.

I had only once done any sort of hospitality at St James’ Park but that was the cheapest option in the Barracks. I’m not sure which one we were actually in this time but they put on a nice light meal and had loads of memorabilia in cabinets to check out.

Supermac was sat a couple of tables across from us. Behind him was a guy that I recognised but couldn’t for the life of me put a name to. It was only on the drive home that it clicked that it had been Dan Ashworth.

As we walked out into the stands just before kick-off, I stopped to take in the view. After a minute a huge steward asked me to take my seat, which I thought a little odd. As I turned I saw Amanda Staveley was right behind me.

I greeted her and she touched my arm gently and smiled at me as if I was an old friend. ‘How are you?’ she asked. I don’t know if she thought she might recognise me or if her PR training was shining through, but she came across as genuinely warm and affectionate. If she did think she recognised me it was probably Rupert Grint she was thinking of (a comparison I regularly got in my younger years). We didn’t need Ron Weasley there to cast magic on the first half though. More on that to follow.

I asked for a photo and she consented. Unfortunately, I’d left my 10 second timer on. I apologised profusely and just kept jabbering away. ‘So sorry, bloody ten second timer. Just hold that pose. Won’t take long. Look, down to five seconds. Great to meet you though. Really looking forward to the game. Okay, ready…’ Picture taken, I thanked her and headed off to my seat.

It was only after several minutes of silent treatment, I realised that my girlfriend was annoyed at me. She was adamant I’d tried to cut her out of the picture. As I’d began my attempt at taking the photo, she had still been ahead of me and not in shot. Obviously she managed to get in, considering I’d given her a ten second warning. I hadn’t even considered that I had cut her out. The steward was trying to move us along. I had an opportunity and I just went for it. I was like a fourteen-year-old seeing Harry Styles. I wasn’t missing my chance at a selfie. My girlfriend had just about forgiven me by full time.

The game was excellent. Although we made it difficult for ourselves in the second half. We should have been home and hosed before the second 45 even kicked off but missed some great chances.

I thought ASM was excellent. A bloke behind me said that he felt ASM should come off, just before he did, citing that he hadn’t done enough.

I thought the winger was outstanding in that first half. He regularly released the ball early, allowing Isak space in behind to stretch the defence.

A couple of these moves almost led to goals. I think some fans only believe ASM has had a good game if he takes on three players successfully every five minutes and scores or assists. Like with the rest of the team in general I thought it was ASM’s best game of 2023.

Murphy was excellent on the right and offered us something different. Willock was the star in the middle. He can do a bit of everything and if he could find that goalscoring touch again he’s got every chance of being a player that can stay and grow with us over the next three or so years.

The Pope incident… I can see it both ways. If it happened at the other end, we would all be screaming for a penalty and red card. In the stadium I was sure that was the way it was going. Having seen it back on TV, Jimenez clearly plays for it. Pope does put his shoulder in, but Jimenez throws himself sideways into it, rather than making a genuine attempt to get to the ball. Maybe somebody had cast the confundus charm on the VAR officials. It does feel to me that we got away with one there.

It felt like it was going to be one of those days when Trippier and Pope went all Laurel and Hardy, allowing Wolves an easy equaliser.

Luckily, a rested Almiron looked revitalised, and his short cameo was full of running. His link up with Willock leading to a heavily deflected winner. Botman almost managed to score a memorable first goal too after a clever corner routine saw Almiron surge into the box and cut back to the Dutchman who skied his effort. Still it’s the first time that we’ve scored two in the Premier League this calendar year and only our second victory.

After the game we saw Amanda Staveley again.

She was chatting to a lady just inside the concourse and invited the woman to join her with the other directors in one of the suites. I don’t know if she knew her, or had just had a nice chat and wanted to continue it. If it’s the latter, then I’m gutted I didn’t get down sooner. Another fourteen-year-old in a forty-year-old’s body shouted, ‘Amanda, I’ve come all the way from Vegas. Thanks for making my weekend.’ She’s a popular girl Wor Mandy. From the North East of England to the West Coast of America.

Having had a taste of the high life I certainly want to get back into the directors box seating sooner rather than later and next time, I’ll be gunning for the suites.

In other news, I think this international break is coming at the right time. Wilson, Bruno and Joelinton are definitely staying with us. This means, from our first team, we’d only be losing Isak, Trippier, Pope and Botman (probably Almiron).

Lots of warm weather training and bonding will give us ideal preparation for a Casemiro-less Man Utd at the start of April. I managed to get tickets the traditional way for that one. I’ll be back up with the kids. They’ve been to two games this season and witnessed two 0-0 draws. Third time’s a charm.

You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin


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