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Sacked, on the dole, nurses…and Newcastle United

9 months ago

Where were you when…?

You know that sometimes you hear a song and it transports your memory to a specific time in your life associated with it? Or when a chance remark from someone can do just the same kind of thing?

I find memories of events at Newcastle United seem to hang a timeline on periods in my life.

1971 (all subject to my dodgy memory)

Joe Harvey was at the helm, his tough defenders coupled with speedy and skilful forwards was the basis of some entertaining football, but we didn’t really gel as a team and were struggling towards the bottom of the league.

When 1971 came along though, it brought us a raw 21 year old from London.

An instant hit and an icon of NUFC, the hero was called Malcolm Macdonald.

Lightning quick, insanely confident and a donkey-kick of a shot he was electrifying. On his home debut against Liverpool he destroyed them with his pace and a hat-trick before having his front teeth knocked out and being carried off the pitch.

He was different. He was virtually unstoppable. He was a real force of nature with courage and desire to be the best, 30 goals in his first season for us.

I sometimes think the song “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” was all about him too, remembering the shop he opened – oh dear! It felt that a new world was opening up to the country – remember, the 60s, Mary Quant, Carnaby Street and Twiggy were actually more set in the early 70s and the pill and the sexual revolution was catching fire. The British were coming!

The team picked up a bit, not least because of Supermac’s goals but then came the nightmare of nightmares. Hereford United. Look it up. I can’t speak of it!

One other player of note from that year. I still believe he could have been one of the best players ever to adorn our hallowed turf had not injury destroyed his career before he had reached his peak. I speak of Tony Green. His pace, control, vision and all round ability to simply orchestrate a game was just a beautiful joy. People talked of Allan Ball from ’66 onwards but he was a Sunday league player in comparison to Tony Green. His career ending injury the next season was heartbreaking. Such unfulfilled genius.

As an integral part of all this change, my life entered a new phase.

Left school with O and A Levels and with my school sporting emphasis I had an offer to go to Loughborough for a sports degree.

That was a big thing because Loughborough was the elite sporting educational establishment in England at that time. I didn’t go. We were too poor.

It was always going to be almost impossible even though university tuition fees were paid in those days and there was some limited help for living costs. The actuality was, though, that unless your family had a minimum income to facilitate a degree it was just not possible for me, especially with all the associated costs of sporting gear and equipment there would have been.

I had a year of part time and short time work and ended up in Winthrop Laboratories, principally doing production line quality assurance testing of Delrosa Rosehip Syrup! Got sacked from there though for laughing when the titration burettes exploded over the head chemist one day!

Time spent on the dole and then became a student nurse in the psychiatric hospital in Morpeth – St George’s. First time living away from home in a nurses home. I recall only three male students and about two dozen female living in the nurses accommodation. Guess what I learned most about in that first year!

Newcastle United was still, however, my constant companion, though working shifts and playing hard I did tend to see fewer matches. My life, however, continued to develop in time to Newcastle United.

Over the next 3-4 years it got better and so did the team. John Tudor, Supermac, Jinking Jimmy Smith (a ballet dancer in boots) and monstering the biggest clubs at St James’ Park as a team but never really climbing to the heights.

Have to see if my memory holds and lets me go on to all that bit later….

Ron in Hull.


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