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Supporters Clubs

Newcastle United Supporters Clubs – Introducing Toon Army Malaysia

1 month ago
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Welcome to the latest addition to our new feature on Newcastle United Supporters Clubs.

This is now a regular feature and after NUSC Singapore, Toon Army Chicago, Toon Army Minnesota, Toon Army Baltimore (Mobtoon Mags), Hong Kong Newcastle United Supporters Club, NUFC Perth, we now welcome Toon Army Malaysia.

Our thanks to Dominique Kee and everybody else at Toon Army Malaysia.

We want to feature Newcastle United Supporters Clubs from all over the globe, whether in the UK or overseas.

If you help to run one of the Newcastle United Supporters Clubs and would like to see your club featured on The Mag in the future, please drop a quick email to contribute@themag.co.uk and we will send you the questions and other info, then once we get your replies we will schedule your NUFC Supporters Club to go up.

Name of your supporters club?

We are the Toon Army Malaysia, officially known as the Newcastle United Supporters Club Malaysia (NUSC – registered under the Malaysian Registry of Societies).

How big an area do you cover, drawing fans from?

In the South-East Asian country of Malaysia, we are the only official Toon Army supporters club!

Most of our supporters come from the central region of the country (Kuala Lumpur and Selangor), but we have passionate groups from all over the country, including Penang (Northern), Johor (Southern) and Sabah (East Malaysia/Borneo).

The year Toon Army Malaysia was formed?

The earliest recorded date the Toon Army Malaysia was ‘formed’ is 1996

How / Why did it get started, and who were the main people responsible?

Starting sometime in 1996, a bunch of university students throughout Malaysia used to get together to watch Newcastle United play their league matches at well-known cigar club, the Havana Club at Concorde Hotel in KL. Other locations were pubs or even late-night food restaurants (which Malaysia is famous for!).

From these meetings, serious discussions were held to make our love and passion for the Club official, from hereon, and Mr. Sani Ismail was the first ever Club President of the Newcastle United Supporters Club Malaysia.

How many people are part of your supporters club? Is there an official membership that people can join?

Officially, we have around 150 paid members of the Newcastle United Supporters Club Malaysia, and thousands more supporters on our official Toon Army Malaysia Facebook page.

For this write up, we’re joined by our current Club President, Mike Azrail, and passionate, lifelong supporters / members, Yohen, Julian, Heamanathan, Gary George and Dom.

Toon Army Malaysia

What is your presence online, do you have Twitter, Facebook, a website, etc.?

Facebook: facebook.com/toonarmymsia/

Twitter (X): @ToonArmyMY

If somebody lives in your area and wants to join up with you, how do they get in touch (or somebody who might be visiting your area)?

(Mike Azrail)
They can get in touch via above FB or Twitter and join our ever-growing Whatsapp and Telegram groups for information on Match Viewings, gatherings, friendly football matches or other club activities.

(Dom)
Our Match Viewings have been posted on Facebook, and its been great to spread the word to everyone, including visitors – travelling Geordies from all over the world. We continue to keep in touch despite our distance. After all, the Toon Army are a special bunch!

(Yohen)
Facebook is a great medium to spread news of all our current activities, not just the Match Viewings.

Tell us a bit about your people / membership, what kind of split is it of Geordies / expats and locals, also any other way you would describe your people and the mix?

(Mike Azrail)
The majority of our members are Malaysians of different races such as Malay, Chinese, Indian and other backgrounds, but Toon Army Malaysia will always welcome expats or tourists who are keen to join us for our live Match Viewings or other activities. We are closely linked to amazing Geordies who have visited us over the years, and we continue to grow in supporters from Newcastle, Australia, Japan and Indonesia. We even have a Singaporean brother who joins us for football games!

(Gary)
I’m based in the lovely state of Sabah (which is technically Borneo / East Malaysia), so it’s a little bit quieter compared to the capital, but while we are small, we are still a very passionate branch of the Toon Army Malaysia! We have several members here and I do my part to organize Match Viewings and other activities.

Toon Army Malaysia Rob Lee

When it comes to people who had no previous connection to Newcastle United / Newcastle Upon Tyne, what are the typical things that have led to them to start and follow NUFC?

(Mike Azrail)
I was heavily drawn to the amazing noise and passion of the Geordies! The passion and support for Newcastle are second to none. When Shearer signed on, it was clear to me then, that we had something special. Even the story of Shearer signing for us (against interest from Sir Alex Ferguson) was inspirational and a great example of true love for your hometown Club.

(Dom)
Unlike some of my fellow TAM Members, I’ve never been to Newcastle Upon Tyne. About 30 years ago, I was introduced to NUFC as a kid, and was drawn to the passion which is so closely associated with the Toon Army. Also, Tino Asprilla! I’ve been here ever since.

(Yohen)
Similar to many others, Alan Shearer signing for us, and the beginning of the Entertainers Era was a starting point for me!

(Gary)
For me, I started my love for the Club one Christmas, when a close relative gave me a Newcastle jersey as a present! I believe it was 1997 and I never looked back from that!

(Julian)
My father got me an official Fans’ Guide FA Premier League 1996-1997 and a VHS tape of the 1995-1996 English Premier League Season review, and I started to take an interest to English Football. My father was a Manchester United supporter and I always wanted a club that can rival my father’s (largely for banter!). I fell in love with Newcastle United’s attacking style and the characters of players they had in the 90s. Watching a Newcastle match, you are guaranteed goals in those matches!

Toon Army Malaysia

Do you have a regular meeting place to watch matches? If so, what is it called, and what kind of numbers turn up?

(Dom)
The Match Viewing (MV), as well call it, is held in various places, for good reason: Partly it caters to the convenience of some members, but largely it also depends on the local timing of the kick-offs. Lately, we’ve found Gringo’s KL (located in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail), an awesome Tex-Mex place which is willing to stay open for most of our games.

(Gary)
We currently hold our Match Viewings in Sabah at a place known as the Funky Farm Food Court!

(Yohen)
We used to hold Match Viewings at another local joint called ‘Piccadilly’ and it was pretty popular until the worldwide pandemic hit. Maybe it was throwing caution to the wind, but folks were reluctant to come out for a while. But we have since had a resurgence of activities!

What are the very best and very worst UK kick-off times and what are they in your area?

(Mike Azrail)
Here in South-East Asia it gets pretty tough to watch some games. Kick-offs range as early as 7:00PM to as late as 4:30AM. However, it doesn’t stop many of us – we try to knock off earlier and wake up by kick-off! Work the next day is always a small bother, but we don’t hold back!

(Yohen)
League games are generally decently timed (around 8:00PM to 11:00PM) but Champions League/Europa/Cup ties are the worse – as they usually play at around 4:00AM local time.

Any group trip to the Toon planned for the future?

(Mike Azrail)
Yes. We are currently exploring details such as travel, accommodation and matchday tickets when the Toon Army Malaysia plans a group visit to St James’ Park, Newcastle in the near future. There are also individual supporters who make regular trips to England and Newcastle every season.

(Dom)
We’re in contact with some parties who can help with travel arrangements, match tickets and other arrangements. Fingers crossed we have something solid soon!

(Gary)
I really hope to be able to make a trip to St. James’ Park soon! Better still with my brothers / sisters-in-arms of the Toon Army Malaysia!

Toon Army Malaysia

What would be involved in travelling from where you are based to Newcastle Upon Tyne? How would you make the journey, how easy / difficult would it be, and what kind of rough costs are involved?

(Mike Azrail)
Firstly, a direct flight from Malaysia to UK (London) will take approximately 14 hours. But most would take a stopover in the Middle-East or Turkey first. Overall total flight time is between 18 hours to 24 hours. From there, we will take a train (King’s Cross) or a coach from London to Newcastle. Accommodation would be in B and Bs in Newcastle. The main issue for individual travelers is buying matchday tickets. Due to the changes in the ticketing system, it is now much more difficult to obtain match tickets. Many fans had to resort to scalpers, paying a high price along the way (3 to 5 times more expensive).

(Yohen)
On the conservative estimate, a single trip may cost at least £1,200.00, and most likely it’ll be much more. The numbers don’t look so bad until you consider the currency conversion rate!

How much did it mean to have NUFC visit Malaysia in the past? What kind of distances were involved to each of the venue, did any / many of you travel to the games?

(Mike Azrail)
Newcastle United came to Malaysia once, back in 2003 during EPL Asia Tour where we watched both of Newcastle United matches at our Bukit Jalil Nasional Stadium in Kuala Lumpur. We also went to the training ground at Mont Kiara to watch the likes of Shearer, Speed, Bellamy, training.

(Dom)
That was my first time seeing the team in the flesh. Joining the line-up was Chelsea, Birmingham and our Malaysian National Team. I remember it fondly. Less fondly, I also remember us going out to Chelsea on penalties in the ‘Final’. That was after beating Birmingham 2-1.

(Yohen)
That was 20 years ago but I still remember Shearer’s penalty coming off the crossbar in the penalty shoot-out with Chelsea in the ‘Final’!

(Gary)
I’ve only ever seen the team live at the same Asia Tour. Like many of the local supporters, pre-season trips like this means a lot to us, and making trips to Newcastle can be quite difficult and pricey.

(Julian)
It means a lot and it was a privilege for NUFC to visit Malaysia especially in the year 2003. As the match was played in our capitol city (Kuala Lumpur). As I stayed around the area, it was easy access for us fans to watch our loved club team play live and up close in our national stadium.

Toon Army Malaysia Football Team

Talk us through the Mike Ashley years, how it affected your supporter’s club?

(Mike Azrail)
Gloomy days. Mike Ashley was only there to promote his Sports Direct brand!

(Dom)
It’s hard for the Toon Army to accept that a good season for us was not being relegated. The final nail on that coffin was bringing in Bruce. Bruce-ball really got me riled up in a bad way. I was angry and bitter. Had a few angry rants on podcasts online, which I still re-watch to have a laugh at myself.

(Heama)
The Mike Ashley years were tough for us fans. We saw little ambition or money put into the team, and it felt like the club was just standing still. The training grounds and youth setups were getting old and nothing was done. Women’s football didn’t get the attention it deserved either.

The club also lost touch with us fans. They weren’t open about what was going on and didn’t involve the community much. We saw some questionable decisions too, like hiring people that didn’t seem right for the job. It hurt to see former players feeling pushed out and the St James’ Park we love covered in ‘Sports Direct’ ads.

The worst part was seeing how all this negativity from the top affected the players. It showed in their game, and it wasn’t a surprise when we got relegated twice under Ashley. It was a really low point for all of us.

But then PIF came in, and things started to look up again. There’s a lot of hope now, and it feels like we can finally start moving forward again.

(Yohen)
At first, he was fun… mixing with the Toon fans and getting his top off, and then we saw him for what he really was: Greedy and… He was not interested in the Club, only profits. He cost us 2 relegations by being a cheapskate.

(Julian)
It was mixed feelings but definitely not a very enjoyable experience. I always appreciate how Mike Ashley balanced the books for the club financially but the ambition and style of play for Newcastle United plummeted during this era. It was very heart breaking when the team you have supported more than 10 years be relegated for the first time in the Premier League era not only once but twice under Mike Ashley regime, that was a hard pill to swallow.

It negatively impacted the supporters as our expectation for every Newcastle matches were rock bottom (scraping a draw was as good as a win for us during those dark times)

Tell us about when the takeover happened in October 2021, how did your club / members react, did you have a special celebration?

(Mike Azrail)
We were all over the moon! Happily screaming and dancing when the news broke through!

(Dom)
Most of us were watching the events unfolding from our respective homes. I quietly shed tears of joy when St. James’ Park erupted post-takeover. The relief and euphoria, felt surreal.

(Heama)
Everyone related to the club was buzzing. We’d been waiting for so long to see some change, and finally, it was happening. It wasn’t just about getting new owners; it was about getting back the hope we’d lost over the years. There was this sense of relief, like we could finally breathe again after being underwater for so long. We talked about the future, about what the club could become with this new chapter.

We were excited about the new owners, but we also knew that things might not change overnight. There were questions about what this meant for the club in the long run, how the new owners would handle things differently, and whether they’d respect the club’s history and values. But overall, the mood was optimistic. We felt like we were getting back on track, and after years of disappointment.

(Yohen)
It was a relief to be fair. Anything but Ashley so that was the impetus for Toon Army Malaysia to get properly organized.

(Julian)
All of us were jubilant for sure. As a new owner brings fresh perspective and direction to the club. The new owners were also transparent and promised to bring the club in the right direction positively.

Toon Army Malaysia

What kind of impact (if any) has the takeover and these past couple of years had on the numbers of people and interest in our Club?

(Mike Azrail)
We got our club back. The team has improved tremendously and the fans are starting to believe back that we can win things and compete with the Top 4 teams.

(Heama)
There’s been a significant surge in both the number of people showing interest in the club and the overall enthusiasm among existing fans. Our social media presence has become fantastic, engaging fans on a personal level. This, coupled with absolute transparency in the club’s dealings, has fostered a stronger bond between the club and its supporters.

No matter what, the 2022-2023 season will always be a sweet memory. It ushered in a new generation of fans who are now experiencing the thrill and pride of being part of this incredible journey.

(Julian)
I have started to enjoy seeing my beloved Club play positive, attacking football again. We are now challenging in every competition with a strong and positive attitude unlike during the Mike Ashley era. More new fans are also starting to take an interest in Newcastle United as a result.

(Yohen)
Think more young people are becoming interested as we did play above expectations last season. But we at the Toon Army Malaysia are not glory hunters and we do know the pain watching the side under Steve Bruce’s command. We were just shi.e then!

Any amusing tales to tell of your meet ups, your members, your club’s trips, activities, or whatever?

(Mike Azrail)
Met with all the players from the 2002/2003 season, as well as the late Sir Bobby Robson. Plus, we always came out in force to meet with ex-managers and ex-players such as Kevin Keegan, Kevin Nolan, John Beresford, Danny Simpson and even celebrated Robert Lee’s birthday (1st Feb) when he was in Kuala Lumpur.

Toon Army Malaysia Kevin Keegan

(Yohen)
Over the many Match Viewings, the group as a whole has been bonding really well. Banter is rife and we’ve also taken this bond unto the pitch. Our Toon Army Malaysia United F.C. is doing better than ever!

(Julian)
I went for a meet and greet with Steve Bruce (this was a Manchester United related event) and I got some stick from the lads!

Apart from possibly meeting up on match days, does your club get up to any other activities, how do you interact / keep in touch, and what else would you like to tell us about how your club / people get up to?

(Mike Azrail)
We regularly get invitations to functions or events where former Newcastle United players are attending. As mentioned above, in the most recent event, we got to meet Danny Simpson.

Toon Army Malaysia Danny Simpson

(Yohen)
We’ve been really active on the pitch for football and futsal games. But on and off, a few of us have also met up socially – but we end of talking about football anyway! Whenever we meet up, we party hard and eat well too!

(Julian)
We will have our regular friendly football matches with various club teams to build up camaraderie and have some catching up with drinks and foods post football matches.

 

In your area, what is the level of interest in Newcastle United, compared to other Premier League clubs, their local supporter’s clubs in your area?

(Mike Azrail)
We are not as big as the support for Manchester United or Liverpool, but the Toon Army Malaysia fans are loud and proud! HOWAY THE LADS!!!

(Dom)
Around these parts of the world, most of the fans are often supporters of Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal. I’ve seen videos of large groups of ‘passionate’ Manchester City fans, but I’m pretty cynical they started out that way. There are also splinter groups supporting Everton, West Ham and Wolves, but I don’t know anyone there.

(Heama)
In Malaysia, the level of interest in Newcastle United, is modest but it’s definitely growing post takeover. We’re seeing more people getting curious about the club’s journey and its future.

Our hope is to amplify our support for Newcastle United in the region. We aim to increase recognition and gather more manpower in the near future. This involves organizing more engaging in social media activities, and possibly collaborating with local football communities to raise awareness about the club, besides the active match viewing party that is ongoing.

The dream is to create a vibrant, supportive environment for Newcastle United fans in Malaysia, similar to what other major clubs have here. We believe that with the team’s recent successes and the exciting direction the club is heading, more Malaysian fans will be drawn to the unique spirit and history of Newcastle United.

(Julian)
We are still a growing supporters club. But we take notice some younger fans are starting to support Newcastle United which we welcome with open arms. One thing we can say for sure, anyone who supports Newcastle in our area and country are genuine fans for sure (based on my meet up and experience with them).

(Last time out it was NUFC Perth who appeared on The Mag – Go HERE to see their piece, Newcastle United Supporters Club Singapore appeared before them on The Mag – Go HERE to see that one, previously we had Hong Kong NUSC – Go HERE to read about them, previous to that it was Toon Army Chicago who were featured, go HERE to read their write up. They followed on from Toon Army Baltimore who were featured a week earlier – Go HERE to read their article. Whilst Toon Army Minnesota were the very first club featured – Go HERE to see their piece)

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