Newcastle United: It's In The Blood
By Davey Brown
Wednesday 15 Jan 2014 10:34:00
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Newcastle United: It's In The Blood


My first visit to St James' Park was around 1971 or 1972. My abiding memories of that day are the sound of turnstiles clicking as my Dad and me neared the East Stand, the smell of onions from the hot dog van, everyone seeming to be a huge bloke with long hair and smelling of beer, being in awe of the crowd and stadium, and standing close to the pitch as Newcastle United played Chelsea. Despite another strong memory of that day being the sight of grown men knocking seven shades of shit out of each other in front of me and seeing a drunken fan pissing up the back of someone's trousers, I was hooked. I am 46 now and my love for Newcastle United has never wained.


Like thousands of other Geordies, I have travelled far and wide to support the lads. You can't beat away days. Travelling away to follow the Toon was always more than just a trip to the match. A mixture of colourful characters of all ages would make their way in their thousands to wherever Newcastle were playing. We made our way to games across the country by various modes of transport. Coach was probably the most popular choice. We had the Supporters' Club and their Armstrong Galley coaches, the Travel Club who used Moordale and loads of privateley hired buses. You would often pass furniture vans on the motorway packed with Toon fans. Or Transits with a couple of old mattresses for 'comfort'. You would see many a car heading down the A1 with black and white scarves hanging out of the windows. There were always a couple of hitch - hikers draped in Toon colours and holding up a makeshift sign which was basically a piece of cardboard with the destination scrawled on it in black marker. Wherever Newcastle United were playing, the Toon Army landed in our thousands. Whether you travelled down in the comfort of the train with a few beers on the way, or roughed it in the back of an old van with a few plastic chairs stolen from someone's garden, we got there regardless.


When I was about 15, I joined the Travel Club and went to many an away match with them. In the 1982/83 season, we played Barnsley on a Wednesday night. Me and a mate made a last minute decision to go to the game and managed to get out of school early. We headed over to SJP to see if we could get on a Travel Club coach. There were sometimes a couple of spare seats and the steward would let you on for a cash payment. I was only young and still a bit naive. We approached a steward and he said there were seats available. He said,


'Giz a flag and I'll let you on.' How was I to know that 'flag' was a slang term for a fiver?


So, in my youthful naivety, I replied, 'I haven't got a flag but I'll give you my scarf.' Cue fifty half - cut Geordies laughing at me! The steward said I'd made his day with that little howler and let me on for nowt! At least the Toon won 5-0 so I enjoyed the trip after I'd stopped making stupid comments!


There were some weird and wonderful characters among the Toon Army. There was the bloke in the East Stand seats who made the Red Indian noise. Tommy from the Grainger market who would stand on a barrier in the Gallowgate and give us his rendition of 'Little White Bull' with his hand cupped around his mouth which apparently gives you extra amplification! Or how about the lads who wore the white doctors coats with 'NUFC' written on the back in black pen, or haversacks with the flaps stiff from several coats of white gloss and the Toon badge 'artistically' applied on with 'Airfix' model paint? And who could forget Stevie Charlton affectionately known as 'Old Stevie'? This guy was a legend, a true supporter and a gentleman. He followed Newcastle home and away for most of his 84 years. Incidentally, I am writing a book about Stevie's life story. If any of you would like to contribute a story about the old fella or a photo of him, please send it to


Wor lass doesn't understand why Newcastle United means so much to me. In fact she has often asked why I don't pay her as much attention as I do the Toon! There's no complicated explanation needed. I just say to her, "It's in the blood." You look forward to the match all week. When we win, you have a spring in your step. When we lose, you mope around for days. You kick every ball, you shout yourself hoarse, you live and breathe football. You hate the end of the season and that three month break seems like an eternity. You count the days until the fixtures come out and then crave the arrival of the new season. Then you go through all the ups and downs a season spent following Newcastle United will inevitably provide. Despite the club not winning a major trophy since 1969, we still pack St James' Park to the rafters and follow the lads away in our thousands. Which other clubs, if any, could boast of having support like that when success has been so hard to come by?


Can you remember the old supporters' club shop along from the Haymarket? It was run by a dear old woman called Sadie. They sold programmes, badges, silk scarves, hats and all kinds of NUFC memorabilia. This was also the place to go if you wanted to travel on the Supporters' Club buses to away games. Armstrong Galley provided the coaches and Sadie provided the bookings. When you joined the Supporters' Club, you got a little membership book. There were a couple of pages with the names of the opposition teams on them. When you booked up for an away game, Sadie would stamp the page next to the name of the team we were playing. I've still got a few of these books. It was something like £6.50 for a London game in the early 80s and you could get to a match in Yorkshire for about £2.50. And those buses always stunk of eggs!


How football has changed over the years. When I was first allowed to go to the match with my mates, around 1978, it was 60p to get in the Gallowgate End. You can't even get a cup of that hot water with pepper in which they pass off as Bovril for 60p these days! Now, the cheapest ticket for St James' Park is £27.00 and by the time you have a few pints, buy a programme and something to eat, you're talking the thick end of £50.00. The arrival of the Premier League changed the face of football for ever. We were brought up on Match Of The Day and Shoot, a total of about 2 hours a week of football. Now televised football matches are accessible on your mobile phone and kick - off times are arranged to suit the TV companies. You can see a match almost every night of the week. Nowadays, with vast sums of money being pumped into the game from television, sponsors and corporate facilities, naturally the players would want their slice of the pie. It's way out of hand in terms of wages and transfer fees. Paying someone £200,000 a week for about 15 hours 'work' in the middle of a recession is obscene. Yet we still go. We still pay whatever it costs to get in and I suppose we always will.


I lost count years ago of how many games I've been to. I've seen some wonderful matches over the years with some some wonderful players gracing the hallowed turf at St James' Park. Ginola, Beardsley, Supermac and Keegan to name but a few. And my personal favourite Alan Shearer. And I've seen some shite as well! Bobby Shinton who was top scorer one year with 7 goals is a good example. I seen us lose 4-0 away to Exeter in a cup replay. Our 8-1 defeat at West Ham was painful too. Despite the many ups and down which go with the territory when you support Newcastle United, we keep going back for more. Newcastle United: it's in the blood.


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