Newcastle is a wonderful city. The bastion of the North and connoisseur of everything gravy related. Any city has a beating heart and for the toon, that’s St James’ Park. I’ve done a lot over the past four years, even made the Strawberry pub a regular destination in first year but I had never been and watched a Newcastle United game.
I’ve always been told about how loyal and passionate The Toon Army is. They stuck with their team from the highs of Shearer to the lows of relegation in 2016 and all the way to the most recent takeover. I got to see this on display last Tuesday. It wasn’t a star-studded line up of Ronaldo or Kane. Rather a proper league grudge match between two teams with everything to lose. The Toon Army was loud despite going to 10 men, Norwich fans were raucous and the halftime pie was well filled with a good ratio of pastry.
I haven’t followed football particularly closely over the years. I’ve often thought players were overpaid drama queens who ought to stop diving, learn to respect the referee and set a far better example for the next generation. To a large extent I still think this but after following Scotland’s campaign to get to the Euros and seeing the positive and uniting impact that Gareth Southgate’s England team had, I’m coming round to the beautiful game. How can’t you? It’s such a simple game that sparks up debate and conversation in millions of homes up and down the country. As such, it allows a nation to follow it religiously, worshipping players and idolising managers. Fixtures dictate a calendar and the working week revolves around what time kick off is.
I’m coming round to football. I think our Men’s and Women’s Clubs at the University are incredible and the results they are producing are inspirational. I’m loving the hype, the spin and the narratives that come with football. A trip back to St James’ Park is needed, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to see a win. But regardless of the outcome, the fans will stay till the end of the game and till the end of the season and beyond. That’s all they’ve known, it’s a way of life and for many it’s a damn good one to live.