People question why I do it, why do I spend so much money and travel so far to watch Newcastle United? Especially over the last decade or so, Newcastle have offered very little in return for that loyalty.
I was plunged into a circus called "Newcastle United" by my father, who brainwashed me from the moment I opened my eyes for the very first time. In fact, my first piece of clothing was a Newcastle top and a mini black and white scarf my mam had knitted. The moment I could place one foot in front of the other, my father put a football at my feet, in the hope that I would instantly turn into prime Kevin Keegan.
My first away day experience came just 10 days after my first taste of St James' Park, a 3-2 victory over Spanish giants, Barcelona, no less. I remember coming out of St James' Park that evening, on my fathers' shoulders and I will never forget the words he said, "It's not always like this, don't get used to it!" My father, as he is the majority of the time was right of course. The date was 27th September 1997, I rushed down the stairs in excitement. A first of many away days with my father, a 0-1 defeat to Chelsea. With the words "Don't get used to this!", still ringing in my ears, I was brought back down to earth with a bang as Gus Poyet scored the only goal of the game fifteen minutes from time.
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I was upset about the result, though, travelling all that way in the car with my father was something really special. With my father driving, he asked me to choose a cassette from under the seat of his banged up Volvo 240. There were hundreds of them, of course, most of them were Newcastle United related. As we raced down the motorway that day with the Blaydon Races blaring out the windows, I started to realise that these days weren't solely about football. My father and I formed a bond through our love of Newcastle United, on those long journeys up and down the country, we shared some incredible moments.
Fast-forward to today and that question I am often asked, "why do you do it?" Although my father has retired to France, attending a game is still very special. It brings back those memories we shared, away days with my father were particularly special, on the road together and not a care in the world. We would talk about football for the majority of the journey, picking the starting line up as though we were the Newcastle manager. On the way back we would either rant and rave or sing at the top of our lungs at taking three points back home with us. I hope to share the same bond with my son, who, like me had a Newcastle top as his first piece of clothing.
No matter what shape the club are in, there is something really rather special about an away day. Standing together with your army, in the small sea of black and white soldiers. Singing at the top of your voice until your voice is no longer. It's the supporter coaches filled with copious amounts of alcohol, the stench of piss, booze and cigarettes all meshed into one. It's the passion and feeling of belonging, being a part of something, that's what makes football so special, it's what makes away days so special. It's the connections you make and the bonds you form over time, that is why I travel the length and breadth of the country supporting Newcastle United.
There's nothing quite like dragging yourself in at 3am, smelling like a brewery and being sent to the dog house by your other half. Waking up and wondering what you did to deserve being left in a heap on the sofa. Still, we do it, still we support and continue to make the same drunken mistakes, thinking that dodgy kebab was actually a taste sensation.... Until the following morning.
While Newcastle United may not be the club I was in awe of growing up, the passion, memories and the will to support remain.