Geordie Wonderland: A Season at St. James’

The trials and tribulations of being a Newcastle fan.

Football Geordie Wonderland Newcastle St. James'

‘A Season in St. James’ will be following die hard Newcastle fan Ed Owen as he watches Newcastle United’s home games from the stands at St. James’ Park.

It’s in there all the time, looking for a way out.

I can tell you the exact moment it happened; on May 16th, 1998. I was seven years old, and had been entranced by this parade of activity occurring in my front room. The FA Cup final was on TV, played under the Twin Towers between Arsenal and Newcastle United. My older brother had kitted up for the occasion, sporting a black and white striped kit and an unbridled sense of optimism.

Yet that was quite not the moment. Some 90 minutes later, when Paul Durkin blew for full-time, sealing Arsenal’s 2-0 victory, that was it. My brother had locked himself in the bathroom, crying at the injustice. My child’s mind just couldn’t take it in; I hadn’t seen him cry like that before. No-one had died, he hadn’t injured himself, so what was it about? “It’s that Ray Parlour.” He said. “He’s ruined my life.” It was hard not to be moved.

Misery loves company, and no-one knows that better than a Newcastle fan. I was enthralled by them, and my brother’s passion for them. Their trademark implosions, the 57-year trophy wait, that right arm of Alan Shearer, joyously shooting upwards after a goal. So three months after Nic’s life officially ended, they’d found another willing masochist.

We ended up having an awful season; culminating in the sacking of Kenny Dalglish for Ruud Guillit, the Dutchman who promised to bring us ‘sexy football’, but instead fell out with every major player, and God himself, Alan Shearer. Oh, and just for good measure, we lost in the FA Cup Final again. There were no bathroom histrionics this time; we knew what to expect going in; crushing disappointment, underperformance, and Alessandro Pistone. The only person to have taken any positives from the season was Guillit, who had managed to swindle himself an advert flogging pizza,in which a mascot took the piss out of his (admittedly ridiculous) hair- silver linings, and all that.

Now after this, a sane person probably would’ve taken me aside and had a quiet word with me, intoned with undeniable logic; ‘Ed, this doesn’t give you any enjoyment. You’re actively subjecting yourself to psychological torment every Saturday. Surely there’s something better you could be doing as a kid. You could ride bikes, build a rope swing, something that’s not laced with disappointment. Oh, and change that bowl cut, son. You may be eight, but you can’t rock that look.’

But that’s the thing; no-one supports a team to enjoy themselves, we’re just simply there. To not be there is impossibility, a heresy, even. Like all good obsessives, we must know all the minutiae, from whether that winger looks tasty, to whether if our star striker’s hedonistic behaviour will cost him his form (that was Andy Carroll by the way, who had a sex party in the captain’s house while he was living there on probation). Simply put, we must know. And we’ll put up with the bad news, and the bad times, if we can envisage a bright new dawn. Eleven years on, and we’re still going back for more. Although admittedly, I have changed the hair.

Over the season, I will be travelling north to all the home games, as well as giving an insight into the fan’s psyche. I wish I could tell you that this column was going to be sunshine and smiles, that we played a good game, the right game, and that we could just let the team be. I wish I could tell you that. But Newcastle is no fairytale world. It’s not half eventful, though.