A Few Firsts

6 February 2011


I’ve never been further North than Blackpool, but 3hr 14min train journey from London’s King’s Cross station changed that.

Before I could even get my bearing, it was football time, and not what is perhaps the most fucking stupidly nick-named sport, ‘footy’ (i.e. rugby) but real football. English Premier League. Cream of the crop. £40 worth.

Newcastle United is renowned for being a relatively poorer (skills-wise) team compared to its competition, like Manchester Utd. etc., yet it has, arguably, the most dedicated following of any soccer team. Er… I mean football team. It’s hard to kick the habit.

Jesus I’m sorry, that pun was completely unintended. Well and truly. I’ve left it there because it’s genuine.

“Somebody’s left the sports news on!” I said to Mark as I got closer to St. James’ park, Newcastle’s home stadium. Actually feeling–no, hearing–that chanting for the first time was incredible, and this was before I even walked into the stadium properly. The moment soon came. 52 500 people were spread along a magnificently lit stadium. They were the loudest 52 000 people I’d ever heard, so I guess this also makes them the’loudest and largest zebra’ I’d ever experienced, with the fans proudly donning their black & white stripes.

However, my awe was nothing compared to the emotion felt by those people at that exact moment I saw them; Arsenal’s (the away team) players were all hugging each other from their 2nd goal. Was I missing something? We were only 3 minutes late!

“Yeah, we weren’t really expecting anything” Mark admitted.

We made our way to our seats: the East Stand of St. James’ Park. Soudsn prestigious, right? The seats were fantastic with only 9 or 10 shallow rows to the field. Believe it or not, I scrounged up a photo of us (shown in a little spotlight) in our seats:

The game went on and my’magpie’ scarf felt more and more useless as Arsenal scored again.


I remember at that point I said to Mark that it doesn’t seem like a 3 nil game. Then they scored again.


My judgement was actually correct, but not because they had scored again. I was lucky, since I saw something rarer than lightning strike all of the players on a football pitch – twice; I saw Newcastle fans leaving the game before the 1st half had even ended.

Most assumed the compulsory half-time post; standing with their arms crossed - but a few more people left. Due to the extreme cold that we found ourselves in, Mark went deep down to his Northern English psyche and got some Bovril. The 2nd half kicked off, and he wrongly thought he wouldn’t miss anything.

Two players went down, but thinking it wasn’t an accident, an Arsenal player grabbed some guy’s head and shoved him to the ground. Everybody from the North, and surprisingly, Australia, stood up and shouted in disgust. Don’t ask why I cared at the time. What an uproar. What a fucking uproar. After the shouting, there was an outburst of “OFF, OFF, OFF, OFF!”. The red card inevitably was unveiled.

Things turned around from then on. Mark came back with the Bovril, which was as hot and strong as the emotions felt by the Newcastle fans.

I can’t quite remember how all the next four goals came about, but there were two penalties. I had my scarf off to wave around for the 3rd goal.

“This is going in. There’s no point having your scarf around your neck, Olly”

I won’t even bother trying to describe the spectator’s atmosphere after the 3rd goal. It didn’t really seem natural, though, it was so emotional over something that just isn’t.

Suddenly, a shot, deflection, volley, goal.

That made it 4-4. Unbelievable.

1st time North! 1st game! A 1st class game!

Amongst the thousands streaming out of the stadium, cheering and chanting, Mark asked me whether I supported Newcaslte now. I had ot answer no. Watching sports still bores the hell out of me, and the only reason I found this experience so interesting is because I was actually there for a one-of-a-kind football game. An entirely emotional experience first experience it was indeed.