I think if you are going to come out and slam a club and its fans in the public domain you then have to expect some sort of counter-argument. I’d say my article was balanced [*conceals smile*]. I quoted the guy verbatim from his Newcastle Chronicle piece, explained why these assertions were ill informed and outright wrong and finished by adding a few comedy metaphors about punching horses.
Perfectly reasonable I hear you cry! Yes, yes exactly.
In fairness to the Mail [who have given me free rein hitherto] they probably don’t want to trigger a public spat between a high ranking employee at a sister paper and themselves, no matter how funny and potentially lucrative [I reckon it’d generate a fair few clicks and shares] it might be. Ah well, water under the Tyne Bridge now.
Incidentally, as it came to pass, the Mail would ultimately spare my blushes, as all my pre-match bravado would be undone within just 30 minutes of the kick off.
There were 12 of us in total heading up to Newcastle from the Royal Duchy of Solihull and we’d arranged to stop in Newcastle on Saturday night and head home on the Sunday morning.
I was heading up with Chris, who was driving me, Paul and Martin up to the bleak North in his spacious Insignia.
This was going to be a long ass journey. I didn’t want to rinse all of my iPhone battery away and I thought conversation would probably run dry by Sheffield so I decided to bring a book with me, my Trump book: ‘Great Again – How to Save Our Crippled America’.
Trump was standing imposingly on the front cover in front of an American flag. The kind of strong alpha posture he might exhibit when he tells the Chinese that they can’t flood their steel onto the world market any longer, or that Amy Schumer is to be sent to the gulag forthwith.
I flicked through the book and looked at the contents page, the chapters were strong: ‘Healthcare is Making Us Sick; Immigration: Good Walls Make Good Neighbo[u]rs; Climate Change: A Lot of Hot Air’. I let out a short but punchy laugh and imagined just how angry these headings would make the Guardian’s Owen Jones. Good stuff.
We made a pit-stop at a service station north of Wetherby – full of Blues.
Isn’t it weird how you seem to drive past services every 10 minutes or so on the motorway, but no matter which one you decide to enter on a good #bcfcawayday, it’ll always be full of Blues fans who have set up camp and have seemingly been there hours.
Some youths in Blues Adidas sportswear were doing keep-ups with a miniature football in the car park. Fat types were standing next to the official coaches, sipping tea in steaming plastic ups and talking to the even fatter driver with a fag in his gob. Other Blues fans were whizzing about to and fro around the entrance looking for booze and Burger King.
When we went to Cardiff last year, one of the lads brought along his Uncle Terry who was introduced as a retired high ranking member of the Zulus and knew all the pubs we were to avoid if we didn’t want any trouble.
He was like some sort of Red Indian chieftain who knew the lay of the land, but instead of knowing what type of cactus to drink the water from on the red plains of Arizona; Uncle Terry knew the pubs to avoid if you didn’t want a glass bottle wrapped around your bonce in the post-industrial inner city suburbs of the Welsh capital – both, you’d imagine, are useful bits of knowledge in the right setting.
Uncle Terry had given us a dressing down within minutes of our meeting at Cardiff. We’d arrived late [at 10am] and our lateness had eaten into the drinking time apparently – he and our mate had been there since 8am.
As we queued up in Costa at the service station north of Wetherby and waited for three Venti Hazlenut Lattés with sprinkles and cream on top, we could only imagine Uncle Terry’s seething anger if he ever became aware of it.
Back on the motorway and after going under the Tyne and paying to get through a toll, in a really shitty Geordie version of the Channel Tunnel, we arrived at our pub/hotel, had a couple of quick drinks, dropped the bags off and ordered a taxi to St James’ Park.
The taxi driver collected us and was a Newcastle fan as you’d expect. Most of the journey was spent listening to him rant and rave about their fancy-dan players in the current squad and in the teams of years gone by.
‘Ah picked up Andy Cole once yer naa?’
‘Oh really?’ we enquired.
‘£19.80 the fare came ta. Gave me a 20 din’e? An tha’ c**t only asked for his 20p! Aye, he did!’
‘Michael Owen like, ee’s anova mercenary. Total mercenary, a’said it at tha’time. Nae bother tho lads. One a’me maytes worked in his house on a building job for a while an ‘ad a wank in his bed! So we got the last laff!’
‘7 poun 80 please lads. An, on yer way home tonight, don’t let the robbin black cabs charge you more than 9 quid. I know what they’re like.’
Into St James’ Park and the climb began.
Ok, this is the most niche [and therefore pointless] analogy ever, but there’s an episode of the 90s Nickelodeon TV show ‘Kenan and Kel’ where the whole episode revolves around them climbing up the tallest skyscraper in Chicago – well, that seemed like a spot of light exercise compared to this insane undertaking.
When we got to our seats and the teams came out, we were above the birds. You could see planes taking off in the distance. Looking down it was like watching that screen you used to get on the Championship Manager PC games where your players are dots moving about on the pitch.
From what we could see, the 11 blue dots were camped in their own half, and were being bombarded by the 11 black dots relentlessly.
What can I say about the game that hasn’t been said already and won’t bore you back to tears?
If you’re going to park the bus and hope to frustrate Newcastle, why wouldn’t you play a defensive midfielder? Surely Kieftenbeld has to play? An unfit Tesche and a feeble and irrelevant Gleeson won’t offer a shield for the back four.
If you wanted to nick a draw and keep it tight, why would you play a front four of Donaldson, Adams, Stewart and Cotterill? All of which will only track back and defend in-part. That’s a front four you’d expect to see if we’re at home to Rotherham and getting loads of the ball, not here where it should be all hands on deck.
Blues were set out in a bizarre way. We didn’t have a single midfielder who could tackle or track back, yet the mind-set was to sit back. So we essentially played ‘park the bus’ with a bunch of non-defensive players.
We tried to play on the counter but fielded no wingers capable of running with the ball. The Cotterill on the left and Stewart on the right experiment was disastrous again.
It was bizarre line-up, and Newcastle cut through the Blues like a blunt knife through melted butter. I’ve never seen a Blues team sit so deep and STILL let the opposition players get yards of space in behind them.
It was a shocking performance. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever been amongst Blues fans at a game when we’ve ironically cheered our first shot on goal [about the 80th minute by the way].
We took 3200 fans four hours up the road to Newcastle and what we saw was probably the worst away performance in decades.
The Newcastle fans on social media praised our support as the best they’ve had all season, but it was sub-par by our standards in reality. After the 2nd goal all the enthusiasm was sucked out of the away end and you saw everybody visibly deflate.
It wasn’t just the fact the game was killed after about 30 minutes, but the manner of how we were losing. We couldn’t even string three meaningful passes together. I think the Toon fans were impressed with our backing because of the numbers we took and we were admittedly loud while the game was 0-0 and 0-1.
By the time the third went in, I looked around the Blues end and it looked like the waiting room at a Dignitas clinic. All the build-up, excitement, planning, travelling, drinking, and singing had been nullified and erased by the most lifeless and gutless of displays.
The fourth went in and half our group left to go back to the pub.
We caught up with the others and spent the evening drowning our sorrows; refusing to take praise from the Geordies because of how shit we were and discussing our mutual hatred of Villa on a bar crawl around the toon.
Our Villa mate who now lives in Leeds drove up to see us for the night time festivities. He’d stuck 50 quid on Newcastle 3-0 – suddenly the 4-0 defeat wasn’t looking so bad.
His misery was compounded when an old skool transvestite [and im talking Pete Burns (RIP) / Lily Savage, not the new fangled ones they have these days like theres Something About Mirriam] who was sporting a big blonde beehive wig, scary clown-like make up and had tattoos all over her arms, was standing outside a pub entrance and found out our mate was a Villa fan.
‘I’ll spunk on ya face and clear your spots ya Villa bastard’ was hurled in his direction.
‘Eh Proclaimer, wheres ya brother?‘ (The Villa fan is ginger and wears glasses) the tranny heckled .
All genders of Geordies seemingly hate the Vile as much as we do.
As we traveled back to the Midlands the next day Martin got a text off his Blues-mad Mom.
‘Brownie had the right idea taking a book to read by the sounds of it‘.
She was half right. Newcastle was great, its just a shame our players didnt get the memo and offer some kind of input in making the whole day one to remember.
On to Ipswich.