Anyone who knows me will be aware of my fanatical support for the Toon. It’s no surprise really – growing up in Morpeth, just north of Newcastle, you don’t really get much of a choice in the matter.
A first visit to St James, Pat Heard’s debut in a 1-1 draw when Chris Waddle scored, sealed the deal. I was 11 or 12 at the time and I was instantly hooked. I had to wait a few years to go on my own, and was a fixture in the Scoreboard from 1986, with an occasional venture into the Corner or the Leazes. My first away game was a trip to Ewood Park for a 2-0 defeat, but again I was smitten and started going to away games on the supporters bus.
Heading away to live in the Midlands didn’t stop me either, thanks to the committed folks of the East Midlands supporters group, and the halcyon days of Jim Smith and Ossie Ardiles did nothing to dampen the passion. I only caught the start of the Keegan era before heading off on a European adventure, landing as far away as possible in Sydney.
Since then, I’ve seen plenty of action. That game at Antwerp was amazing, Bruges too was something else, and the 6-0 win at QPR made the journey worthwhile. Heading to New Zealand was a real adventure. Sydney FC are my team in the A-League, and they landed a game against Newcastle, but in the furthest outpost in the South Island in Dunedin. I had to be there, and that’s where I got to meet my heroes in the above photo.
The top fellas at nufc.com are running a competition to win a copy of both of the Unashamed Football Novels. Fair Play Publishing have an unbelievable offer of free postage to anywhere in the world, or you can get your books from all the usual outlets like Amazon or Waterstones. Get reading – these books are set in the North East of England. You’ll be ready then for the impending launch of book three, Jarrod Black Guilty Party, later in May. Let’s just say, St James’ Park figures heavily. Have those #cans ready and give me a shout on Twitter at @SmithTexi.