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Newcastle United John Walker


Did you know that Newcastle United gained promotion in 1947 to the 1st Division by beating Sheffield Wednesday 4 – 2 in front of 66,483 spectators.

What has that to do with me? Well firstly I born in Sheffield and my father was an avid Wednesday supporter who played for them as a young lad. Secondly the winter of 1948 was one of the worst on record with blizzards 6 feet high. As I was born in November 1948 I reckon I owe the combination of the Wednesday defeat by Newcastle and the severe weather for my father taking to his bed with me as the result!!

As a young lad rationing was still on, state of the art prefabs were the norm, the conception of the National Health Service took place, free school milk was available, goodbye to Uncle Adolf, double decker buses with the aisle down one side of the bus. Could life get any better?

Well yes it could. You could guarantee that every second Saturday at 3 o’clock Newcastle kicked off at St. James Park. None of the Thursday, Sunday, Monday night stuff that you have today. My father liked to take me as a young lad.

However there were a couple of minor problems. One Saturday I was taken to see Blackburn Rovers at St James Park. I remember being pretty excited as Ronnie Clayton – the England captain and centre-half was playing. First problem – the turnstiles. Boys had a different turnstile to the adults. The queues were long and my father’s temper short! He managed to get in quickly. I was caught up in a very very long queue. By the time I got through the turnstile the match had kicked off which didn’t please father. No seats in those days. We got stuck at the back. My father wasn’t a tall chap so his vision was seriously impaired. I could only see the back of a bloke’s knee caps. However in those days we had a remedy for this. One minute I was standing – the next minute I was lifted up and passed to the front over peoples head. This was the done thing. I had a great view – sorry father!

Another problem was the terracing and the safety barriers. I really don’t know where they got the name of safety barriers from. If a goal was scored you could guarantee that you were pushed at least three steps down the terrace towards the barriers. Never mind protecting the populous. You were lucky if you survived with your ribs intact. Many a good fight started as a result of someone being pushed head first. In fact father was a good boxer in the Royal Air Force and on a few occasions he had to be restrained from belting someone who had given him a nudge in the back.

Another problem was that we had to pay to watch the match. I remember that the terraced houses, that ran alongside the now East Stand, had a great view of the pitch and the norm was for many people to be sitting on the window ledge watching the match for free.

Another problem was the call of nature. Picture the scene. Terraces packed with people hardly able to move. Moving almost impossible. A call of nature required. There was no way you could fight your way out and get back in before the match had finished. So what was the solution. Pretty simple actually. You either turned a lovely red colour with severe nashing of teeth or you took the sensible option i.e. bring a bottle with you or heaven forbid you used the terrace as a urinal.

One problem that never existed was the peanut man. He made Eric Bristow look like an amateur. You threw your threepence down to him on the touchline and he threw back a packet of peanuts. He never missed his target. Threepence was a lot in the early 50’s. I actually used to spend a farthing on sweets – what is that I hear you say. Remember the little wren on the back – the bird not the sailor!

I remember seeing Jimmy Scoular ( the club paid £22,250 for him) , Joe Harvey, Len White, Ivor Allchurch, Jackie Milburn, Bobby Simpson, Billy Mitchell, Jim Iley, Wyn Davies, Iam McFaul, John Tudor. In those days foreign players were unheard of. Most players were home grown. We had George and Ted Robledo from Chile which as pretty unusual then. How times have changed. I remember seeing Alan Kennedy, Terry Hibbit, Supermac, Kevin Keegan, Shearer plus the influx of overseas players such as Ginola, Asprilla, Hislop, Ketsbaia, Dabizas, Enrique, Salano, Martins, N’Zogbia to the present crop i.e Ben Arfa, Coloccini, Guttierez, Cisse, Anita.

I often wonder how they would cope with a leather ball laced uptight which was guaranteed to give you a headache the following day.

The Good Old Days – perhaps!

John Walker


Newcastle United Foundation have a heritage project for fans of all ages called Toon Times.

Toon Times will culminate with a major Newcastle United exhibition at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle, although in the lead up to this event Toon Times wishes to reach out to all Newcastle United fans across the North East and further afield to get involved and share their memories, experiences, photos and memorabilia what people have collected over the years.

We are supporting the project by helping to collect NUFC memories online - fans can share their memories on the Replay Football website, simply select the Toon Times tag when submitting yours.

For more info contact the Toon Times Heritage Project Coordinator, Newcastle United Foundation, gavin.ferry@nufc.co.uk

 

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