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Newcastle United Lewis Fairfax

 

It was a rainy night in October 1997 when I first developed a taste for self-punishment. When the new football season had started I’d begged my dad to take me along to the match (he was a season ticket holder) because a few of my mates at school had been and the Premier League sticker collection was second only to actually going to a match.

I grew up in south-east Northumberland, so we drove along the rain-soaked Great North Road through Gosforth and the Town Moor in my dad’s green Rover 600 on a Wednesday evening, watching the traffic coming out of the town and I got my first glimpse of St James’ Park from across the fields.

We parked up at Exhibition Park and we walked briskly through the rain along with plenty of other soaked pilgrims. We got to within spitting distance of the stadium and my dad took me into the pub where he introduced me to his friends and I sat bewildered at the noise and the lights.

Suddenly people seemed to be getting up and walking out, so us two joined them and we climbed the stairs opposite the Strawberry which were soaked and I remember quite distinctly a gentleman who had obviously indulged in one or two sherries tumbling down them, leaving a trail of blood and expletives in his wake. We were relieved to get to the turnstiles, which my dad lifted me over with the help of a couple of other people.

We sat down in the Milburn End, on the second level, and watched Newcastle and Hull City (playing in an awful grey strip) come out into the still-pouring rain for their 1997/1998 Worthington’s Cup Third Round match. The Newcastle team (I still have the programme) was: Hislop, Barton, Peacock, Howey, Albert, Beresford, Hamilton, Ketsbaia, Barnes, Tomasson and Rush. My dad scribbled on the back that the attendance was 35,856. It was a fairly routine win against a side then in the Third Division (League 2 nowadays), Des Hamilton scored just after half-time and Ian Rush topped it off in the last few minutes.

The final whistle went and my dad picked me up and put me on his shoulders so I wouldn’t get swept up in the crowd which was in a mildly celebratory mood (this was back in the days when the Toon playing a lower-league side was usually a guaranteed win) and as we walked through the Paddock and out onto Barrack Road I watched the crowds beneath me swirl and shout. We got outside and it was still pouring with rain; if there’s one lesson about supporting Newcastle, it’s that you have to remain cheery even when the black clouds are overhead.

Dismounting, we ran back to the Exhibition Park via Marks & Spencers (for post-match posh crisps, of course) and then drove home. Sometimes I wonder why I ever bloody asked my dad to take me because I’ve been hopelessly addicted ever since.

 

Lewis Fairfax

 

 

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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