Newcastle United Change

Newcastle United Iam Allbright

The trip to Athletic Bilbao in 1994 will live with me forever.

From the moment my brother and I, boarded The Pride Of Bilbao, we both knew this was going to be a memorable trip. On the boat, there were about 60 Newcastle fans and a handful of Man United fans travelling for their ill fated trip to Barcelona. Considering we had just lost our first game to Man U, that afternoon, the banter from both sets of fans was very light hearted.

Arriving in Bilbao, about 12 of us found some accommodation for about £12 a night. If you closed a door, rubble fell from the brick work on the side of the building, but accommodation is the least of your worries when following Newcastle in Europe.

One of the lads had arranged to meet someone from the club to pick up a couple of tickets, so we all headed off to a bar closest to the hotel where the players were staying.

Whilst we were in the bar, dressed in black & white tops, a group of local kids gathered outside, excitedly thinking we were players, and we decided to give them a game of football. I think they were 17-0 up before we decided to wrap in a have a well earned drink. Not before we signed autographs, and handed out loose peseta's we had in our pockets.

The afore mentioned club employee arrived at the bar, alongside the late Freddie Fletcher, Freddy Shepherd and a few others. Freddie Fletcher asked if we had tickets, and then went crackers when we told him we had travelled independently and didn't have any. There was me thinking we would blag 2 tickets, instead I got a lecture on how we weren't the type of fans that they wanted representing our club. He was telling us we should have travelled through the club, and not risked the lottery of ticket touts, where we could be stuck in a hostile home end, which could cause mayhem.

When I explained to him, I had bought tickets off touts for the past 2 seasons, in the Premiership for away games, because it was the only way to get into grounds, he finally relented, but alas, no tickets.

The day of the game was magical, the streets leading up to San Mammes Stadium were a sea of red and white, and black and white. The warnings in the English papers that week about how hostile Bilbao was, were totally inaccurate. The place was crammed with generous bars offering free food, locals offering drink, and everyone wanting to swap shirts and anything else that had our famous badge or colours on it.

Cries of A-Letic were silenced by the tune of the Blaydon Races. Everyone in Bilbao was having a party.

Two tickets purchased for 80 pesetas and off into the home end we went, inside the ground 47000 people crammed the stadium, pockets of black & white everywhere. Not one sign of trouble at all Mr Fletcher!

The game itself was nothing like the first leg, where we had gone 3-0 up before letting Bilbao score 2. We didn't have any strikers so, it was always going to be a very tight game. Bilbao knew that if they scored first, they would probably go through. And that's what they did. They then had a second goal disallowed from a rebounding penalty, but, they were the better side and went through.

At the end of the game, we thought there was a pitch invasion, but then realised it was the way out of the ground for the fans. The remarkable thing was. When my brother, I and other Newcastle fans went on the pitch to exit the ground, the Bilbao fans parted aside and as we walked through them, they clapped and sang New-ca-stle New-ca-stle. It was amazing.

After the game, we went to the bars, and sang and danced with locals.

Our return Ferry, wasn't until the Thursday afternoon, so the Wednesday night watching Man U, getting hammered 4-0 by a very ordinary looking Barcelona, was a pleasant experience. Especially when one of our drinking party showed me the front page of a Bilbao paper, and under the heading "Newcastle Non Hooligans" was a photograph of myself in the queue leading up the stadium surrounded by Bilabao fans. I was famous! I wish I'd still kept that paper, but i lost it a few years ago.

The return trip on The Pride Of Bilbao, was again a party atmosphere, with renditions of " Things can only get better" being sang in the disco and one fan being asked by the entertainment host to either come on stage and sing a song or shut up and let the entertainment carry on. The fan took the hosts offer, and sang the full version of The Blaydon Races, which culminated in a standing ovation from all 700 or so guests in the entertainment lounge and a free bottle of bubbly.

So there it was, a trip to Bilbao, a defeat, but when does that ever stop the fantastic fans of Newcastle United from enjoying themselves, and being great ambassador's for this unique club.

Iam Allbright



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,



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