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Newcastle United Duncan Hamilton

‘Everyone who has ever worn the scarf in team colours likes to think their club represents something of the heart of football; and that the football itself is inherent to the place. But there are particular spots on the map steeped in and shaped by football to the extent it is defining. The people’s perception of themselves, as well as the way outsiders see them, is gained principally through football. To imagine them without it is impossible. It sounds trite to say that the football in these cities is far more than just a game…..In Newcastle, long before my father arrived and began supporting them, there was an emotional and compulsive need for football and its indisputably influenced mood and self-worth. Saturday afternoon governed how much beer was swilled in the Bigg Market on Saturday night. What football provided was much more than an escape from the trap of the shop, the office, the factory floor, the colliery head and the din of the shipyard hammers. It bound Newcastle together as one people. Even those who knew little or nothing about football looked for the results and shared, however vicariously, in the fortunes of the team. It touched and affected everyone.’ (Page17)

‘I was sitting on the sofa, staring dejectedly into the flames of the coal fire, when my father appeared carrying my limp coat, draped across his right arm. ‘We’re going into the Toon,’ he said. ‘We’ll get a badge for it and a number nine to stitch on the back.’

In my boyhood, replica kit was neither ubiquitous nor cheap. There were no long rows of shirts in brightly lit club shops, no gleaming footballs on hooped metal display stands and no vast racks of boots vivid with the maker’s name or mark. I played in whatever I could find.

The sports shop, a goal kick from St. James’ Park, belonged to Frank Brennan, a veteran of two of Newcastle’s three FA Cup wins in the 1950s. In the window was the head and torso of a hollow-eyed mannequin modelling the shirt my father was about to buy me – rough nylon, round-necked and long sleeved. I looked at it for a while through the glass before pushing open the oak door, the clang so shattering that bell above it must once have rung in a church tower. The inside of the shop was dark as a cave. The displays were formal and unreachable, the socks, shorts and shirts tucked into buff-coloured boxes, the footballs on shelves and the boots laid in pairs with the long white laces tied together. The middle-aged man serving us – Brennan, much to my father’s disappointment, wasn’t in the store – wore a poorly fitting grey suit and had fingers as thin as splinters. His nails were bitten down. He did not welcome us warmly behind the counter. Instead he was sullen with his eyes, as if our entrance was a disturbance to him…..He found a shirt, held it against my chest and announced it was the right size. The badge, as grand as a council crest, and the poppy red number nine on a rectangle of white cloth came separately. My father reached inside his wallet and produced a £10 note so stiffly crisp that it could have been printed that day. Saying nothing as he did so, the assistant wrapped everything in brown paper, which crackled as he wrestled with it, and then weaved a line of coarse string around the parcel he had made. He passed it to my father, who passed it on to me. I looped my fingers under the hard central knot of the string and carried the package out of the shop. With my bundle, I looked like a child evacuee during the Second World War. ‘You’ll be champion in that,’ my father said as we walked out of the store, the bell thundering again.’ (Pages 23-24)

Duncan Hamilton

The above is an excerpt from his book ‘The Footballer Who Could Fly’ (Published by Century) used by permission from the author.

 

 

 

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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