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My first match reader recollections X

Our final selection of recollections - thanks to all who contributed and apologies if we didn't manage to cram your memory in.

Mick Hardman:

September 20th 1958 Newcastle Reserves 4 Manchester United Reserves 2

I had hoped to attend the previous Saturday (Newcastle 1 Manchester United 1) but as I had been a naughty lad ended up going to confession at my local church, St Edwards in Whitley Bay.

Manchester United were staying at the Rex Hotel in the town and I did not expect to bump into Matt Busby, as he was leaving the church having been to confession. A lovely bloke with the scars of the Munich disaster (only seven months earlier) very visible.

I made my SJP debut at the reserve game the following week.


Aidan Robertson:

November 14th 1970 Newcastle United 0 Ipswich Town 0

I was 8 and my dad had been taking me quite regularly to see the great Billy Wright’s Whitley Bay, but now for the big time.

We stand at the front of the Gallowgate, in front of one of those concrete crush barriers at the bottom of the corner end, the pitch almost level with my eyes, definitely not like being in the cowshed at Hillheads.

I’m wearing my blue nylon parka with fake fur hood, National Health glasses. Dad has his flat cap on, old army overcoat. Grey, chilly afternoon. A dull goalless draw, but that’s it – I’m hooked. All being well, I’ll notch up half a century at St James later this year.

Fred Shepherd:

August 29th 1956 Newcastle 1 Cardiff City 0

We won. I felt that. What was the score? Well - 1-0; but I only looked that up decades later, well after I’d forgotten.

For years I’d thought it was the late summer 1955, the year I’d watched us at home down south win the cup on our (new?) TV and remembering how I’d been jealous of my Dad going off to Wembley with Uncle Alan (Richardson - farmer - Belsay), who had a spare ticket.

My only visual memory is concrete in front of me (I must have been passed down to Popular pitch side), goal slightly to the left and legs in the penalty area. That’s it. I mustn’t pretend more.

And Dad at Wembley! He was never that interested in football. And he even confessed he missed our first goal!!! Yes - that goal - probably the greatest header anyone ever scored for our club.

David Hood:

April 11th 1964 Newcastle 0 Bury 4

I was 7 and my dad took me and a little friend, his name long since forgotten. We stood on the Popular Side but I can't remember any details of the game.

My books tell me that we finished eighth in Division 2, the year before we were promoted. The team doesn't look bad on paper: Marshall, Craig, Clark, Anderson, McGrath, Iley, Hilley, Cummings, Thomas, McGarry, Hockey.

I should have been put off but sadly I wasn't.

Simon Hayes:

October 29th 1983 Newcastle 5 Manchester City 0

Being a Toon fan growing up just outside Southampton made it tricky getting to see United play, especially when they conspired to replace us in the top flight in 1978.

Years of ridicule followed, with the Saints riding high and attracting players of the calibre of Kevin Keegan and Peter Shilton, while the Toon scuffed along with the likes of Bobby Shinton.

Scroll forward to half term in autumn 1983 and I was staying with my Nan in Whitley Bay coinciding with a home clash with Man City, a game that remarkably was not all ticket.

Straight onto the Metro to Gallowgate I managed to squeeze into the ground alongside 30,000+ others. Plenty more were locked outside.

Recently relegated City were among the promotion favourites but United put them to the sword that afternoon, Keegan, Waddle and a Beardo hat-trick made for an unforgettable experience. Was it like this every week?

I had to wait until the following season for my next visit and surely it couldn’t be equally memorable? But it was: A 3-1 New Years Day win over the Mackems, with Beardo netting another treble. Even my 80 year old godfather who stood on the Gallowgate that afternoon got carried away, and he hadn’t been to a match in 30 years.

I thought it would always be thus: goals galore, thrilling football and trophies aplenty. How wrong can one be...?!

Carl Greener:

April 9th 1977 Newcastle 0 Leicester City 0

This shouldn’t have been my first game, but being a Newcastle fan growing up in Hertfordshire I only came up to see my North East family at Christmas, Easter & Summer.

We had tickets for the Manchester City home game the previous Christmas but it was snowed off; a major disappointment which was only compounded when the replacement trip to the cinema in Stanley was also snowed off!

So, I had to wait until the following April to see my first match. I didn’t realise it at the time, but we were eight games unbeaten and fourth going in to this game, where I sat alongside my Grandad in the East Stand to witness an unremarkable nil nil draw.

The only action I remember was an Aidan McCaffrey header palmed over by the Leicester keeper. I also recall the game was on Match of the Day that night (last in the running order – not much changes).

43 years later & I’m still waiting for that trophy………..wouldn’t have it any other way though!!

Les Jones:

May 7th 1955 Newcastle 3 Manchester City 1

I should have been a Spurs fan. I was 7 and didn't have a favourite team though Spurs were the nearest club and the local printer dropped off their home progammes to me having snuck a bunch out, pre-game.

My family watched this match on TV at my uncle Eddy's, next door to White Hart Lane and we missed the first goal - after just 45 seconds - as we were still settling in to watch it. (my uncle wasn't a huge football fan).

I really liked the look of that black and white kit but what cemented my choice was the City equaliser. I’ve always been keen on the underdog and not having seen the first goal, from then on I was rooting for the Magpies. That we won against 10 men didn’t diminish the pleasure.

However, we've been underdogs almost ever since and Ged Clarke’s book ”50 years of Hurt”, about the agony of supporting Newcastle, starts on the very day that I pledged my allegiance. 65 years ago.

It’s been a lifetime of frustration & despair. Though I guess it could have been worse - at least I didn't become a Spurs fan!

Steve Reid:

October 26th 1974 Newcastle 0 Leicester City 1

My Dad was a SJP regular in the 1950s and I grew up hearing heroic tales of Bobby 'Dazzler', the Robledo brothers, 'wor Jackie and Jimmy Scoular's "robust" approach to defending.

On a family visit to Jarrow he, and an ex-school mate, decided to catch a game for old-times-sake. I was 7 years old and we stood on the Paddock. An elderly bloke sold peanuts from the touchline, throwing packets into the crowd.

Dad pointed out a couple of players, warming up, who had 'represented England'. I couldn't have been more impressed had the Queen strolled onto the pitch.

My memories of the game itself are vague. I recall the swaggering style of Malcolm MacDonald and the love of the crowd for our number 9. He hit a thunderbolt shot that looked a certain goal. Peter Shilton threw himself to the left and, somehow, got a hand to it. From that moment I spent most of my childhood playing in goal.

The experience sealed a life-long love of NUFC, the game itself, and watching live football. Oddly, the one memory I don't have is the only goal of the game.

Steve Earle scored for the visitors, securing the two points. Until my late 20's I lived under the illusion I'd seen a 0-0 draw. Few things are as precious, and as unreliable, as memory, or NUFC.

Bob Ackerley:

April 12th 1947 Newcastle Reserves 5 Manchester City Reserves 0

I was 9 at the time and my Uncle Joe took me, and we stood in the South Paddock of the Main Stand. I recall there was a fair crowd.

I was at Gosforth Grammar a few years before AS. I emigrated to Canada in 1969 , and now live on Vancouver Island, but have returned regularly and always manage to get in a game. My favourite memory is being at Wembley in 1955.

Steve Pringle:

August 20th 1977 Newcastle 3 Leeds United 2

This was my belated 7th Birthday present, and I was under strict instructions from my Dad not to tell my mother we were going (I did of course blab later)!

I don't remember much about the match, other than being sat on of the wooden advertising hoardings behind the Gallowgate goal and a shot from Paul Cannell almost taking my head off. I only know it was Cannell because my old man said "I've no idea who that clown is son... never seen him before. The other one's Micky Burns. He's rubbish too".

I do remember coming home on the back of my old man's moped (he bought it so he could park in Newcastle and not have to pay!).

I was so excited I wasn't paying attention to where my black and white scarf was and a car flagged us down as we went along the Felling bypass as it almost tangled into the back wheel... Even the clip I got for stupidity couldn't dampen the euphoria of a toon win in my first game.

Seven days later we were at Middlesbrough to watch a0-2 defeat. On the van journey home (no moped this time... too far!), my old man said "get used to it son... this is Newcastle".

And so followed relegation and misery until King Kev waltzed into St James for his first coming.

Andy Blackburn:

August 28th 1976 Newcastle 0 Bristol City 0

My dad chose this dull affair to introduce 8 year-old me to St. James’ Park and NUFC.

I have no memory of the game, but they played Blondie & Darts records at half time as I enjoyed my wagon wheel!


Roy Collins:

September 8th 1990 Newcastle 1 Millwall 2

First matches, like losing your virginity, are often invested with an almost mythical significance, in which the participant imagines the stars will align resulting in a classic performance and celestial pleasure.

Alas, the reality in both cases is usually much more mundane and so it proved as a mediocre United proved second best against a Millwall side with goals from future Mag Malcolm Allen and Teddy Sheringham, who pulled all the strings before moving on to bigger and better things.

A decent finish from Micky Quinn late in the game proved little more than a consolation but
the most memorable part of the day - for all the wrong reasons - was getting back to the old Cattle Market car park to find out that York City striker David Longhurst had collapsed and died on the pitch earlier that afternoon.

Brendan Murphy:

January 8th 1995 Newcastle 1 Blackburn Rovers 1

At the very front of the Milburn Paddock (standing) as the youngest of the 4 brothers coming on the from X32 bus from Newbiggin.

I remember w
atching the recording trying to spot us all (live on BBC with Des Lynam presenting) and Ruel Fox running into me, trying to keep the ball in. I was never his biggest fan, but everyone heard about it afterwards.

I'd never seen so many people and was awestruck; the singing was unbelievable and my brothers successfully wound me up that they just played crowd noise through the PA to create atmosphere!

Martin Roberts:

April 11 April 1964, Newcastle 0 Bury 4

I had over-protective parents, so it was my twelfth birthday before I was permitted to travel from Bedlington (10 old pence each way on the bus) to watch the Toon.

I went with school mate Malcolm who was a seasoned fan with two years suffering already behind him.

We stood in the paddock in front of the old stand, nearest the open Gallowgate end. At 2 shillings for bairns it cost more than the Popular Side (1/6d) but Malcolm said it would be safer. The programme cost a tanner.

The match must have been terrible, but I can't remember much about it. Club record signing Barrie Thomas (£45,000 from Scunthorpe) played - the crowd was 20,001.

As we trudged down the steps at the end, I remember one old guy moaning about “Harvey's Easybeats”. That has stayed with me and could have been applied to many of our selections over the years, just change name of manager!

That result should have put me off for life - but no. I guess you never give up on your team - I really feel for those Bury fans who no longer have a club to stress about.

John Kirkpatrick:

April 28th 1984 Cambridge United 1 Newcastle 0

A roasting hot day as Newcastle marched towards promotion to the first division, Keegan, Beardsley, Waddle and Terry Mac against a struggling Cambridge team that were destined for the bottom of the league at the end of the season.

Alan Ball was spotted in the pub car park chatting with fans and the talk was of a young Geordie centre half signing from Gillingham, but Steve Bruce chose Norwich instead.

The 13 year old me was a bit wary as we had tickets in the Cambridge end but it was no surprise to Dad when we got in and it was jam packed full of Newcastle supporters, what could go wrong?

A first half penalty to Cambridge , that's what. I can still see their
player running back to the half way line. I still thought we'd win, but no, what a disappointment, things couldn't get any worse.

But they could, on getting back to the car my Easter Egg had melted into a brown liquidy mush... shite!

Paul Lyon:

August 29th 1992 Newcastle 2 West Ham 0

I was 9 years old when I started going to games.

Sitting on a concrete crush barrier at the Gallowgate End on my first visit, Gavin Peacock and Ned Kelly scored right in front of me.

Watching a YouTube clip of Kelly’s goal via Twitter, as much as I enjoyed seeing the ball go in the net, the crowd behind the goal is just mesmerising, I had to watch it another dozen times. I’m in there somewhere; my nine year old self is in amongst that mayhem, great scenes!

During that season me and few of my mates would go up to St James Park mid-week for the reserve games, my mate’s Mam took us along. I don’t know how it came about but we ended up being ball boys for about half a dozen games.

I remember the first time we ‘ball-boyed’. I was just in awe of the place, we got to go through the players entrance, taken through into our own changing rooms and given these grey tracksuits to wear.

I was ready pretty quick and headed out to the top of the steps that take you down to the tunnel. I stood staring at the black & white ‘Howay the Lads’ sign, as I looked to my right there stood Kevin Keegan – my jaw dropped, totally star-struck.

We took our position at the side of the pitch, I remember being in front of the Milburn Paddock, Gallowgate side. The players were out warming up on the pitch and just before kick-off Steve Watson approached where I was positioned and said “Cold isn’t it?” I just nodded and wished I had something cool to say back.

The game kicked off and once I had stopped staring at my surroundings I crouched down, grabbed the turf at St James Park and came up with a fistful of grass. I stuffed it into my tracksuit pants pocket which was underneath the grey tracksuit bottoms given to me to wear.

I got home and immediately showed my parents, “look Ma, actual St James Park grass”, amazing! It might have been a daft thing to do but I didn’t know whether I was ever going to get the chance again, it didn’t do any harm to anyone and I was proper chuffed!

At that time, little did I know that the Club was about to come to life and take on the elite of English football, I was a NUFC fan regardless – just wanting to be part of it. So much has happened since then, it’s easy to lose sight of the reason you started going to the match in the first place.

I was making the most of my time at the match, just like I was as a ball boy at the side of the St James Park pitch. No season ticket at the beginning of that season, I was paying at the turnstile, me in one queue my Dad in another to get into the Gallowgate End.

For all I knew at the time that West Ham match was my one & only match, unbeknown to me that I’d barely miss a home game for the next 20-odd years…


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Page last updated 27 March, 2020