Here we are, 4th round of the FAC day, well we’re not are we. I’m sat here safe from the pouring rain, radio banned for the day, Twitter banned and yes I’m beginning to resemble our dismal club with all this banning lark. In truth I would give anything to be heading off in the pouring rain to a cup game but I haven’t been given the opportunity and it still hurts. Instead I’m listening to the likes of The Cure, JJ Cale, The Jam and the masters PiL and about to delve into happier FAC times. I have my cup programmes, pics and even a copy of The Pink to hand to remind me of the first final against Arsenal but this isn’t really about the actual matches as they’ve been well documented, this is more about the journey to Wembley and the experiences, feelings and joy along the way.
When we beat Sheffield United at OT in the semi, I cannot begin to describe the excitement and the journey back to Newcastle Central on the football special was unforgettable. Plans had to be made for the final. Unfortunately for my ex, I had to journey down 1st class, such was the demand and as luck would have it, Peter Beardsley, his son and two friends sat in the aisle opposite but I was too shy to speak – I do remember their table being awash with Panini stickers. I met my son in London and we did the usual visit to Baker Street etc. and then onto the Tube to Wembley. It was very hot and sunny that day, we were sat in the funny bucket seats, in the sun for the whole afternoon and I suffered from heatstroke but that was fine and worth it. As we know, the game was a disappointment and Dalglish didn’t have a clue but that didn’t seem to matter to the Geordie nation and it was down to our supporters to get the Arsenal fans singing and chanting about their victory as we travelled back down Wembley Way to the Tube. I was staying with my first in-laws that night and managed to while away the journey to East Croydon chatting away to an Arsenal fan. They’re very shy too and I had to force him to speak up and enjoy the occasion.
I couldn’t believe our luck when we got to the Final the following season and this time it was the turn of my daughter, she’s the one who nearly destroyed my credibility at SJP by taking a book or Game Boy to matches with her! Anyway she accepted she had to wear a NUFC top, rosette and scarf but she preferred Oxford Street to Baker Street. She was thrilled though that everyone in the shops we visited wished us luck and hoped we would thrash Manchester Utd – it was good to have usually reserved Londoners, stopping, smiling and greeting us like welcome giant slayers but as we know this didn’t happen and Gullit didn’t have a clue either! We had much better seats this time but didn’t see much of the action as everyone stood up, as you do, and we are not giants. Didn’t matter though, it was great to be part of such an occasion. It was a little tricky travelling north after the game as we travelled up the west coast to a family event in Shrewsbury and we didn’t see many bedecked in black and white along the way. I thought we’d cracked it by getting an earlier train which was nearly empty but I went to the buffet car, the train stopped at Luton or was it Watford, and when I returned the previously empty carriage was awash with red people. The two who were opposite us looked very fierce and were huge but I muttered something about the Kit Kats and crisps I’d bought being red and white and they softened a little. It wasn’t long before most of the devils in the compartment were helpfully pointing out where we had gone wrong, what we should do et al. It wasn’t that bad after all as most were genuine Manchester fans and were still sweating on whether they would be lucky in the lottery for European Cup final tickets.
I know we didn’t win either game but the whole build-up, event itself and even the aftermath are experiences I will never forget and will always cherish, particularly the happy Geordies who brightened up London, before and after both games – absolute legends. However, I don’t think I will forgive our club for not being arsed about any cup competitions and it’s another slap in the face.