I was reminded why I’m conflicted about international football last week as I sat through the last 30 minutes of turgid football as England played out a boring 1-1 draw with Ukraine in Poland. There was the routine footage online of England fans singing crap about Germany, drawing attention to their lamentable bad-gear japes in a beautiful medieval Polish square as they went through their Dummies Guide “How To Be A Football Knob” and I curled my lip at them in distaste.
Then at the end of the game we took in the scenes of Ukrainian fans and players in communion as they celebrated a decent result against a nation that curiously fancies itself as a football super-power. The joy football brings in some of the most difficult times any country can endure was obvious in the packed stands filled with Ukrainian supporters who had crossed the border to Poland as home games are out of bounds due to Russian aggression. It was a moving sight.
It’s not on the same scale but the excitement amongst Mags booking match tickets, flights and accommodations for forthcoming Champions League hops to Milan, Dortmund and Paris is exactly what football is all about. These aren’t so much football matches as events that are shared amongst pals, families that will remain as memories for lifetimes. They are going to be great. Let’s never lose sight of any of that.
At Newcastle United, we are living through some good times. Despite a bit of a ropey start to the season with three successive defeats we know times are good. We have massive games up and coming as we face Champions League, Premier League and FAC winners, Manchester City in the League Cup with Champions League fixtures with European football aristocracy, AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint Germain.
My only disappointment is we are a season late to have the great Lionel Messi grace the SJP pitch but I am excited at the prospect of Kylian Mbappe crossing the white line from the Milburn Players Tunnel onto Gallowgate’s manicured turf.
Some reckon we’ve had tough draws in the League Cup and Champions League. But they are massive games and the only thing worse than facing massive games is not facing massive games. These are contests we have yearned for and win, lose or draw they are part of the journey we are on. There will be more of them to come but right now I feel like a child at Christmas anticipating everything coming our way.
Generations of supporters are going to experience top class European football at St James’ Park. A new folklore similar to the Fairs Cup adventures of the late 60s and 70s will be added to those tumultuous nights beating mighty FC Barcelona, Juventus at SJP and the craziness of that away end at the De Kuip with the commentator’s screeching “BELLLLLAAAMMMMEE” igniting living rooms and pubs back home as we broke Feyenoord’s hearts and SBR’s eyes twinkled with joy as he exhaled in relief.
I was too young to appreciate the Fairs Cup days but I’ll hang on the words of those who drunk it all in – get this down you (below) as a palette cleanser for our starting course –
And of course next week we’re going back to the San Siro, this time to face the Rossoneri of AC Milan with the sub-text of Sandro Tonali’s early trip home to no doubt feel the opprobrium of that magnificent club’s supporters for departing for our club at the edge of the Roman Empire. The Yellow Wall of Dortmund, the transformed nouveau riche of PSG in the city of light both await after the trip to northern Italy. .
This is all fucking amazing. I’ve seen some faces tripping them since we blew it at home to Liverpool and got that chasing at Brighton, read nonsense about Howe being under pressure written by our enemies and shite from empty heads within our number about certain players and other assorted pissy-pants crap.
I’ll repeat … this is fucking amazing. Our football club, the cap-badge of our Geordie identity is in the big time.
The world’s football media is turning its focus upon our city and its mad football club. We’ll puff out our chests out with pride as we see visitors arrive here from across the continent and we’ll all want to see the city, the supporters, the people put on a show and leave an impression. This wee, proud, ignored and shat upon corner of a forgotten region, short-changed and patronised is in the spot-light. The Geordies are getting a turn.
This is for us. It is for you and your mates, families who have kept the faith in the bad times when many sneered and no-one gave a fuck about the fair market value of Sports Direct signage defacing every spare piece of space inside St James’ Park. It is for the generations gone and to come too.
There are bumps in the road. We’ve had one. We will definitely have more. But we’re on the up.
We’re going to have to get through this part of our journey unscathed. We can have the conversations and debates about formations, tactics, team selections, transfer windows and the price of fish in the Grainger Market.
But Saturday night is when we have to remember who we are and remind Eddie Howe and the players of the love there is for them as the representatives of Newcastle United.
The barbs, spite and envy is ramping up and coming at us. But it is nowt like what it is going to be like when we really do disrupt the self serving elite who have been stitching up football for years.
There are hyenas in the London media sniffing for discontent and disappointment for their made up bullshit.
On Saturday night, we’re on the telly again and St James’ Park will be rammed again. There are thousands more who would love to be inside with us and the club needs to get a wriggle on to make that happens.
It’s a late KO again. More libations will be taken. St James’ Park’s famous crowd has its job to do – not just with the fantastic tifo Wor Flags will put on at KO but throughout the game we need to stick with the players, roar them home to three points and look forward to more of the same.
It’s on us because it’s for us.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
Michael Martin, @TFMick1892
By the way, you should donate (if you can) to the Wor Flags fund for those special displays on special nights at SJP – click here