Editor’s note: over the years true faith has been delighted to carry Blogs and pieces inSJP1 the fanzine from those Black & Whiters from the Geordie diaspora who have left these shores for all points on the compass be it for a new life or a holiday or work or education or other adventures where they have taken time to keep in touch with what is going on back home at St James’ Park but also discover and embrace the football culture of their host countries. I don’t think we’ve got better examples of that than John Milton out in Brazil, Tony Higgins in Spain, Neil Cranswick in Germany, Alex Scott in Malawi and Chris Brolly in Senegal. By nature, Geordie like others on the celtic fringe of North Britain hasn’t been afraid to go off and wander the globe. 

What we have here is something different and I’m delighted to welcome Jem Sullivan to our writing team at true faith. Jem is a little bit different in that this is a lad who has upped sticks from his native Australia to travel to Tyneside and amongst other things I’m sure, spend a season following the fortunes of Newcastle United – a club Jem has formed an unfathomable affinity and fondness for (I know I laughed as well) from thousands of miles away in a part of the world so many Geordies have travelled to for a new life. Jem has turned that on its head and has come the other way. 

Jem has committed to writing us a monthly Blog (and other stuff I’m sure) over the 2014/15 season and I’m sure his accounts of his time with us will be fascinating as he spots stuff we don’t even notice and gets to know our city and our community. 

On behalf of everyone at true faith, may I welcome Jem to Tyneside and hope his time with us is everything he hopes it will be.

Michael Martin, Editor, true faith, Newcastle United Fanzine.

What an incredible first 10 days I’ve had. I’d seen lots of pictures through various social media of the scenery and sights in Northumberland (particularly of the bridges!), the people here really do live in a very special part of the world. I’ve been taken aback by just how nice the city is, especially the quantity and quality of the restaurants and bars. Seeing the memorial for the recent deaths of John Adler and Liam Sweeny at St James’ Park really did strike a chord with me, the way football fans from different clubs, particularly the Newcastle and Sunderland fans, came together in a state of grief. It reminded me that sometimes football really does need to take a step back in our lives, and remind us of the important things in life.

The friendliness of the locals has really amazed me; when I was sitting in a pub in London with a friend from my hostel two days before my train left for Newcastle, I received a message from a follower on Twitter. He was asking what I was doing on Friday, and if I happened to be free whether I’d like to catch up for a pint with a listener to the Aussie Mags Podcast. If this is an indication about the friendliness of the locals I am certainly in for a good 12 months. I can’t think of many places where a fellow football fan would contact another, purely to be friendly and offer some decent conversation on a lazy (and very wet) Friday afternoon.

So most people reading this are probably all thinking the same thing: why on earth did a young Australian move half way round the world to watch Newcastle for a season?

It’s a damn good question, and one I keep asking myself.

I’ve supported Newcastle United for many years, starting when Australia qualified for the World Cup again in 2005. Football was at an all time popularity high in Australia, and coincidently we had just got cable TV installed at my family’s home. I can remember watching Newcastle play over my Christmas holidays and a particular  name stuck in my mind:  Alan Shearer. Over the next 18 months, football took an extraordinary ride on the Australian football rollercoaster. After the success of the Socceroos (a ridiculous name, I know) I had begun regularly to watch the EPL and Serie A highlights show on a Sunday afternoon, always waiting anxiously for the Newcastle segment to be shown. And in June 2007 the one and only Mark Viduka signed for Newcastle! I know this name might leave a bit of a sour afterthought in the back of many fans minds, and I can understand why, his two years were far from outstanding. But at the time Viduka was the most capped Australian captain in our history, he had scored bags of goals in the EPL over the past 12 months and was the face of Aussie football, along with Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell. That’s really where the love affair began, and I actively followed Newcastle through my teenage years, watching as many games as I could.

I moved to Melbourne in 2011, and after being there a few months was reading on ESPN America about the football fan groups that exist right throughout America. I immediately headed to my computer and Googled to see if there was a similar group in Australia, one came up, Aussie Mags. I became an active member of this supporters’ group, regularly going to watch games with the lads, in the process making some amazing friends along the way. I had always wanted to watch a game at St James’ Park, and around 18months ago began thinking about how to work it in with my travel plans after I’d finished university.

I didn’t really want to go into full time work yet, and had no plans to stay in Australia, there was only one real option as far as I was concerned, sell everything, buy a one- way ticket and move to Newcastle for a season. It’s a crazy idea I know, ask my family and they’re sure to agree! Everyone has their passion or interest (mine seems particularly full on and intense), some people like riding motorbikes or playing guitar, I just love watching football. It’s my escape from the world, it’s how I relax after a long week. Watching the Newcastle game on a Saturday night at the pub, more often than not in the early hours of the morning, was what I most looked forward too. The feeling of belonging and being part of something, the raw emotion when you score, watching the club I love is what keeps me going.

Newcastle United is my club, although I wasn’t born here I feel just as part of the club as any. I couldn’t imagine supporting anyone else, I’ll support them through thick and thin.

It’s hard to explain where the passion and excitement really comes from, and to be honest I don’t really know exactly. But I inexplicably fell for this club, and that will never change. Going inside St James’ Park for the first time will be the culmination of months of planning and saving coming together, and the achievement of a lifelong dream. Seeing that emerald green grass and the stands full of Black & White stripes will seem too good to be true.

I hope people enjoy reading blogs from my journey over the next 12 moths, I’m sure it will be a great experience in my life, and something I’ll never forget.



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