Something to break up the week.

I’d describe myself as a fair-weather match goer. In fact that is not true because the weather is never fair at SJP, we are not very good and haven’t been since the early 2000s (the 2011/12 term the exception). So, to refine that slightly, I go to the match when I can, if a few mates are free and fancy it or someone offers me a ticket. My Dad used to get the odd few tickets in the Platinum club through work, which was nice as the bloke from The Fast Show would say. I’d go now and again with a pal who had 2 seats but he gave them up around about the Pardew into Carver fiasco. I have sporting commitments on Saturdays so can rarely make Saturday 3 o clocks anyway.

My last home league game was the 3-0 win over Cardiff in January 2019. I remember watching Rafa slapping his players on the back and applauding all 4 corners of the ground as he headed down the tunnel. Special. Since Bruce pitched up, I haven’t been tempted at all. Frustratingly I wanted to take some family to the Everton game on the 28th December 2019 as a Christmas gift, but tickets quicky vanished as it was the first game under the 10,000 free season ticket scheme. Cheers Ashley.

However, when I saw we had Burnley at home in the cup on a Wednesday night, I was tempted. Why? I hear you ask. Who would be tempted to see a team with 9 changes, even though Bruce says he takes the cups seriously, against a Sean Dyche 11? I was tempted because I had no real intention of watching any of the football, other than perhaps having a player cam on Joelinton to confirm whether or not he really is that bad. I wanted a few mid-week pints with a pal to chew the fat and break up the end of summer malaise. When I asked him if he wanted to go, he replied, “yeah I’m keen mate, something to break up the week.”

I knocked on for my pal at around 5.30. We walked to the local, The County on Gosforth High Street and 2 pints of ‘Hair of the Dog’ (Pennine Brewing co 3.9%) were ordered. The last few overs of the cricket were on the tv and we watched Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed make a confident start in England’s reply to India’s 78 all out. We discussed the different techniques being used by the Indian bowlers and were entertained by the sky cameras showing shots of the crowd enjoying their day, including a man dressed as a packet of fries being chased down the stairs by a group of fancy dress seagulls. The post work crowd were filtering in and we ordered 2 pints of ‘Trilogy blonde’ (Three Brothers Brewing 3.9%).

As we watched Burns and Hameed walk off to the pavilion at the close of play, having steered England to 120-0, my mate turned to me and asked; “so do you think he’ll make changes tonight?”. “Probably”, I said, as I took a sip of my pint. Our conversation about the match we were about to go and see lasted about a minute as I pulled my phone out and showed him the team sheet. “Good to see Longstaff in” he said, “aye” I said.

At about 5 past 7 we headed for the bus to Haymarket, the discussion mainly being about if you still needed a mask or not on public transport as we waited at the stop. We arrived in town and walked through the University, admiring the architecture and wondering why there was a marquee outside of the Northern Stage. We walked along past the RVI and into the Trent House and supped 2 pints of Blonde Star (Anarchy 4.1%). We appreciated the different retro kits being sported around us, including a classic 94/95 season blue star Asics number with “Fox, 5” on the back. My mate also spotted that if you look closely at the new Castore home shirt you can see a big number 4 on the front.Two bags of ready salted McCoy’s were scoffed as the evening meal.

At 7:43 we had to face the inevitable and head up to the match. As the teams came out to Local Hero, my mate turned to me and said; “even if we win tonight, we’ll get beat off Man City in the quarters”. I agreed.

We spent most of the first half wondering if Sean Dyce was going to put a suit jacket on and why someone as big as Chris Wood kept falling over. Our seats were in the East stand in line with half-way and I found myself drifting off thinking what would it have been like to be sat here when Albert chipped Schmeichel, or when Griffin scored against Juventus or when Tiote equalised against Arsenal or when we beat the mackems 5-1, or when Shearer rolled Desailly and found the bottom corner.

I did focus on Joelinton – he doesn’t chase things down or get in the box. We spent half-time watching Willock and ASM pass the ball to each other and discussing what we think they have at half-time in the hospitality boxes. My mate also noticed that the match programmes seem to be really small now, more money saving from Ashley.

The penalty shoot out came as a bit of an inconvenience. I was worried by the time we got out of the ground and waited for the bus, we’d miss last orders at The County. When Almiron missed we were straight down the stairs and out for the walk back to Haymarket. Someone behind us commented that Southampton beat Newport County 8-0. “Didn’t they nearly beat us last season” I said. We momentarily discussed how difficult the Southampton game would be on Saturday before jumping on the ‘number 31’ back to the pub. As were ordered our pints of Sandpiper (Cullercoats brewery 3.6 %) I hear a bloke behind us ask the barman; “was there a match on tonight?”. “Yes” the barman replied”, “Newcastle were playing and I think they…” The bloke hadn’t stuck around to hear the score, he’d carried his pints back to the table. We glance to the screen and see that we would have had Rochdale at home in the next round, but then we did need a replay to beat them in the FA Cup 2 seasons ago, so nothing’s guaranteed.

The last time I was at the match I left with a buzz, having seen us score 3 goals and our world class manager salute the fans and the wor flags banner that was displayed in his honour at the Gallowgate end. Now, I just feel abject apathy for this football club. Going to the match is a mere sideshow to enjoying a few pints. Perhaps even an excuse in fact to meet up with a pal and have a catch up.

I’ll probably do the same in August 2022 when we’ve lost our first 3 games in the Championship and Bruce has to make 9 changes when we play Cheltenham Town in round 2 of the League Cup.

Adam Morrison @AdamMor41788032