Every year as fixtures are announced, football fans up and down the country are asking the same question “when is Newcastle away?”. Newcastle is still a favourite away day amongst fans of other clubs and whilst in recent years you might think this is down to the odds of an away win or the 100 pubs within a half mile radius of the cathedral on the hill, we know it’s much more than that. Newcastle as a city, a population of people and of course as a football club are unique. I am biased but there simply isn’t anywhere else like it.

I was born in Birmingham but my Dad was born in Wallsend. His pursuit of further education in teaching brought him to the Midlands – I still don’t know how he mustered the energy to leave Newcastle, why would you? That said, he’s still got quite a rich NUFC history – he stood on the Leazes terrace when we won the Inter-Cities fairs cup in 1969 and watched on in wonder as Malcom McDonald scored all 3 Newcastle goals on his debut to beat Liverpoo lin 1971. He was excited and optimistic about the future of his club but this is Newcastle, nothing positive lasts and if it’s going to go wrong, it’ll go wrong for us.

My relationship with Newcastle and NUFC has been long distance – I’m 218 miles from St James and 223 miles from my Grandma’s house. Sadly, she passed away a few years ago but like my Dad, she was an avid Newcastle fan – the club and the city. She lived alone for much of her adult life as my Grandad passed away when my Dad was young but she never once considered leaving Newcastle to be closer to family. I always admired that about her and I understood – whenever I go, I never want to leave. I proposed to my wife on the Quayside, my kids are the only Newcastle fans in their schools, I’ve introduced countless people to stotties, given guided tours of the city to friends and family, had breakfast in Blakes on the morning of match days and my Spotify play list for the drive into the city includes Blaydon Races, Big River and Home Newcastle – I bloody love it!

Whilst the away fans who book their travel and hotel for the trip North every season will have their own reasons for loving the city, I’m also sure that many have a soft spot for the club. Newcastle was once referred to as everyone’s favourite second team. I say was because I get the sense that might be shifting and actually, it probably shifted a while ago but my black and white tinted glasses prevented me from spotting it. Social Media and especially Twitter can be blamed for some of the angst we get as Newcastle fans – there really are some very “interesting” characters with very bizarre views. Pundits and ex-pros don’t help with their poorly informed ramblings about our club but whether we like it or not, we are and always will be newsworthy.

Talking to a good friend recently he admitted to some jealousy at our newly found wealth along with what he described as misplaced entitlement amongst the fan base. Yes, its true that we feel we deserve better than we’ve had, particularly over the last 14 years butI don’t think we feel entitled to anything more than“a club that tries”. We’re certainly not the only club to have been through the mill in recent years and you’ve only got to look at Blackburn, Derby and Bury to see we’re not alone in our misfortune. The key is that it’s our misfortune so of course it’s going to hit harder and feel worse – the cause however is very similar. Bad ownership, bad management and a football system in this country that exists to serve the elite.

On 7th October 2021, Newcastle United was sold to a consortiumwho seemingly understand what they have purchased and exactly how they should look after their newly acquired asset. It matters not to the majority of Newcastle fans that we’re now the richest club in the world; it’s nice but all we wanted was better than we had. The fact that we got rid of the poisonous shop keeper and now have owners with ambition is really what matters. Winning the league would be great but in reality, we’d just like to go in to a season with a sense of excitement and expectation. Maybe we could get to 40 points before February. Maybe we could have a decent cup run. Maybe our manager and owners could work together. Maybe we could just be a football club again.

We should be prepared for the grief that we’ll get as we improve, as we spend money and as fans of other clubs lose their soft spots for us, it’s inevitable. Whilst I’m not sure we are everyone’s favourite second team anymore, I do have faith that a good proportion of football fans will look at us now, knowing what we’ve been through and be happy for us and what lies ahead. We’ve got new owners, that’s it – the city, the club, the fans remain and I’m convinced that as the next few years progress and we enjoy a club that we can once again be proud of, those fans of other clubs will still be asking “When is Newcastle away?”

Rus Trevethick