Fun, Frolics and Frustration
Monday 25th April 2016
If only yesterday afternoon’s game was as entertaining and satisfying as the weekend our group have just enjoyed. Then again when does the North East ever disappoint when it comes to events off the pitch!? Norwich and Tyne & Wear’s 2 biggest clubs are all battling to avoid the drop of course, a fact that is a real shame if you go all out to enjoy the hospitality of those destinations. If The Canaries go it will only be one that goes down with them…..leaving the club staying up to celebrate and look forward whilst their biggest rivals are left to lick their wounds. If the boys from Norfolk hang in there however, it will be a dark day for football in the far North East. And those of us who enjoy going there will miss them too.
In January 1965 our great club were in the latter stages of the longest trophyless period in our history. There was no sign of that ending any time soon as we sat in mid table and the month was to end with arguably one of the lowest points of that era. Peterborough United were also languishing in mid table……but in Division 3. But on FA Cup 4th round day they overcome the mighty Arsenal.
Two week’s previous we had headed up to Sunderland’s Roker Park and goals from a young John Radford and Joe Baker saw us take the points. Like this season our host’s were facing a relegation battle at that time and our victory completed a double that season over the Black Cats.
The programme that day had an advert suggesting we all read what Brian Clough had to say in the News of the World or spend 19 shillings and 11 pence on a ‘Cossack hat in simulated astrakhan’! The North East of England can get very cold in the Winter!
It would be another 3 years where success appeared just around the corner for us, a couple of League Cup Finals being followed by that famous 1970 night against Anderlecht.
Friday evening I set off for our latest trip, a hotel in Southampton the intended destination. An early flight on Saturday suggested a relatively early night would be the best idea but how often do those plans not quite work out!? A live band and a few local ales in a fine pub meant we slept well if nothing else! So it was a slightly bleary eyed group of 6 that checked in the following morning, all in good spirits nonetheless.
I have certainly by no means been a regular attendee of our reserve, youth or academy games down the years, the odd friendly at a stadium I haven’t been to and some fixtures in the FA Youth Cup pretty much making up my record but we had decided attending our under 18s game at Sunderland on Saturday morning might be a good idea for a couple of reasons. A trip to Eppleton Colliery Welfare FC in the small town of Hetton-le-Hole was definitely something different and in addition, there was a chance it would keep us out of the pub!
That decision however, was taken away by an incident at our departure airport. On our aircraft and ready to leave on time the airport was closed. The reason? There wasn’t a suitable qualified fire officer on shift to allow any arrivals or departures! Brilliant. I could have had an extra hour or so in bed! Almost 90 minutes late however, we were away and the short flight saw us arrive in Newcastle to glorious sunshine for the second time this season.
The delay meant our plans were to change of course but once checked in to our hotel on the banks of the Tyne we went for a stroll……and to a pub. C’est la vie.
Arguably one of the worst English breakfasts later we headed up one of the steep hills into the city centre and enjoyed the hospitality of a few establishments we have experienced in the past whilst keeping an eye on the other football activity taking place all over the country. It had us all in that banter filled mood we all love so much and continued when we headed to an area of the city we have not visited before. A lad from Consett, County Durham suggested we head across to a place called Ouseburn so this we did and thoroughly enjoyed a couple of hours in 2 pubs far enough out of the city centre to be different but close enough to have life, atmosphere, fine ales and some cracking views along the river. The picture below might have you thinking otherwise but believe me, they were well worth a visit!
Saturday night in Newcastle never fails and consequently I would be lying if I didn’t say my memories are a mix of clear, mixed and downright non existent but think pub, pub with an excellent live band, a busy fun club and an early hours kebab and you pretty much get the picture.
I admire anyone who has run a marathon and I have both family and friends who have done just that, including this year. Turning on the TV early Sunday morning I struggled to make the bathroom let alone run 26 odd miles but me and my roomy did chuckle at the thought of how funny it would have been to tune in and see a couple of Kenyans and my Gooner mate from Essex battling for the lead! Well done for achieving it Thomas….you joggy C you 😉
Tyne & Wear’s excellent metro system means you can get straight to The Stadium of Light from Newcastle city centre so here we headed next for the excuse for us being in this part of the world. Quick and convenient it might be but add in nausea to the discussions trying to piece together the previous night’s antics and you get the picture.
Again I emphasize my thoughts surround my journey. Match reports and opinion tend to be found elsewhere. But like everyone else I can’t possibly be anything less than disappointed at our overall performance. Certainly in the first half it could and should have been different but not turning our dominance into a lead is becoming an extremely repetitive story I’m afraid. Our hosts are battling for their Premier League existence so I expected them to fight for every ball and in the second period their half chances certainly outnumbered ours. And although I feel we probably should have been comfortably ahead at the break, overall it was a fair result.
Chewing the cud in Sunderland city centre over a couple of post match pints came next before we headed back to Newcastle Airport for our return flight. Another hectic but memorable weekend with good company following our team over land and sea. It was just the bit on the pitch that was forgettable unfortunately.
Champions League football in the following season has become the norm for us Gooners. And although we want more than that (and rightly so) the fact we have it every year shouldn’t be underestimated. But there is also no doubt it should be a bare minimum target not the be all and end all. With other opportunities now gone this season however, we need to do everything we can to get over that line. The hundreds of memories I have of European jollies need to continue! And we now have just three games to achieve it.
Our next visitors need a result. And that makes them dangerous. Their lowly position suggests it shouldn’t. But it does.
And its a bank holiday week. Result! 🙂