After a heavy night out on the drink last Friday night, I found myself walking home through the Jesmond Dene at 7am on a cold and gusty Tyneside morning before the Villa game. The awkward stares from dog walkers and joggers kept coming as I slowly staggered back to my flat in Heaton, and it reminded me of the early morning games that were all too familiar back in Australia.
Games regularly kick off at unfathomable hours back home; 3am, 4.30am, the odd 7am. They’re awful! Especially because we generally lose. One game stands out in particular as being utter crap. I’d woken up at 2.30am on a Sunday night, walked to my friend Julian’s house (also an Aussie born Mag) for a 3am kick off against the powerhouses of English football that are Reading FC! We lost 2-1 at home. At the time the early hours didn’t bother me, I’d become very accustomed to it, as I didn’t really know any differently. Now that I’ve lived in England and have been able to experience the joys of 3pm kick offs I think I’ll struggle to get back in the rhythm when I eventually return to Australia.
With the football being a little dire of late (surprise surprise), I thought I’d give a bit more of an insight into what life was like being a toon fan living in Australia, and the experiences I’ve had watching games in Melbourne. I first got involved with a supporters group called Aussie Mags in late 2011, after I stumbled across them by chance when surfing the web. I was reading a blog on ESPN from a Newcastle United fan in America, the author was talking about the many supporters groups that have formed right across the states in the past 10 years. I wondered to myself if there were similar groups in Aus, so I opened up Google and gave it a search, and as luck would have it there was. Aussie Mags started in 2006 and has grown to be Australia’s largest supporters group for Newcastle fans; helping to link them right around the nation to enjoy their one true love. In Melbourne a bunch of lads met regularly at an English pub on Collins St, called the Sherlock Holmes, with the next meet scheduled in two weeks against Chelsea.
I went along and it was here I met Andrew (founder of Aussie Mags), Kris (the barman at the Sherlock) and Julian (another Aussie who was equally obsessed with NUFC as I was). I started to regularly go to the pub to watch games, and through sheer coincidence Kris, Julian and myself lived within walking distance of each other. So every game that wasn’t on at the pub we watched at mine, much to the demise of my flat mates who had to deal with drunk football fans at ungodly hours every weekend. The four of us struck up a solid friendship, two Aussies and two Geordie expats who were all as daft as one another for the lengths we went to watching Newcastle play.
With NUFC playing in the Europa league in 2012/2013 (those were the days!!) we began watching the games on replay at 10am at another pub in Melbourne as our regular haunt didn’t have the required channel. It was here over a drunken conversation we decided to start a podcast, and the ‘Aussie Mags Podcast’ was officially born. It became a great way to share our views on NUFC, and I’m pretty sure it was only us and our mum’s that were listening the whole time, but either way it kept us entertained.
Nothing quite beats a packed St James’ Park, or an away day for atmosphere but to be fair we gave it a bloody good crack some nights at the Sherlock, especially when the derby rolled around. We’d get excess of 60-70 people some times and it was a great feeling. Aussie toon fans mixed with Geordie expats and backpackers all coming together 16 000km away from Newcastle to watch NUFC play. Anyone who thinks we are a small club that doesn’t have a global reach is a clown!
I’m well and truly over the half way mark now this season, with only 11 weeks to go! Can’t believe how fast it’s gone, Newcastle continues to amaze me and I’ve well and truly fallen in love with this city. Surprisingly I’m still enjoying every game, I have to pinch myself every time I walk in into St James’ Park. By far one of the highlights of the year came this past Wednesday when I finally got to see my favourite player step onto the pitch. Jonas Gutierrez has been a player I’ve admired for many years now. He was never the highest goal scorer or the most consistent, but he wore his heart on his sleeve, and gave everything to the team each and every time he put on that black and white shirt.
The past 12 months for him personally have proved this more than ever. I admire him now not only as a professional footballer but also for the man he is. To come back from testicular cancer and get back to fitness in a bid to play for the football club he loves proves more than ever just what this club means to the people that truly care for it (if only a certain Mr Ashley felt the same way). To see him step out in front of 50 000 adoring fans to a rapturous reception was truly special, Coloccini handing him the arm band capped off what was a very special moment for Jonas and all the fans who have been hoping to get one last glimpse of ‘Spider Man’.
Till next time, Howay the Lads.
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