I had an e-mail the other day asking if I would be interested in publishing an article about how a Newcastle fan nearly halfway around the world came about supporting the Toon.
Now I’m always interested in things like this as I’m very proud that Newcastle United have such a large and diverse fan base that is spread so far across the globe, so naturally I agreed. Please read this as it’s pretty compelling and shows just how much Newcastle United means to us all!
Greetings lads and lasses.
I don’t know how many of you have noticed me sporadically commenting on the posts here, anyway I post under the name of ‘Deepak is an Indian Toon’ and this is the story of how a boy living so far away and with absolutely no connections to Newcastle United or the area became an ardent and fanatic supporter of the club.
Now, I was born into a middle class Indian family in South India (Kerala to be precise), one which had a strong lineage of doctors. Both of my parents are doctors, as is my uncle, and we have a hospital, so it’s fair to say that sports was not exactly paramount in the family. Incidentally it was my Dad who introduced me to the beautiful game almost 12 years back. I remember the first match I saw on TV was Leeds United against…well..uhmm..somebody I really don’t remember.
Moving on, the manner in which I became an NUFC
fan was purely coincidental. I remember glancing at the league table that popped up on the TV one night while having dinner with my family in the year of 2001 and right on top of the table was Newcastle United. The name instantly struck to my head partially because I thought we were the best and partially because….well, I just simply liked the name to be honest.
At this point of time, I knew nothing about various clubs and who were the best and all that, so I decided to support NUFC, although I vaguely remember my friends were all Manchester United fans – I actually thought then that they were being stupid and I was the intelligent guy for supporting the best team around!
We subsequently threw away that lead in true Newcastle fashion and finished 4th in the league that year behind only Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, but by then my mind had been made up. I had fallen in love and I still remember the lap of appreciation that our boys took that night around St James Park. I vividly remember the emotions on the faces of Nobby Solano and Laurent Robert and also the fans. It was then that it struck me just how much it meant to everyone.
The next season was even better and we managed to give a real title push, at least for about half of the season before fading off and finishing 3rd that year. The legendary Sir Bobby Robson was doing a great job with the team and I was starting to dream. Trophies, goals, top scorers and everything in between was drifting through my head.
I couldn’t have been more wrong though as from then on started the dark days in the club’s recent history. The 2003-04 season wasn’t a disaster by any stretch of imagination as the club finished 5th and wasn’t too bad in the Champions League but it still provoked Mr Freddy Shepherd to fire the much loved and admired Sir Bobby Robson. It was true that we hadn’t qualified for the Champions League and that we failed to get past its group stage, but it was still not a big enough reason in my books to fire the great man.
The club then chose to appoint Graeme Souness as the manager and we finished 14th in his first season. That season will stick in my mind for the fight between Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer on the pitch in the match against Aston Villa. I remember almost being in tears as I saw two players who were supposed to have the club at heart fight like that in front of the watching world. And to add insult to injury, every single one of my gloryhunting friends had a field day teasing me about it!
That summer signalled the beginning of the arrival of the money grabbing losers at the club with Michael Owen and Albert Luque amongst others. My hopes, like every other Newcastle fan, were raised sky high only for it to come crashing down.The great Alan Shearer also retired at the end of that season and that left a gaping hole in our team which has yet to be filled and which I doubt will be filled in the near future. A finish of 7th that year was followed by a 13th placed finish and then a 12th placed one as Souness was replaced by Roeder who was then replaced by Big Sam Allardyce.
The Mike Ashley express then came to town and was met with a sense of optimism from me, and he actually made some pleasing moves by sacking the unpopular Allardyce and replacing him with King Keegan. It was a hugely spectacular and popular decision which turned out to be a match made in hell. Keegan resigned within six months leaving us with Joe Kinnear, Chris Hughton and Alan Shearer in a desperate attempt to stave off relegation, which was subsequently unsuccessful. I remember sitting in front of the T.V and literally crying as the scenes of relegation unfolded after a spineless effort from our team.
That was a time when, if I am being honest, I took stock of my love for the club. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to see any matches as the Championship was not telecast in India and I was in hostel doing my Medicine degree and hadn’t bought a laptop yet. I knew I would face a lot of teasing and bugging from everybody around and I had no idea whether we would bounce right back. But, all those doubts lasted only a few moments as I realised that if there was one club in the world I could support, it was Newcastle United.
That year was particularly tough as I couldn’t see even a single match live and literally had to follow every match through live text commentary on the Sky Sports website or on my phone, most of the time at 2 or 3 in the morning. Those were hard times but I managed to get a laptop by the time we won the final game and lifted the trophy and I also managed to see us win a huge trophy in pre-season against Deportivo.
The season that has just gone by was a highly fulfilling one. I managed to watch almost every match and we played some decent footy. Although I got a lot of stick from many fans for the sale of Carroll and sacking of Hughton, I believed that we had enough to see us through, and eventually we did come through.
So, to sum up, I am now 22 years old and have been a fan for 11 years now and I have never met a fellow NUFC fan face to face all this while. I don’t have an NUFC jersey as Puma or Adidas don’t sell our jerseys in their stores in India and its too expensive to buy from the official store as the delivery charges are double the cost of the shirt. I have never been to a top level football match in my life and can only dream of how St James’ Park will be in full voice.
Despite all this, I believe I am as ardent a fan as anybody. I am so interested in the club’s news that I keep updating Newsnow, Twitter and this ‘blog every five minutes just to see if something new has come up, so much so that my friends tease me saying that I would even know when a player has gone to the loo!
I love my club and I stand up for it against anybody, even if I am outnumbered 10:1, which is mostly the case. I know that although every single fan of the other so called “BIG” clubs take the piss out of me for supporting Newcastle, deep down they admire me for sticking with my club.
I am fiercely proud of my club and looking back, I am actually happy that it was Newcastle at the top of the table on that fateful day in 2001 and I didn’t go on to become a gloryhunter, because despite the results, the passion and love that is associated with Newcastle is unique and special. My dad is ruing the fact that it was him who started my craze as it has become the first love in my life, surpassing my medicine course.
I have big dreams of doing my residency in Newcastle or in the UK, or at least coming to St James’ Park one day and seeing our heroes and the stadium with my own eyes. God willing, I hope one day I will be able to.
And if anyone is wondering if I am an optimistic or a pessimistic fan – I am an eternal optimist. I believe that God gives you only one life and its up to you make yourselves happy, even if that means letting yourselves go and dreaming for sometime.
My name is Deepak Venugopalan and this is my story.