From Sydney to St James’ Park – How COVID-19 crushed a NUFC fans dream

While there’s much more to life than football, it’s fair to say the coronavirus crisis has affected a huge number of fans up and down the country, leaving many of us to realise just how much our weekends relied on that precious 90 minutes.

One man who’s been left to rue the timing of this global pandemic is Saleh Ali – a Sydney-based Newcastle fan who’s dream of attending this month’s Premier League clash with Sheffield United was taken away from him after 3 years of saving.

After contacting the blog to reveal his story, here’s what he’s had to say:

Saleh outside SJP

“We booked a Europe trip in June last year for March 2020 and have been saving up for 3 years, not knowing a virus will hit the entire globe.

“I came all the way from Sydney Australia with the wife to live the dream and walk through the doors of St. James’s Park – but in the end I couldn’t even get a look from the inside.

“We traveled to Norway, then Switzerland with no troubles, we had Italy booked and cancelled it since the virus got really bad there, so we went to Spain.

“We then landed in Newcastle on the Thursday thinking the game was still on.

“We were ready for a match day tour and to watch our beloved Toon against Sheffield United, then on the Friday my dreams were shattered, with the announcement that all Premier League matches were suspended.

“We also had a match day tour of the stadium which was also cancelled due to the virus. As a result, I didn’t even get the chance to see St. James’s Park from the inside.

“I did the stadium tour of the Camp Nou in Barcelona, the tour of Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal and Wembley but not Newcastle. I was able to visit other stadiums – but not the one I really wanted to see.

“I just don’t understand why they didn’t allow me to do the stadium tour when I was able to do others.

“I’ve been a faithful Newcastle fan for 15 years and stay up to the early hours to watch every match of ours.

“The only reason we booked this trip was for this game and I didn’t even get to see how the stadium looks on the inside.

“Honestly, I can’t put in words how devastating this situation is as we’ve come a long way to only have it shattered 24 hours before the game.”

Absolutely devastating for Saleh, showing how this virus can crush dreams and ruin plans when it’s not taking lives.

It’s fair to say absolutely EVERYBODY has been affected by this crisis in one way or another, but Saleh’s story is gutting in more ways than one.

We sincerely hope to have him back at St James’ Park in the not too distant future!

(Fancy writing for us? Send any articles/ideas over to us at NUFCblogsubmissions@gmail.com & we’ll get back to you!)

About Olly Hawkins

Olly has been a Junior Magpie from birth. As a season ticket holder and avid Newcastle United fan - he eats, sleeps and breathes all things NUFC.

284 thoughts on “From Sydney to St James’ Park – How COVID-19 crushed a NUFC fans dream

  1. If you have time read Terry Mac’s story in Martin Hardy’s Touching Distance. Brilliant piece! NUFC.com are currently running it.

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  2. Bayern Munich return to training.

    That has to be good news for the possibility of finishing the Bundesliga season and maybe even the PL season.

    Is it premature? This adds to the confusion. Regular folk in the UK and US are on lockdown and footballers return to training in Germany.

    I have no idea what to make all of this anymore, especially with Boris Johnson in hospital.

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  3. Eric, the Germans don’t seem to have lock down people as bad as other European countries. I had a call with a German customer of mine on Friday and he was in the office. I suppose it also helps that Germany produces the test kits and have banned the export of them so they can use the kits themselves.

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  4. Olly: glad all of the Opta guys get the big bucks to predict us finishing 13th. I used the totally scientific approach of alphabetical order at the start of the season which had us 13th. Do I get a prize or can Opta send me a cheque for being so prescient?

    I really had no idea where we would end up, therefore the alphabetical order. I think my true guess was anywhere from 13th to 18th which was hedging a bit coz 18th would have seen us relegated.

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  5. What is it with this site? Every time I try and read or type something the bloody page jumps and I end up tapping on a bloody ad! Probably the idea…

    Some finance experts has worked out roughly that we will probably make circa £27.4m profit for last year. I’d say that’s the top end going forward as the revenues will be lower. Interestingly his price for the club didn’t alter from when we made nothing to when we made £17m last year. This gives us a good insight as to why he won’t sell the club. It’s not about what the club is worth it’s about what he wants.

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  6. Stuart: I think NUFC can weather this storm easily as long as a large portion of the PL TV money doesn’t have to be repaid and the next instalment is forthcoming. I think we had like the 4th lowest payroll in the PL and we really didn’t overextend ourselves in the summer with transfers. You or I may point to Joelinton but we got 30 million for Ayoze Perez. Matchday revenue is no longer a massive portion of our income and how many home games do we have left anyway?

    Nah, Fatty was taking advantage, just like Levy and FSG are.

    And screw Bournemouth. I see some pundits saying this might send them to the wall. Jordan Ibe for 16 million, Tyrone Mings for 20 million and relegation will send them to the wall. Not this, if there is a fairly quick recovery. Ah, poor Bournemouth, they say. They play in a shed, PL is better off without them.

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  7. Stuart – I had lots of weird stuff going on websites yesterday. With so many at home it’s overwhelming the internet, overloading. Just too much traffic.

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  8. georgio:
    Stuart – I had lots of weird stuff going on websites yesterday. With so many at home it’s overwhelming the internet, overloading. Just too much traffic.

    georgio:
    Stuart – I had lots of weird stuff going on websites yesterday. With so many at home it’s overwhelming the internet, overloading. Just too much traffic.

    I said this weeks ago mate, home systems getting overwhelmed, not set up like the office settings.
    Surprised we still have connection to be honest

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  9. Lots of talk about us being interested in the forwards from Celtic and Rangers.

    Good records on paper, but I’m not sure they are any better than Gayle.

    Take Celtic and Rangers out of that league and it’s not even Championship standard.

    Not sure either could cut it in the PL. defo need to strengthen up front, but need to improve on what we already have.

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  10. Eric Sykes: I reckon Fenway Sports Group may back down. They are losing so much good will by furloughing and they are undermining their manager. Doing this goes against everything Klopp has said. I don’t think they really want to p!ss Jurgen off. He has performed miracles. If you look at their squad it is nowhere near as good as Cities. I think Klopp is an intelligent and honourable man and he will hold a grudge if they don’t reverse their decision. There was already talk that he might be interested in the German National team job sooner rather than later.

    This I what I said yesterday at 8.25pm. I am glad they changed their minds.

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  11. Best wishes to Boris and his family. Weird times.

    I see the PIF bought a small stake worth a few hundred million dollars in a cruise liner company. I suppose that shows they don’t care about investing in trouble industries… The report in the FT also said to expect them to make further investments over the next few weeks…

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  12. Wasn’t a small stake. 8%. The only problem might be that they could go bust. I doubt they will have any passengers for 6 months as you are stuck on there and nobody will let you dock. It is not even like airlines where at least somewhere has to let you land and most flights are 5 hours are less.

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  13. I echo your sentiments about Boris Stuart. I haven’t really followed his politics that closely but that is the last thing we need. For a world leader to go down from this.

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  14. Eric Sykes:
    Wasn’t a small stake. 8%. The only problem might be that they could go bust. I doubt they will have any passengers for 6 months as you are stuck on there and nobody will let you dock. It is not even like airlines where at least somewhere has to let you land and most flights are 5 hours are less.

    Eric – we have sailed the globe for as long as history remembers mate. I can’t see cruise liners going out of business – just like I can’t see planes being grounded for too long either.

    Unless they invent some kind of Star Trek teleportation, these are modes of transport that will stick around – and hopefully cleaned up to lessen the impact on the environment.

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  15. It’s seems to me that Boris has got worse since going into hospital.

    Hope he gets better soon. I can’t say I like the bumbling character he portrays. But I do get the impression he is a very clever man when it comes to politics and getting things done.
    His missus has just fell pregnant too I think, so he must focus on getting better for them.

    I’ve been quite impressed by Hanc0ck, Gove and Raab so far. Boris has put a good team together, so he needs to hand over to them for now and focus on getting better. That’s the best way to serve his Country imo.

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  16. Sharpy17: Eric – we have sailed the globe for as long as history remembers mate.I can’t see cruise liners going out of business – just like I can’t see planes being grounded for too long either.

    Unless they invent some kind of Star Trek teleportation, these are modes of transport that will stick around – and hopefully cleaned up to lessen the impact on the environment.

    Stuart mate: different thing going out of business and going bankrupt. Could easily go bankrupt and then someone else will pick up the pieces. Has happened many, many times. Apple almost went bankrupt in the 90s and Bill Gates bailed them out.

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  17. Boris was probably soldiering on when he really should of gotten proper bed rest . If you listen to people who have had it bad, they say it’s like being rolled over by a bus. I know with his job it’s hard to step back but as has been pointed out,he has plenty of able ministers around him.

    I knew he’d have to go in, you only had to look at him in that video link on friday, he looked awful.

    Wishing him a speedy recovery .

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  18. Heard today that the takeover is making progress and could potentially be agreed within days. Jabba keen and literally just waiting for them to come up with the cash.

    They’ve even lined up a chairman who’s name I was given but I won’t mention it on here…

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  19. Stuart79:
    Heard today that the takeover is making progress and could potentially be agreed within days. Jabba keen and literally just waiting for them to come up with the cash.

    They’ve even lined up a chairman who’s name I was given but I won’t mention it on here…

    Stop teasing

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  20. Wish they would get a working antigen test up and running, that’s the key to life getting back to some form of normality .

    So many people think they have had it but have no idea if they actually have.

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  21. Why will you not give us the name of the possible new chairman Stuart?
    It’s not Niall Quinn is it? 😆

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  22. Sidekick – I don’t want to abuse the trust of the person who told me. They’ve got to come up with the money though otherwise it’s back to Jabba…

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  23. So, if they extended out of contract players that will include Ginger Jack. That is probably as much per week as ll of the furloughed workers.

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  24. IF we get taken over there is bound to be a transition year, especially with C-19 because nobody really knows when football will return. I have asked this before but who is good enough to get into our first team if we spend money? Especially since transfer prices will likely come down a bit as there is less competition from the likes of Bournemouth.

    I would say only Dunvravka, St Max and Almiron. And one of the centre halfs. Lejeune if he can regain his form before the second injury and Schar or Lascelles on their good days. Under a good manager one of the centre half could cut it either because they are well drilled or because by attacking more we take the pressure off.

    A lot of the rest of the team could be backup as long as you don’t need many in the team at the same time. Look at it like Fergie’s Man U. They had the excellent players and some super-stars but some were also found out to be average when they left – Darren Gibson, Wes Brown, Tom Cleverly etc.

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  25. Apart from that, we all know what we need. A creative midfielder and a goalscorer. The rest could fill in the gaps in a transition year. We need a winger as well but that could be Lazaro. Pity we have not seen much of him. We can probably extend the loan if we want and if football resumes. I doubt if we would if Fatty is still in charge.

    Goalscorer – I think you either go for proven who would be costly. Someone like Icardi. Or you go for aging and proven looking for one last fling/payday – Djeko or Giroud. Better and fitter versions of Andy Carroll. Or, and this is pie in the sky Lewandowski. I think he’s like 32 now.

    Creative Midfielder – Sharpy probably knows a few. Cant think of anybody in England unless David Silva can be persuaded he has another PL season in him. Not Grealish and I will shoot myself if we get Declan Rice as a defensive mid.

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  26. Some might say that is not enough and it might not be. But you only have to look at Man U and Fernandez to see that 1 player can make a difference to a team. Along with Greenwood and another striker I think he puts them in the ascendency now, even with OGS as Manager. Still behind Liverpool and City but probably capable of 3rd next year.

    Pity, I was looking forward to a longer period of stagnation.

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  27. These players are dragging this deferred payments out aren’t they… Still not agreed anything. I’m a bit torn to be honest. From the outside PL clubs look awash with money but how financially healthy are some in reality? A lot of clubs have billionaire owners who should step up and honour contracts some might argue but them others might argue that the players should play their part for a couple of reasons. Firstly they’re the biggest outlay a club has in most cases and secondly they’re not playing football! Owners like Jabba will only ever put his hand in his pocket if it’s in his own best interest so we can forget him doing it.

    I see Championship clubs have discussed a nuclear option of group administration. That would be interesting. They’d all lose ten points and all the players would be free transfers. Each club would agree not to sign any other Clubs player And they’d just renegotiate new contracts. That would be interesting watching the players reaction tot that!

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  28. I see Championship clubs have discussed a nuclear option of group administration. That would be interesting. They’d all lose ten points and all the players would be free transfers. Each club would agree not to sign any other Clubs player And they’d just renegotiate new contracts. That would be interesting watching the players reaction tot that!

    Yes very interesting indeed Stu

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  29. So Jabba just waiting for them to come up with the cash. Are these new owners cash strapped then ?
    Just don’t see it happening .

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  30. Who is this Udenese Director to say anything about the PL. He says the PL will soon release a statement to say the season is canecelled. Why would they do this? They would have to be idiots.

    First, the C-19 virus is supposed to peak in the near future. Wouldn’t you wait and see?

    Second if you cancel the season prematurely you can’t just change your mind as if you are the owners of Liverpool deciding on furloughs 🙂

    Third, and probably most important, if you cancel the season you give the TV companies the go ahead to get their attack dog lawyers started on keeping/retrieving the TV money. If the season is still in progress they can hardly file any law suits, can they.

    It would be monumentally stupid to cancel the season now.

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  31. No shirt sponsor signed up, no kit manufacturer signed up, no let up in the furloughing if staff and not even a comment about the club taking payments for next season.

    Anyone would think Ashley has decided he’s not doing anything because he would have to inform potential buyers if he did.

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  32. It’s very sad. But then again we are in a pandemic and people will die unfortunately. I hope people don’t play politics with it like many already have.

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  33. I always find it ironic when the red bindippers get on their moral high horse about anything. Best shut up or I may bring up Heysel. I know it was 1985 but 39 Juve fans died as a result of being pressed against a wall by charging scouse cnuts. They may point to bad Policing but the Police didn’t make them charge. It resulted in a 5 year ban and set English football back 10 years in Europe.

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  34. Stuart79:
    It’s very sad. But then again we are in a pandemic and people will die unfortunately. I hope people don’t play politics with it like many already have.

    My opinion is the self isolation may do more harm than good by creating a global recession where many more people die than from C-19. The Govt actually had a plan in place which was to let it run its course like they did with SARS. They knew the health service would be overrun but had decided to treat first those who had the best chance of survival. Some may say this would be playing God but they are having to do it anyway now and the health service is still swamped.

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  35. Britain almost HAD to go the self isolation route. We are a high profile country and cannot go it alone like Sweden. We also tend to do what the US does in these situations and in war. Not sure why there are so few cases in Germany and I think they might be relaxing the isolation rules as well.

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  36. I tried to get it back to football earlier – well NUFC after the takeover anyway. But there really isn’t much to say apart from Ashley and Levy are tw@ts.

    There is something about Levy having furloughed Spurs ground staff work at his personal estate. Not sure if that is made up or not.

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  37. Olly: Dubravka has undoubtedly been our player of the season. He has made a few errors but not that many considering the unrelenting pressure he has been under in most games, even against the likes of Brighton. He has had almost no respite until very recently and 1st half at West Ham. Maybe Arsenal 1st game of the season.

    Same with the centre backs. They have been under constant pressure and have mostly held up well. The 9-0-1 system is not good for goalies or centre backs.

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  38. One of my minor annoyances (I wouldn’t even call it a pet peeve) is when people say it is wrong to talk about anything OTHER than C-19, or enjoy yourself in such trying times. I can walk and chew gum at the same time. This is a football site. We can talk about football. In fact, I think having a distraction is a good thing. I wish the football was back on.

    My mother is 78 and self-isolating (she lives alone). I have been calling every couple of days and one of the first things I ask about is her dog who she adores. I think the dog is keeping her sane after about 2 weeks of this. My nephew is also dropping off groceries, so I ask about him. You can’t just think C-19 all day every day.

    Stopped watching any news more than a week ago and get updates via The Guardian. I find it not as breathless as TV coverage and I can get updates in small chunks when I want it. Of course c-19 is all over the football sites as well so I am getting about as much of it as I can take.

    It hit 27 degrees celcius yesterday and I really wanted to take a drive to the lake after a long winter. Being a good citizen I didn’t.

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  39. Germany are testing 500,000 per week Eric, and started mass testing much earlier than us. They have a lot of testing labs and a lot of tests which they are holding onto.

    Our only hope is to ramp up testing of everyone. If me , lew or any of his carers develop symptoms then that’s us completely isolated and up s hit creek. Managing him on my own will be impossible due to lifting, especially if i’m unwell .
    We must get more testing done .

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  40. From Olly’s last post, and I quote “it may seem insignificant in these surreal times, but NUFC have been linked with 2 players”.

    No it is not Olly. This is a football site and we need alternatives and distractions to keep sane. God forbid anyone has a loved one with this virus but part of coping is doing other things. As I have said a few times, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. I am worried about my mother but I make it a point to talk to her about other things, even Emerdale or NUFC.

    We all support the Drs and nurses in all of this and even Boris (Alexander Boris De Plessis Johnson is his real name) but we will all go mad if we dwell on it 24/7.

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  41. Eric Sykes: My opinion is the self isolation may do more harm than good by creating a global recession where many more people die than from C-19. The Govt actually had a plan in place which was to let it run its course like they did with SARS. They knew the health service would be overrun but had decided to treat first those who had the best chance of survival. Some may say this would be playing God but they are having to do it anyway now and the health service is still swamped.

    Totally agree, Eric. Those who think we can get back to normal after a few months are on drugs. It will impact us for twenty years. How will we fund the NHS for example when tax income for the gvt is down 40% and out of work benefits are through the roof? People who usually survive with heart attacks, strokes, cancer ect will die because we can’t afford to fund it. That’s without discussing police, education ect…

    We don’t have any issues putting soldiers lives on the line to protect our future and freedoms yet we seem prepared to forgo our freedoms and future to save normal lives – many of whine may well have died this year anyway. Harsh but fair.

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  42. I think Olly is doing a great job keeping going through this. Same as Ed, although I have been checking out his site and they are bickering even more than usual. I have no idea what they get out of arguing in circles every day. Even The Chronic seem to be soldiering on. I think they must be still going in with only a few working off site. Can’t tell with Ryder though, he could write his 200 words from anywhere. I just know it cannot be from his usual bar stool. They did p!ss me off yesterday though by calling Mick Quinn a LEGEND. AGAIN. No he is not.

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  43. Stuart: a simple plan would be to self isolate those most at risk and encourage those who have little risk to help them out. It would be those over 70, some disabled and those with chronic health problems. Being a bit cynical, they are less likely to go out anyway.

    I don’t know what Kimtoon would think about this with Lew how he is but really it wouldn’t be any different for her than it is now.

    I think the US economy will bounce back because it is all tech and services now. However, there will be a recession. I have no doubt about that, just the less well off countries will be hurt most.

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  44. They should have done that at the start, Eric. The government just folded under pressure from the media.

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  45. Stuart79:
    They should have done that at the start, Eric. The government just folded under pressure from the media.

    To be fair Stuart, it was almost all Govts. But I agree, it was a panic set off by a media frenzy but also by the Govts wanting to be seen to be doing something. It has made the situation worse and God knows how they are going to get out of it. Where/when/how does it end? When there are no further cases at all. That is untenable.

    People have to get back to work, but how much of a tail off does there have to be for that to happen? The politicians are sh!t scared about being blamed so I have no idea how long this will last.

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  46. And since I brought up Heysel and the totally undeserved myth that Liverpool fans are just great, and all of them are funny and how the owners went against the tradition of Shankley etc, etc… Didn’t they attack the Man City bus as it was going to Anfield only a couple of years ago.

    I just hate holier-than-thou-ness and the red bindippers have it in spades.

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  47. Eric Sykes:
    I think Olly is doing a great job keeping going through this. Same as Ed, although I have been checking out his site and they are bickering even more than usual. I have no idea what they get out of arguing in circles every day. Even The Chronic seem to be soldiering on. I think they must be still going in with only a few working off site. Can’t tell with Ryder though, he could write his 200 words from anywhere. I just know it cannot be from his usual bar stool. They did p!ss me off yesterday though by calling Mick Quinn a LEGEND. AGAIN. No he is not.

    Thanks mate, much appreciated.

    Got a new piece coming out tonight which will be a new thread too – “The 2019/20 NUFC awards – if the season was called off tomorrow..”

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  48. OK I will preempt it just to annoy you 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Player of the season – Dubravka

    Flop of the season – Joelinton, honourable mention for Krafth but Joe price seals it for him.

    Best new player – St Max

    Failure to push on – Sean Longstaff

    Best loanee – Willems

    Worst haircut – all Karl Darlow’s

    Kindest hearted (that we know of) – Danny Rose

    Best match – West Ham

    Worst Match – Leicester away.

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  49. Number of mentions of the word “delighted” by Steve Bruce – 1,897,206

    Ugly John Carver award for talking shyte – I’ll get back to you on that one.

    etc…

    I’ll wait for Olly’s real awards 🙂

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  50. What the hell, here’s another:

    Constant defending of Mike Ashley award for no apparent reason other than he inexplicably hates NUFC – Hairy Hands Richard Keys

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  51. I am in full agreement with the Country being locked down until this virus is brought under control.
    Yes, older people with health problems are at risk but now there are a lot of people from all age groups losing their lives.
    I have noticed that quite a lot of these fatalities are hospital workers – doctors . nurses , cleaners etc.
    Dozens of transport workers ,especially bus drivers, have also died.
    It is obvious to me that all of those workers are probably getting infected time and time again. I would not be surprised if Boris was so close to deaths door by being infected by several different carriers over a couple of weeks.
    I cannot agree with Eric and Stuart that the Government should lift the lockdown and let the Country get back to work to save the economy. Tens of thousands , perhaps even more than a million workers could be infected several times over by simply traveling to work as well as in the workplace , and most of those could prove fatal.
    Losing so many workers would also be a disaster for the economy.

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