1998. The first £2 coin for circulation is released. DVD’s are released to the general market in the UK. Man Utd TV first broadcasts making them the world’s second football team to have its own channel (the first being Middlesbrough in 1997!) and Newcastle United made it to the final of the FA cup for the first time since 1974. But most importantly I turned eighteen!
Turning eighteen was not too important to me but what was, was the fact that I was now old enough to do what I want when I wanted. Within reason!
I never decided to, more the fact it decided it for me to start to grow up by traveling to Stevenage for the FA cup tie on the 25th of January, 1998.
I managed to persuade a few friends from school to join the trip with me. We all got tickets and got transport sorted through the supporters club. The trip was on and my first away match under my own power was on.
We got picked up on Gosforth High Street at around 7:00AM. Kick off was not until 4:30 that afternoon. 250 miles. A case of beer. A pack of cards and so much excitement that it was almost flowing out of us. What could go wrong?
Nonstop singing. Meeting people who I would never had met before. Hearing some awesome “dad” jokes. Such as “What’s the difference between Sunderland and a cocktail stick? A cocktail stick has two points.” The drinks were flowing. The cards were being played. I was living the dream. The bus we were on is not like the coaches we have these days. Im pretty sure this one had been on a similar journey the last time that Newcastle got to the final!
Somewhere just south of Peterbourgh the bus decided it that it need to have a rest. We cared but never cared. The journey is part of the fun. It never took long to get back on the road. I couldn’t really blame the bus. I would need a rest after carrying 40 blokes and enough beer to sink a battleship.
We got to Stevenage just after midday. Newcastle coaches everywhere. Black and white shirts everywhere you looked. The little town never knew what hit it. The pubs around the ground were full. We had around 2000 supporters but it felt more like 20000. Stevenage planned ahead and
installed a temporary stand for us. They raided all there stationary cupboards and ate a ton of iced lollies to build it out of elastic bands and sticks! I have never been on anything that felt so unstable in my life. It bounced it swayed it moved to the beat. It moved to the feet of the Geordie faithful.
NUFC XI: Hislop, Watson, Howey, Pearce, Pistone, Gillespie, Lee, Batty, Beresford, Barnes, Shearer.
Three minutes in and the wobbly stand nearly snapped. Shearer with a header crossed by the speedy Northern Irish winger Keith Gillespie. The Geordie faithful went crazy. Myself included. What a day it’s going to be. Thinking this is going to end up nine or ten nil. The dream draw. Lowly
Stevenage against the might of Newcastle with the world’s most expensive player and England superstar and talisman. Again how wrong we were.
Never disappointing the phrase of being an underdog, Stevenage came at Newcastle. Curling in free kicks and almost causing Rob lee to put the ball in the back of his own net. Grazioli did put the ball in the net but was disallowed for offside. Nine minutes later and only four minutes before half time it happened. Grazioli headed in a corner to silence the Geordies. But not for long.
Second half and the score at 1-1 Newcastle came at Stevenage with extra purpose but sadly to no avail. The fans made the town shake. The singing never stopped in the second half. The Geordies always supporting through thick and thin. The game ended 1-1 and a replay was on the cards. Well done Stevenage. Well done.
Yes I cared but at the same time I was happy. Every year there is always a fixture where the underdog knocks out the shark. Glad it wasn’t us this time around.
Back on the bus and the long journey home. But the vibes were still high and the singing was still going. By the time we got back to Newcastle the adrenaline had worn off and all I wanted was to jump into bed and plan the next away match.
The return draw Newcastle won 2-1 with goals from Shearer. This set us up for home draw in the fifth round against Tranmere where we managed to score one goal to get us into the sixth round and a tie against Barnsley. Three games and glory would be ours. My journey and coming of age was not quite finished yet.
Why was this the best worst year yet? To find out that you will have to come back and read the second part of this blog and find out for yourself.