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FA Carling Premiership, 11/3/00
Newcastle United
Tall tales
By Pete Fincham

University, and I had met this lovely girl who I was to stay with for nearly two years before a dose of realisation got me into single life again. Anyhow, over the two years we were together, I spent much of my holiday time in Newcastle with her, sampling the high life that Newcastle can offer.

Or not. In fact I spent very little time in Newcastle itself, as her family constantly reminded me that "A cockney like you'se gonna gerra good kikin in toon!". As a result, I spent much of my pub time in their local pub, where everyone went all day. It was the Fusilier in Forest Hall, and happened to be the local drinking tavern for Peter Beardsley's dad! He had recently been barred for a few weeks for being rude when continually drunk. His daughter was Sharon, who allegedly was the inspiration behind the Fat Slags in Viz. She was a ghastly character who sat in her front garden all day in a deck chair yelling at people like something out of "Neighbours from Hell"! Anyhow, I digress.

Newcastle, without a doubt a most passionate city when it comes to its football. Despite getting crowds below twelve thousand when they were in despair during the late eighties and early nineties, the city is football mad. Mad to the point of insanity.

Basically, you don't have clothes in Newcastle. Instead you have NUFC merchandise.

One Sunday I was awoken from the floor of Nicola's brother to be told that we were going to a Christening. Okay, no problem here, I thought. A nice service, a few drinks and a chance to meet some more of the potential in-laws. What the day turned into was a parade by various members of the congregation of how much Newcastle United merchandise could be worn by any group of people at the same time. Bob and Michael, Nicola's dad and brother, both went for the shirts with emblems along with NUFC socks and jackets. However, the procession of tops, trousers, tracksuits and every conceivable item of clothing, sorry NUFC merchandise, on show at this small family gathering was obscene! Over the course of the day I learnt that kids queued up all night and went to school the same day, just to be the first in their class with the new tops, or have the new ring binder or even just be seen to be going into the shop as first in the queue! Insane to some, but a way of life up there!

So, when we go up there, you know they know you are an away fan even if you don't open your mouth. It is not because of anything you have done. It is just that you have not got about 200 worth of NUFC merchandise covering every part of you...

Thought: Northern religion is just a glorified fashion parade!