The truth behind Whitley Bay's trip to St James's Park

By Lee Ryder on May 13, 09 12:23 AM

It's been an incredible few days on Tyneside for football fans in a proud city that could be excused for having their fill of watching the beautiful game.

In the last seven days alone we've watched Newcastle United climb out of the bottom three and stunned a fleet of southern journalists who'd travelled to Tyneside to dance on our grave, watched Gateshead proudly regain their place in the Conference, watched Newcastle and Sunderland fans in unison see Whitley Bay win the FA Vase at Wembley and witnessed Ashington fans descend on St James's Park and sing their hearts out all for the love of football in the Northumberland Senior Cup.

Sadly, that isn't the take on North-East football from our friends in the south.

When Whitley Bay, along with basketball outfit Newcastle Eagles, were handed the pride of parading the FA Vase on the pitch at half-time of the Toon-Boro game, one journalist from the Daily Mail in Matt Lawton commented: "At half-time the stadium announcer (Justin Lockwood, a Barnsley lad who quickly realised what Newcastle was about during his time on the radio here) pretty much summed it up before introducing what seemed to be the only two decent teams in this part of the world.

"'It's not been a good season for everyone here in the North East,' he said. 'But let's put our hands together for the Newcastle Eagles basketball team and Whitley Bay.'

"It was like choosing someone's funeral to tell the world the wife's pregnant.

"An act of appallingly bad taste.

"So bad that the two teams in question were almost too embarrassed to parade their trophies to supporters preparing to grieve their loss of Premier League status."

Bad taste?

I don't think so.

Where was he coming from.

More like a lack of total lack of appreciation.

For a start, the Whitley Bay team bus couldn't get back to Tyneside quick enough after the team's 2-0 win over Glossop on Sunday.

And manager Ian Chandler, despite being a Mackem, was actually excited about his players being on the pitch and showing off the trophy.

I know that because he telephoned me just an hour before hand.

With Toon fans in the squad like Paul Chow and Lee Kerr not to mention Toon nuts Paul Robinson and skipper Davey Coulson, why on earth would they be embarrased to get out on the hallowed turf?

Coulson tipped a 3-1 final score for Newcastle and it came off.

Chow has his own memories of being a fan at Wembley with Newcastle but these were overtaken by a Wembley goal.

And Kerr, who was also asked if winning the trophy made it a shorter journey "all the way back North" by a London-based hack at Wembley, commented: "It was a short journey here anyway (four hours), but I would like to get back quicker to watch Newcastle."

In the end Whitley didn't want to come off the pitch on Monday night and needed more tickets to get everybody in.

Would you see such a gesture down south?

Probably not.

But in a season when Newcastle have been battered from pillar to post, lots of it deserved through poor management I admit, and often conned by dreadful refereeing decisions (Habib Beye red card and umpteen penalties), perhaps it's admirable that there is such great sportsmanship still on offer in Newcastle.

The problem will always be that southern fans just don't understand it and they think we're mad!

For me personally though the support in the North-East will never cease to amaze.

Yes, we will always have good crowds at Newcastle and probably Sunderland, and both teams will always take good away followings.

I mean come on, Whitley Bay took almost 8,000 fans to Wembley and 150 to Spennymoor for a Northern League match!

Yet the feeling is best summed up for me in a different situation.

And anybody who has been involved in the Great North Run will agree.

The last mile coming in down the front at South Shields tells you everything you need to know about life up here.

Yes, when you turn that corner and you think you can't give any more.

When you think your legs are about to pack in and you wonder why you are doing it to start with.

It is then and only then on that final mile, the final part of the journey that you realise just what great people we have up here.

People who don't even know you giving their full vocal support who are giving up their own time to get behind strangers in need of a lift.

It's then it hits home. It's then you realise what all the fuss is about.

On Monday night, finally it hit home to a few Toon players as well.

Now Newcastle are going into their own final mile and the support of Tyneside will be needed yet again.

And after a flag waving finale against Boro, another does of the same against Fulham will probably mean that there won't be any shortage of that again next season.



titus said:

Well said Lee.

Some people won't ever get it. But I think it's possible to be a fan of Newcastle, of Sunderland, of Whitley Bay - whatever - and still take huge pride in the North East in general. Over the course of years we've either been battered by London or ignored by them (and I'm talking in terms of governments here) and yet we always come back for more, showing up in numbers, singing our hearts out. We've got more in common than we might think. Great teams, great people.

Stu said:

If we survive!! we need to push a song to sing.
The theme to "The Great Escape" with Shearer on the end as follows
dit der de di di,
dit der de di di,
dit der dit der de der de di di'
dit der de di di
dit der de di di
dit der dit der de der de di SHEARER!

BobbyTee said:

oh dear oh dear.
boo hoo no one likes us, boo hoo - i dont write for the daily mail (easy to see why e.g. "another does of the same").
come on - lets give over the self pity.
Well done whitley, well done Gateshead and well done lee for presumably doing the GNR. Come on toon lets give it all this week - and please lee trying to turn Newcastle in to the new Liverpool with this self pitying stuff.

RomanWarrier said:

I like this one -great sportsmanship still on offer in Newcastle

tell that to the fatty with the flag taunting away fans and the inane announcements !!!!

Very good sportmanship them man.

Andrew Davis said:

Hi Lee,

As i am from gateshead and born and bread i am so excited that they could be back in the league in a couple of years.

Its also a shame they play in red and white.

When i get home from the USA i hope to see them again and in the league..

Andrew Davis

Ken Straw said:

I'm a transplanted Geordie and die-hard Toon fan since the sixties, I plan my trips home around the football season so I can attend 2 games.

I live here in Georgia in the USA, over here the people in the South have never forgiven the North for the civil war or as they call it "The war of Northern agression".

It will always be the same in the UK, the southerners just don't get it and never will. My wife is an American and she has observed on many occasions the difference personalities between Geordies and everyone else in the country. I was proud of the passion and dedication of the Toon fans as I watched the game over here in a pub called "Keegans" no less.

I believe we will beat the drop and I will be attending Prem football next season and hopefully Shearer will be manager and MO will be gone or put out to pasture like his horses.

ronnie lambert said:

Dear Lee, spot on mate, I've been fighting my own campaign on BBC Sport blog for most of this season, against moronic statements from Geordie haters nationwide. These people really don't get it about our passion for all sport up here, especially the Toon. They actually deride US the fans for sacking Sir Bobby, Gullit, Dalglish etc. etc. I sent a letter to Phil McNulty yesterday and the moderaters wouldn't even print it. Here it is.
As a Geordie, and Toon fan since I was ten in 1960, I feel qualified enough to dispel much of the moronic comments here. Firstly, your hateful attacks are totally misdirected when hurled at the fans. It is the club who sacked all of our managers, bought rubbish or sold our best players. We are as painfully aware of our present state as many of you like to point out. I can't understand the vitriol from other supporters of successful clubs, isn't that what we all want? Where is the hatred for Toon fans coming from, just because we desire the same for our club? You call the Toon a circus, a laughing stock, the fans deluded for daring to hope for better times. Would you, all of you sit patiently and quietly and tolerate the negative boring tactics of Allardyce whilst paying over five hundred quid for the 'privilege'? I don't think so. Would you sit quietly whilst Gullit calls our derby with our bitterest rivals Sunderland 'just another game' and drops our, and England's top scorer Shearer, and we get beat? I don't think so. We the fans loved Sir Bobby Robson and were as disgusted with the board as everyone else when they dumped him. You all got it wrong when we turned on Ashley for promising the earth then forcing Keegan out and selling Milner and Given and buying nobodies. Keegan has twice been dumped on from a big height by two pathetic boardrooms and you slay us, the fans who pay big bucks to just say nowt?. I wonder how many of your clubs would have almost capacity gates on the garbage we, the fans, have had to endure since we twice finished 2nd. top in the premier league and regularly tasted European football. I recall recently, huge backlashes at Man. U. and Liverpool against their boardrooms, whilst sitting on the crest of a wave. What is wrong with you lot, and we are deluded? We have one club in our city and are born into it, it is a representation of our culture and heritage and we are proud of our dialect and just being Geordies. We actually feel more Geordie than British, cut off from the richer south. Is this perhaps what makes you angry, that we have a stronger sense of belonging than many of you, and loyalty through thick and thin to 'our club'? When I hear Man.U. fans on telly, they mostly have a southern dialect, indicating that many of you just pick a successful club to ally yourselves to. You won't find many Geordies supporting them, Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool. Now that, my detractors is loyalty. We don't feel a divine right to success off the back of the fifties cup wins. We don't think we're a big club other than our great support and potential, given the right leadership. But we do demand to watch good football when we pay top dollar like you lot. Is that wrong, or are the majority of you very nasty critics simply morons, or spotty-snotty nosed kids?

James said:

Proud to be a geordie!

lambic peach said:

Go on Ronnie. give it to them...
Howay the lads.
long live shearer....and can we please get Phillipe Albert back into our defence for the Fulham match?

bobbyTee said:

oh look - even more self pity from Runny.
"We actually feel more geordie than British". You clown - the scousers feel more scarse than British, the Cornish feel more cornish than British, the Welsh feel more Welsh than British, the cockneys feel more cockney than british . . . etc etc etc.
We dont corner the market in regionalism - and its this arrogant "we are the special people" claptrap that makes us a laughing stock. Secondly - if our club is truly a representation of "our culture and heritage" then lord help us - cos the club is overrated - provides cr@p value for money is a source of constant heartbreak.

ronnie lambert said:

Bobby Thompson? from Seaham? says it all.

geordieboy said:

great performance lets finish 17th now it has been a great season this im so proud of the players


Lee Ryder

Lee Ryder - Proudly born and bred on Tyneside, the Chronicle's chief sports writer has followed the fortunes of the club over the last three decades as a Toon fan and football writer.

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