By Amy 22/04/17
I must confess I was something of a late bloomer. Football began to pique my interest at the tender age of 13 but my first ever experience at the Cathedral on the Hill was not until I was 24(!) which saw us draw 3-3 at home to West Brom on the final day of the 2010/11 season. Not a classic by any means but a 3-0 lead up until the 62nd minute and a ram packed SJP had me hungry for more (just a pity I had to wait until the next darn season!).
That same season also delivered a day no Geordie will ever forget! On 5 February 2011 we were 0-4 down to a rampant Arsenal by half time. I remember my dad dishing out a fair few verbals at the screen calling them worse than muck and me stomping off upstairs in a huff (with him) to watch the game on my own. We had 45mins to redeem some dignity; and what a glorious 45mins it was!! I could not believe what was unfolding before my eyes. For one, the team that never gets awarded a penalty got two (two God dammit!!) in one game. 4 minutes of the 90 remaining and the score line was 3-4. Step forward Cheick Tiote!! To call the equaliser a 'screamer' is, even to this day, a little understated; the passion flowing through the veins of fans and players at that moment was overwhelming – too overwhelming to ever forget.
Another fond memory for me was the final day of the 2015/16 season against Spurs at home. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the game but, to be honest, I didn't need to…solely from watching the game on the TV, looking at Rafa standing in his technical area, the crowd belting out his name for the full 90mins - a bond so apparent between manager and fans, I felt proud! Even the man himself looked overwhelmed by the support; after all, we were relegated!! When the Geordies want something, they stop at nothing to get it. The dynamics of the club changed that day, all in the space of 90 minutes. It was surreal!
With Rafa at the helm I thought the atmospheres at SJP would be electric this season but, in my opinion, they have been anything but, mainly because people seem to think that because of who he is we should have climbed mount Everest by now….let's crawl before we can even walk please!! The sheer fickleness and arrogance of some of our fans makes me so angry. They believe shouting abuse at the players is going to kick them into action. What's the old proverb….negativity breeds negativity; positively breeds positivity. Hurling obscenities is only going to emanate that negativity onto the pitch. Ask yourself this…would you like to play at SJP in front of 50k+ calling you worse than sh!t, booing when you're a goal down, moaning when you misplace a pass; I know I wouldn't!! Norwich at home on 28 September 2017 presented a near perfect example of our so called "support". A big game against an opponent deemed by most to be serious title contenders with the best squad in the division. Still, a lot of our fans believe we have a god given right to steamroll every opponent in this division. "Newsflash" – WE DON'T! This reeks of complacency if you ask me (the exact thing the fans whinge about the team being). Anyway, 69 minutes into the game and 1-3 down, I stood in disbelief at the streams of people leaving the stands hoping for some divine intervention to really rub their noses in it! Not even I was prepared for what was about to happen. Total, complete and utter elation! I had the bruises on the back of my legs the next day to prove it –boy they were corkers….and matching! Some of the best scenes in football were witnessed during that game (Rafa being swept off his feet by Mitro, Shelvey and the ball boy, a pile on on the pitch (started by Mitro almost choke slamming Gayle to the ground), Gouffs smashing the ball off the TV screen, the subs pelting down the touchline to join in (Colback didn't even have his boots on))…one thing is for damn sure, these players want to play for this club! Oh, and let's also not forget the guy next to me who literally ended up three rows down with a pensioner on his lap!!
And right there ladies and gents is why I joined this movement. We need an identity back! We need likeminded individuals united! We ALL need to be united! Some might say we are trying to manufacture an atmosphere but football is changing rapidly; we need to claw it back. Things don't happen by themselves but through ourselves. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but before you give it, have a think about it first and ask yourself if you are being open-minded and fair. Rafa doesn't need us, we need him and, personally, I'm just thankful that he came here in the first place – for that alone I will be eternally grateful.