Away day with the blues
Now then, away matches change shape as you get older. My first ones were with my dad, away to Spurs, Oxford back in 1985, Huddersfield in 1986 and then upon leaving school in September 1987, away days generally became more and more frequent.
Now then, all this changed for me again upon becoming a father for the first time in 1997.
the big matches still went without saying, Bradford away to stay up, beating the then mighty Leeds at Elland road in the cup, Man U etc. etc.
Generally though the games were becoming more and more select, as the kids kept coming (I have 3) the games become more select, anyone with 3 kids under the age of 10 will know where I am coming from. No more driving to Sunderland on a Tuesday for an evening match, then going to work the next morning, (this was a trip actually made to sample the Stadium of Light before Sunderlands promotion, we genuinely thought we wouldn't get another chance!) and no more up to Walsall for a meaningless league fixture.
In recent years Fulham has been a favourite, easy to get to on the train, a good evening on the shant in Leicester square, and generally a good result.
This year as soon as the fixtures came out, Newcastle was the cry, my ticket on a plane was booked, the travelodge booked well in advance, and the date for along weekend on Tyneside was engraved on my missus' psyche long enough for her to digest the thought of 3 days with the kids to herself!
Away days are now a special occasion for me, so me and a group of 15 others met up at 4 o'clock on the Friday and started the process.
With most of the other lads coming from a similar position as myself, this felt more like a weekend at Butlins was approaching, not just a trip so see our heroes try to win on a jinxed ground in the North.
Our first obstacle was the airport at Eastleigh, a 3 hour delay was irritating to say the least, but at least the bar was open, then at 9pm we took flight.
Arriving at our digs was a great feeling, the main Travel Inn is next door to a Liquid nightclub, nice location when you arrive at about quarter to 11!
Saturday is what it is all about though, up at 9 for breakfast, and then the phones start ringing, the rest of the Pompey hoardes are arriving in droves, some in cars , but most arriving on the morning planes.
SamJacks was the designated meeting spot, so it was over to the other side of town and into what must be the greatest pre-match venue you could wish for.
or those not having had the pleasure of visiting it, SamJacks is a huge pub, packed solid with both sets of fans enjoying the banter. Arsenal and ManU slugged it out first on the giant screens, while the dancers do their bit to keep your eyes off the football. A pre-match MC comes out to stir the crowd up, with one unfortunate Pompey fan having to do the away day challenge. This consists of downing a pint of Cream, then fizzy water, then orange juice and then for a finale a pint of Guinness. A bin is ready to catch the inevitable stomach contents, to be fair though our boy did admirably, only the last few drops of guinness did for him.
At 2-30 the short trip to St.James' was made, the noise levels were as high as our spirits, and we took our seats.
What happened next was nothing short of miraculous, everyone knows the score by now, but to witness 10,000 Geordies exit the ground after Utaka's 3rd, was one of the greatest moment I have had in football, Pompey truly were up there with the best. Even the token scummer with us (Darren Leishman you have been named) sang the Pompey chants and revelled in the unexpected result.
After the match it was a quick change and time for the proper party. The Geordies were not amused, but in all honesty, everyone one of them I met that evening, took it with grace and just accepted Pompey had turned their beloved Magpies over.
Newcastle is a fantastic place to drink out in after a match, the beer is still £2 and hospitality right up there.
One tip though, never take a taxi at 3-30 in the morning, the driver promised us a late night drinking hole, £5 and we would be in and £2 a pint thereafter. Trust me, a gay sauna was not what we had in mind!
Roll on the next away day, but this one will live long in the memory, if you can make it next year, and like me you have to be a bit select on your travels, you could do little worse than an weekend on Tyneside.