It was the 28th of February 1993, my 26th birthday, me and the lads set off in our transit van at about six in the morning travelling to Birkenhead, along with thousands of other Newcastle United fans.
The Toon were riding high and Tranmere Rovers were going to be the next in line for a Kevin Keegan / Newcastle United master class.
A few of the lads looked ropey from the previous evening’s gargling, but the spirit was high, not least because the extremely likeable Simon Jones was our driver for the day and he was as enthusiastic as ever and fresh as a daisy.
When we left North Shields, one of the lads – Vern, wearily bit into a pasty to try and give himself some sustenance for the drinking session ahead. Unbelievably, he still had it in his hand half eaten as we turned off the A69 onto the M6 over an hour later. It was at this stage that Wor Neale broke into song, singing Limahl’s hit – ‘The Never Ending….Pasty’ – change of title but effin hilarious at the time.
On hitting Merseyside, we headed for The Dock pub on the Merseyside waterfront. I was familiar with the area and knew this bar was an “early den”, similar to The Dolphin and Mariners Arms in North Shields. After a casual knock on the side door the manager came out and I explained I used to frequent the place, we were down for the match….and it was my birthday. Straight in and happy days.
It was only about 9 o’clock but there was a good few locals in and the banter was great, it just felt like being at yem for all of us. The match itself was going to be a lunch time kick-off and so there was plenty time for chit chat. The locals explaining that it had been a solemn week for them all after the tragic events surrounding the murder of little Jamie Bulger. This had also captured the hearts and attention of the whole country.
We had played Bristol Rovers at St James Park four days earlier and it had been announced prior to the game that the great Bobby Moore had also died.
Well, the drink flowed and the songs followed and the whole place seemed to be in tranquil harmony. I said to Simon and Wor Graeme that this was turning into the best birthday I could remember. When we eventually left to travel up to Prenton Park handshakes were in abundance and we thanked the manager and his wife for their hospitality.
We were safely in the ground about twenty minutes before kick-off and it was “chocka” but obviously with many still to arrive. When the players came out it was announced that there would be a two minute silence commencing for Jamie Bulger and Bobby Moore. At this point, with minutes to go before kick-off, there were still a minimum of hundreds of Newcastle United fans outside the turnstiles waiting to enter the ground.
This is when the big media lie began that has haunted and disgusted me over the years, giving other clubs’ supporters and mackems in particular, false ammunition to help tarnish the Geordies.
Throughout the commemorative silence you could have heard a pin drop inside the ground as it was impeccably observed. Unfortunately, the fans outside were oblivious to proceedings but still audible as they waited to gain access, because of this there were a few boos after it finished, but nothing sinister.
Newcastle went on to put another masterclass on for the cameras and the travelling hordes were in full voice throughout a fine 3-0 away win.
The journey home was a happy one, a great day and all of the lads got dropped off safely by Simon.
Imagine my horror the next day when a picture surfaced in one of the national rags with a picture of me and my mates in jovial mood at the game, with a caption saying: “Newcastle fans singing through the two minute silence.”
This utter lie and fabrication has gathered myth and momentum over the years and is an example of how poisonous and unfair the media can be to categorise decent people, possibly forever.
A few months ago a mackem supporter brought this nasty fairytale up once again to try and castigate our fans as scum, and I suppose the bitterest mackems and anyone else out there with an axe to grind against Newcastle United and their loyal fans, would want to believe it just to justify their own hatred.
At the time we got in touch with the tabloid and relayed our disbelief and displeasure and explained that the picture of us had been taken during the game and that the two minute silence hadn’t been disrupted. It was to no avail and we didn’t receive an apology.
Over the next few months, as the media go into overdrive to discredit Amanda Staveley and the PIF to suit the EPL’s requirements, just remember who they really are and what they are capable of.
Nasty pieces of work and fake journalists that will say and produce almost anything for their own needs, to keep Newcastle “down in their place.” You all know who the current protagonists are I’m sure.
Fight the good fight brothers and sisters as Newcastle United fans.
Strength and Honour as always because our time will come!