By Brian Hall
Thursday 19 Jan 2012 08:56:00
Browse all Brian Hall articles


We like to  think that other parts of the world have heard of the NUFC. I cannot say if that is the case in Outer Mongolia or Tajakstan, but it is certainly true in a land which we would certainly call a football country. Spain. El futbol is King in Espana, although of course their facilities to encourage other sports are aplenty - maybe a lesson there for the UK. Anyway, I can testify after my experiences over there, during many periods of my life, that the Spanish tend to know the Mags very well indeed.


Sure, they are well aware of The Usual Suspects, via global tv networks or the Champions League.  The Mancs, the Arse, Chelski, and the Red Scousers. But if you mention the Mags, or are seen with your strip on, a conversation breaks out in style wherever you are. Believe me. Tiny boast here. I speak the lingo, but it is not essential. Everybody knows that most footy fans can exchange views simply by names of players, clubs, and games. Even Sunderland fans can join in, as long as they dont try to mention their team. Sorry to any stray SAFC reading this, but you have to stay on general themes - if you mention the SAFC, Spaniards look blank, as they know nothing of your famous heritage and players.


They definitely dont look blank though when the subject of Newcastle United comes up. Some common crack arises. Keegan, Shearer ,  Sir Bobby Robson. Our deceased Grandad of the club is particularly popular with the Barcelona fans, for the obvious reason that he managed them, they respected him, and indeed, loved him. Other fans out there nod in agreement at any positive views expressed on Bobby.


The other, very significant point, is that the Spanish are very aware of the sheer size of our following, especially in the context of not exactly having a track record of winning every trophy in sight. That baffles, intrigues, and impresses them.  Barca and Madrid supporters have told me, more than once, that not only could not they understand such backing, but added that neither of their two clubs- and this is saying something - would retain such a following.


Move away from supporters of  the two giants of the Spanish game, and other places again testify that they have all heard and know of Newcastle United Football Club, from the the Basque country,  Santander, in the North, to Granada and Seville in the South, and over the sea to Majorca. Basques have 2 fiercely independent teams - intensely proud region of course - one is San Sebastian, or rather Real Sociedad, and the other, Athletico Bilbao. We ourselves have connected up with the Basques. Bilbao played us over here, their fans hit if off with the Geordies immediately in the BIgg Market and elsewhere,  the scenes were well documented in the main papers there, and the consequence was entirely predictable.  Geordies could hardly spend a penny when they went off to that European second leg out there, and were treated like Kings.   Something obviously clicked. As John Hall put it, after all, Geordies are the Basques of England, representing their Geordie Nation. Just like Bilbao really.


                  I never made it out to that second leg against our Basque cousins, but it did impact upon me a few years later. Desperately chasing a taxi with my ex-wife to catch a train south, the driver saw my NUFC Since 1892 t-shirt, and proceeded to hurtle through every back alley he knew in the city to ensure we caught that train. He charged me buggar all money, and just muttered...NUFC, eh!!


I should admit one other fact about that part of Spain, where I made an absolute pillock of myself. I had sat on a hill in San Sebastian, and mentioned to said ex-wife that I could see a few Mag tops down in the town. Nowt new about that, as anybody who has been abroad will know. Except they were the colours of Real Sociedad themselves,


When you travel west along that big northern coast, you land in Santander. Aye, they know the NUFC there too, and I spent many a happy hour with one of the local barowners there, with the permission of my ex-wife I should stress who preferred to potter about shopping. Juan was a fanatical supporter of his home team, Real Santander. He gave me a pennant of his local club, and I gave him a badge of our's - he placed it alongside his team's flag behind his bar.


 Travel South, and you encounter more knowledge of NUFC. However, there is one place south of Madrid itself which is probably best to avoid - our Kid ended up at their club museum, gave them some Mag memorabilia, they gave him a shield, expressing their pride in having stayed in the Primera Liga. They then got relegated within months - our Kid stills feels guilty that he inflicted the Gallowgate Curse on them!! He later gave that Shield to Our Claire, probably due to guilt everytime he looked at it!


Given that, probably best to head Deep South to Andalucia. Granada. Malaga, and Seville. Granada is home to a few of my Spanish mates, but not home to a very good footy team. They tend to prefer Madrid or Barca, a bit less, there - or follow their southern sides, Malaga, and of course Seville. But Granada itself, for example, knows the NUFC well. I must admit to have had some influence on this one. For example, I bought Manolo a Mag top and a dvd on Shearer's goals. He wears the former frequently, and watches the latter a canny bit too. His nephew too sees us as his second team.


But his daughter, Pilar, takes the biscuit. She loves the Toon, not least because she came here to improve her English - where better - and made it to St James often. She had been to all the big grounds in Spain, but, honestly, said that apart from the Clasico Clash between Madrid and Barca, the passion for  footy in Geordieland could not be matched. And she still has a fridge magnet in her flat - SJP, NE 1 - as well as a flag. She gave up Madrid, by the way!


Finally, a little nip into Majorca. I made it there recently, only to find the old bloke next door to my mate's flat asking me to pop into his garden to talk about Barcelona, NUFC, and of course, Bobby Robson. On top of that, the bar around the corner was ran by a Real Mallorca family. They even put on Newcastle's comeback against Arsenal for me, as I sat with my Shearer Number 9 shirt on. Rarely I would surrender any black and white top to anybody, but I have to admit that I left it for the owner a week later when I left. And it remains behind his bar, alongside an old photo of some canny Majorcan side from a long time ago.


The common strand to all this. We may never win much, but in Spain - and maybe in Outer Mongolia or Tajikstan - people have very much heard of the NUFC! Not bad for a club that wins nowt, eh?





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