I moved from Sunderland to Newcastle with my family in the early seventies when I was four years old. I don't think I'd showed a lot of interest in going to football matches prior to my first encounter of live football.
I was playing football in my cousins back garden on the 8th October 1977. My Uncle shouted to my cousin from the house to come in as they were leaving for the match...they were going to see Newcastle v Derby County at Sid James Park. I was just putting my jacket on to go home when my uncle asked if I wanted to go - I wasn't sure I did, but he had a spare ticket and said he'd call my Mum.
Anyway, I went, my Uncle bought me a Newcastle scarf, in a brown paper bag. I said I didn't want to wear it, thanks...it didn't feel right.
My Dad was a Sunderland fan and I knew he'd be upset. Newcastle lost 2-1, everyone was angry and swearing, I didn't enjoy the day at all. I was dropped off home and hid the brown paper bag, with my dirty little secret in a closet.
My Father had been away all weekend on business. Soon after he returned, he found the brown paper bag in the closet, asked my Mother about it and came into my bedroom. He was angry that I'd been to see Newcastle and promised to take me to Roker Park soon.
"Soon" turned out to be 12th November 1977 - Sunderland v Bristol Rovers at Roker Park. We drove from Newcastle arriving in Sunderland, driving down Roker Baths road, at around 2.30 having picked up my Grandpa in Sunderland en route. He paid a young lad 50p to "look after" his car, and handed me my first red and white scarf.
I was beyond excited as we quickly trotted to the Main Stand, my Dad holding one hand, my Grandpa the other. I could hear the noise from inside the ground, inaudible, but it only added to my excitement. My Dad handed me my ticket and I went through the turnstiles, went for a quick wee in the worst smelling toilets I'd ever experienced and then the walk up the wooden steps to the Upper Tier of the Main Stand.
I was greeted with a wall of noise from The Fulwell end to my right that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and created goosebumps on my arms. There were red and white scarves and flags held aloft - the most beautiful sight I'd ever seen. The emerald green of the grass, the incredible roar as the players ran onto the pitch below me. That was it, I was in love - a love that I knew would last a lifetime.
We went on to thump Bristol Rovers, in their strange blue & white quartered shirts, 5-1. Everyone was happy, cheering, and it remains one of the happiest and most memorable days of my entire life.
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