What makes you a Newcastle United fan?

Is it where you’re born? Or is it down to your family? Or is it something else entirely?

Guest writer Liam Curtis looks into this after his recent trip to Selhurst Park, discussing his journey to supporting the Magpies.

(Photo by Daniel Chesterton/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

What makes a football fan? Geordies vs Newcastle fans at Crystal Palace

When me and my pal finally shimmied along to seats 28 and 29 D at Selhurst Park, we were instantly hit with overwhelming feelings of apprehension.

Yet it wasn’t because of Steve Bruce’s decision to give defensively inept Valentino Lazaro the task of handing Wilfred Zaha for 90 minutes  and it wasn’t because Newcastle headed into the tie without an away Premier League win in over three months.

No, we were about to pull off the classic task of supporting our beloved club from the wrong end.

When it comes to game-day careers, every football fan has completed the honour and it’s nothing new for those of us soldiering on without season tickets and jumping at the chance to get into any Premier League ground.

We watched Nabil Bentaleb give away easy passes with all the composure of Titus Bramble and gazed in awe as our £40 million striker failed to out-jump Scott Dann on every single occasion.

Some would say it was the perfect day out supporting a team that both of us had adored since we can remember. Bar the abuse from two Geordies sat behind us, of course. Explain that.

(Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

The Shearer era and a Sheffield Wednesday thumping

I’ve never found it difficult to explain why I am besotted by Newcastle United, even though those around me find it a little harder to comprehend.

Born in the deep depths of North Devon and a seven-minute drive from the boarder of Cornwall, there was quite literally no local club for me and my friends to take on as our own.

The two nearest professional clubs were Exeter City and Plymouth Argyle. However, both teams were a 90-minute drive or two-hour train from our isolated village and neither side did little more than flirt between the old Conference and Third Division during our early youth.

Instead, Newcastle stole my heart in one game.

It’s 1999, I’m seven years old and my older brother has sat me down to watch Newcastle vs Sheffield Wednesday because for reasons even more obscure than mine, he is a Wednesday fan.

The score finishes 8-0 and Shearer scores five. It’s safe to say that the rest is history and everything from a Newcastle crest tattoo to unjustified appreciation for Paul Dummett stems from this one game.

(Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Geordies vs Newcastle fans

Fast forward to the game on Saturday against Crystal Palace and I’d never felt less of a Newcastle fan. If anything I feel belittled, angry and alienated.
To me and my friend’s reluctance, the seats directly behind us, seats 28 and 29 E ,were vacated by two fellow Newcastle fans who were also unable to get away-end tickets.
 
Although we expected this to result in added comfort when clinching our fists as the Toon broke away on the counter or a little nearby backing when Palace fans shouted at us to “sit the f*ck down”, it turned it out to be the opposite.
As a Newcastle fan who was born in Devon, has lived in Bristol, Southampton, Australia and now London, you can imagine how un-Geordie my twang is.
Our obvious lack of Geordie-ness upset the pair behind us and the only fan trouble we experienced sat in the wrong end of Selhurst Park was a fierce back and forth with these Newcastle fans.
We were a “million miles away from Toon fans” and a “disgrace to Newcastle” according to these guys, and all because of our accents. In their eyes, we weren’t Newcastle fans at all.

(Photo by Alex Dodd – CameraSport via Getty Images)

What makes a football fan?

Fortunately, our post-game pub was full of away fans and the next few hours from drinking to abusing the tube was spent in the company of Geordies who appreciated us as fans.

But our experience clashing with fans who were supposed to be backing the same team can’t be an isolated incident and it must be echoed across stadiums in the UK every weekend.

Neither me or my friend attempt to pass as Geordies and we don’t front as if we’ve lived in the city from birth. We haven’t embraced the culture that is so deeply ingrained in the club like the two lads behind us surely have, which we understand.

Football fans are a lot like players in that respect. Certain players are always loved more than others on the basis of their localised gene pool – the likely lads who have come through the youth ranks and have always been part of the city. The Sean and Matty Longstaffs, if you will.

Perhaps, due to our Southern accents, we were seen as a reflection of Mike Ashley, who all Geordies know has been ruining the club from the boardroom for more than 10 years. But should that be enough to cause a divide on the terrace?

Have football clubs lost their identity through the diversification and globalisation of their fans? Or were seats 28 and 29 E simply reversed by two special kind of wrong ‘uns?

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