I never met Bobby Robson, I can’t claim to have met him briefly as he made his way to the dugout during a football match or some training session, there is no “there was this one time…..” story telling of a brief meeting with the man, in fact the closest and indeed very, very tenuous connection to the man is that I used to be in a relationship with a girl who lived in Langley Park – early home of Bobby Robson.
A relationship that, when it ended, I thought was pretty much the end of the world and one that looking back I handled very badly and which affected future relationships for a long time after.
Still, what you gonna do that’s part of growing up!
I can’t even claim to be a fanatical football supporter. Not any more. I used to like it when I was younger and Newcastle United was the team I followed. I used to make the journey with a couple of mates from Witton Gilbert, a neighbouring village to Langley Park and close to where I lived, to go and see the ‘toon army in action.
I remember standing, usually in the rain, in what was affectionately called ‘the corner’ long before the all seating stadium came about and along with my fellow fans used to chant with increasing volume and excitement “the corner, the corner, the corner…” as a way to highlight to the rest of the stadium that we were, in fact, the loudest of all fans there that day – seems a completely pointless exercise now thinking back but that’s what you do at football matches.
I remember peering around all the heads of the people in front of me trying to keep an eye on the game and the feel of the excitement rise as we were attacking, the buzz passing through the crowd as everyone waited in expectation for the goal to be scored and the brief second of almost total silence before the eruption into a frenzied dance of shouting and celebration.
Or the groans and curses as the ball went wide!
As a young lad standing in the midst of all these full on ‘proper’ geordie blokes it was a bit intimidating – the smell of alcohol around you from their pre-match drink in the Strawberry, listening to the kind of language that you only hear at football matches, the ‘words of wisdom’ on football tactics and managerial advice expressed in the shortest, most succinct ways and in ways that would never be used by the current media football pundits!
The swaying of the tightly packed crowd as it moved like a sea of wheat swaying in a breeze.
The chants of derision aimed at the board for their most recent and seemingly stupid decisions.
The way we pretended, we thought convincingly and I’m sure now in hindsight that we didn’t pull it off, to be older and more worldly wise than our years showed to try and be proper blokes.
I don’t live in that area any more, I have never had any contact with the mates that I used to have from that area, even though we were really close mates – Darren, Jimmy, Martin, Lee (RIP) – I don’t see the girl I used to go out with anymore – although I do still think about them all from time to time. After joining the Army I moved away and my interest in football dwindled and finally reached the stage where I didn’t even pay any attention to the results on a Saturday.
My life has moved on.
When I heard the news about Bobby Robson’s death, it felt strange – listening to the fans telling about their experiences with football – it made me think about other times – some better, some worse, but it shows that he was a bloke who has influenced much in the football world and by making people, me, think of other times has influenced much more.
Howay the lads!