No Newcastle United fan would have said such a thing in July 2021

No Newcastle United fan would have said such a thing in July 2021

Newcastle United readers with also a liking for punk music, will recall the memorably titled Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps Please, a catchy little number released in 1980 by Splodgenessabounds.

It made me laugh then and it makes me laugh now, which proves one or two things: it’s a most amusing song and/or I’m suffering from arrested development (a reasonably polite way of saying I’ve never grown up). Best ask the missus . . .

Something else that puts a smile on my face these days is the one and only Newcastle United FC. What’s not to like?

We’re back in the Champions League for the first time since 2003.

We’re playing skilful, enterprising and determined football.

We’re managed by a head coach who commands respect, ably assisted by a backroom squad of, er, able assistants and bankrolled by ambitious owners who walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

Better than all that, we are little more than five weeks from the start of the 2023-24 Premier League season. What a wonderful world.

Back in the bad old Dark Ages, which historians of Newcastle United will come to date as circa 2007-2021, reasons to be cheerful were rare indeed.

And that’s enough on the miserable era, except to say the antics of the previous regime were why I often dwelt on the past when musing on matters black and white.

The excitement of being a Mag seemed an age away, with any prospect of a revival as illusory as a mirage in a desert. I stopped watching Match Of The Day, for goodness sakes! Waxing lyrical about the Seventies was one way to ease the pain, even though the Seventies themselves were no great hippy hippy shakes.

“Don’t look back” can be good advice, especially for a grandson learning to ride a bike. The problem is, of course, you become unbalanced, literally and metaphorically. The past risks blighting the present if you wallow in nostalgia.

Conversely, history can allow a sense of perspective.

Don’t Look Back, the film rockumentary of Bob Dylan’s 1965 English tour, is packed with memorable footage, including interviews with “disgusted of Tyneside” concert-goers leaving the City Hall. Those erstwhile Dylan enthusiasts were appalled the king of folk music had gone electric on them.

With the benefit of hindsight, we know that seismic shift by Robert Allen Zimmerman was merely the first in a long line of changes in a seemingly ceaseless career.

By the Seventies he was Tangled Up In Blue. By the Eighties he was rocking St James’ Park itself. And in the new millennium he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Which just goes to show we never know what’s round the corner, though sometimes the prediction game is irresistible.

Glad tidings of great joy 21 months ago heralded a transformation still taking shape at Newcastle United.

The return of hope was quickly followed by feelings of pride and passion as the thrills and spills that forge the typical football fan’s week replaced the dire drudgery of what had gone before.

Gallows humour at Gallowgate, a classic defence mechanism used by those in despair, has been banished. With luck, it will not return.

Instead of living in the past, I’m living in the present. These are the best of times, with the start of the Premier League season drawing near.

No Newcastle United fan would have written such a sentence in July 2021. It would have been ridiculous, though certainly not amusing. Those were the worst of times.

The boot is on the other foot today.

Have we ever been this optimistic? Perhaps when the sheet-metal worker’s son from Gosforth signed for a world-record fee in 1996. Perhaps not, because the agony of the nearly season was still as painful as a broken dream that summer.

Whoops! Living in the past again . . .

In case anybody has forgotten, our opening fixture of the Premier League season is at home. Against Aston Villa. On August 12, which is apt, because the Glorious Twelfth marks the start of the shooting season for red grouse.

In December 2002 I stood in the “legendary Holte End” amid plenty of claret-and-blue grouse. They didn’t half moan when Shearer headed the only goal nine minutes from time. Well, those that hadn’t already left to “avoid the queues”.

What a pathetic shower!

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