Coming clean on Newcastle and Middlesbrough connections

Cartoon for Mother & Baby by James Benn

A posting at the main Salut! site, which you can see by clicking this link, mentions the subject only in passing, but it was sufficient to inspire a cartoonist, James Benn, to come up with a great illustration. It got me thinking: we’re all meant to hate the Mags, they hate us. We both used to hate Boro, and them us, but what with all that’s happened down on Teesside, we’ve all but forgotten one another’s existence. Maybe we should just all get a life …

Pete Sixsmith made a telling comment here the other day that should have made every thinking Sunderland supporter reconsider the kneejerk anti-Mag mantras they – we – adopt, and vice versa.

He was reacting to Jeremy Robson’s amusing look at the story of the two lads, from either side of the Wear-Tyne divide, who had a wager on who would finish higher: the loser had to go to the other club’s shop and buy and wear a top.

Pete wrote:

“At Stephen Wilson’s funeral in August 2009, the eulogy was given by his mate, Brian Neil. Brian was a dyed in the wool Mag who had played for Shildon Sunderland Supporters and had worn a kind of red and white shirt but who would no more wear a SAFC strip than I would a NUFC one. After a wonderful eulogy, which showed Brian’s class as well as Stephen’s, he ripped off his shirt to reveal a proper red and white Sunderland shirt. A very moving moment which shows that, at the end of the day, football is only a game and that friendship and love transcends all.”

Leaving aside the thought process (and allegiance) of the one reader who ticked the thumbs-down icon, and who may well be a care-in-the-community case, it was a sentiment most decent people, whoever they support, would find uplifting and right.

That is not to argue for the abolition of banter. It can be funny, motivating and, when it stops short of brutishness, utterly harmless.

But if we are from the North East, grew up there or spent long enough there to form an attachment to one club or the other, it is almost inconceivable that our friends, classmates, colleagues or lovers did not include some who supported the opposition.

The cartoon, used with something I wrote for Mother & Baby (honest) about becoming a grandfather, says it all for me. Little Maya will be encouraged by her grandpa to support Sunderland. Grandpa will hope that since the Newcastle-supporting father is his daughter’s former partner, albeit a doting dad, paternal influence on her footballing decisions will be slight.

But what can I do about it if she decides Toon is for her? Or glory seeks an attachment to Barcelona or Arsenal, or simply dismisses football as uninteresting? Stop loving her?

Among my family in the North East is a household of Boro supporters – the address has moved to Acklam but was so close to Ayresome Park in the dark old days that a football-related murder once happened not far from the front door.

A cousin is a Mag, as were other cousins, aunties and uncles before him. But the family was scattered so widely around the region that it is hardly surprising we ended up supporting different teams. One close pal showed no interest whatsoever in football when we were both in our teens, metamorphosed between visits into a Newcastle supporter but then switched to following, quite passionately, Boro while always quite liking Sunderland. Get that if you can.

My suspicion, indeed my knowledge, is that lots of people who read Salut! Sunderland regularly can produce similar mixed-up tales of friends and family with conflicting or unexpected clashes of loyalty. Your stories will be most welcome ….

Monsieur Salut

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21 thoughts on “Coming clean on Newcastle and Middlesbrough connections”

  1. having moved to devon 3 years ago i decided to go and watch exexter city . after a couple of pints and a pasty i made my way to the ground imagine my horror when i discovered that their ground was called .i still havenot seen exeter play

  2. Manchester; home of the single brain cell.
    I liked the Mag who had a picture of Andy Cole tattooed on his back 24 hours before they sold him. And didn’t one of ours have a picture of Bent put on his leg just before he decamped to Villa?
    I want a picture of Ralph Brand on my arm.

  3. From Yahoo News.

    None of us posting on here would go this far now would we?

    Manchester City may have broken their 35-year trophy drought this season and reached the Champions League but the season had a bitter end for supporter Rodney Ward.

    The 24-year-old has had a tattoo of Manchester United’s badge etched on his chest after losing a bet.

    Ward and United fan Paul Madden decided to bet each other over which club would finish highest in the Premier League last August – with the loser getting the other club’s crest tattooed on his chest.

    The heating engineer told the Daily Mail: “I’m embarrassed as anything but it could have been worse if United had won the Champions League too.

    “As it is I’ll just have to grin and bear the fact I’ve got a United logo on my chest.”

    Ward is the latest City fan to have a questionable tattoo on his body.

    In 2009, Chris Atkinson got a little too excited when his team launched a £100million bid for Kaka – and had the Brazil superstar’s name tattooed across his chest.

    And last year Kirk Bradley was so confident of success he had the words “Manchester City 2011 Champions League Winners” tattooed on his arm next to a picture of the European trophy.

  4. Jeremy,
    Wees lost a set a keys. If yar find them yar’ll nar wee’s they are.

    Love peace to all mankind 🙂

  5. Nathalie. Just make sure that Maya understands how locking wheel nuts work. She’ll see the benefit after attending her first game at Anfield.

  6. This has been a wonderful thread, but before we reach the stage where we start sending each other bunches of roses and offer dates with our respective wives, I am becoming seriously worried after seeing so many sensible and interesting posts from Mags.

    Seriously it is great to see. There was only one Mag supporter in my year at school. Strangely he sent me a friend request on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. I refused. He can F___ off!

  7. Jumpers for goalposts.

    I was born and raised in Northumberland. I shook Jackie Milburn’s hand when he and the whole newcastle team visited Rothbury Races, after winning the FA Cup. You can understand why I’m a b&w.
    My dad took over a pub, The Shoulder of Mutton, in West Herrington in 1964. I went to (the now long gone) Ryhope Grammar School.
    There was one other Newcastle supporter in the whole school. I’d go through about 4-5 scarves a year because my so called new pals liked to nick them and burn them on the centre spot of the school footy pitch.
    I ended up going to watch Sunderland at Roker Park with about a dozen school pals every home game. I got the bus alone and didn’t miss a newcastle home game in 5 seasons.
    I collected a few friendly bruises because I used to wear my b&w (soon to be bobbleless) hat at both Roker and SJP.
    When Sunderland scored, off came my hat and was thrown on the pitch. Ditto when the opposition scored. I quite liked boring 0-0 draws.
    During the ensuing 2-3 year period I cant recall being threatened once, inside or outside Roker Park.
    Football changed around 68-69. Skinheadism became fashionable as did crowd violence. Newcastle, always a bit late in catching on, used to go to places like ManU and get attacked. We’d wonder why on earth anyone wanted to fight? We even sang “we’re the best behaved supporters in the land”

    Ah the good old days. nostalgia aint what it used to be.

    Any form of violence against soemone because of the colour of the stripes they wear is racism. Remember, the opposite of Love is not hatred. It’s fear.

  8. No i am just a father who had to fight to see my own son because mens rights on that account are still way behind in my part of the world, so im kinda on edge when i read stuff like that… Its every mans right to raise his son to his own ideals and i am sure that most of you you have a son or who will be a futher father can agree that you dream about sharing that passion with your son, something you do together and share…. Whether thats at the sol or sjp.

  9. Could not agree more r.e.banter twixt both supporters.Despite being born in Hartlepool was taken to home games at St. James’s by my dad in the fifties,and was hooked.Continued to go on my own through until discovered rugby in 1970 but remain a fan.As can be appreciated,had to travel to Newcastle by train via Sunderland,derby games included,not many Mags in Hartlepool at that time,so usually the only one.I did suffer some good natured abuse,and occasionally thinly veiled hostility on days we won,but never any real bother,even when going to Roker,always enjoy a good slagging match with Maccums,even worked at Pallion for a year all good fun,As for Smoggies,I’m a bit too close to ignore them,they’re a bit quiet at the present,think they just need a hug.

  10. Valle, i think it was tongue-in-cheek, its not like he is dragging his grand-daughter kicking and screaming into the local workhouse! The article in summary suggested to me that maybe we all need to just lighten up a little?

  11. As a dad myself i find it very unfitting and wrong that you as a grandad are trying to imprint ANYTHING on his daughter that he wouldnt approve. He might not be with your daughter anymore, but he is still her father and you should be wise enough to accept that at your age… Try to get a grip will you? Just love your granddaughter without mixing football into it, and leave it up to her and her parents who she will end up supporting if any.

  12. Good article. My girlfriend was born south of the Tyne to a family of SAFC supporters while my entire family bleeds black and white; my girlfriend jokes that if you peeled my skin off you’d get the cup final kit with “Shearer 9” on the back.

    I can’t say I hate Sunderland as much as I have quiet respect for them. At the end of the day, Newcastle is my home, my club and the place I begrudgingly love but Sunderland is like my second cousin who I can’t quite bring myself to fully like. That said, come derby day its a different matter entirely, of course.

    As for Middlesbrough… I honestly don’t see the connection with them. I understand geography and how they see us as rivals, but I’ve always seen them as that annoying fly on the wall – a minor issue I would rather forget about. Total indifference, I suppose.

    A wise man (well, a Sunderland supporter I went to college with) once said: “You put a Mackem and a Geordie in the room together and they’ll have a bit of banter with each other. Put a Smog Monster in the room with them and they’ll take the p*ss out of the Smoggie.” and it’s weirdly true.

    Back to NUFC/SAFC though, one of things that will forever live in my memory was when I stood at the bottom of the Leazes end at Sir Bobby’s memorial and saw both Toon and Mackem shirts side by side. Must admit it brought a tear to my eye. Likewise a video I saw at the Stadium of Light, hearing everybody singing “there’s only one Bobby Robson” – sheer class, lads.

  13. From the age of eight I was raised in Newcastle, went to school in Newcastle and in my early teens used to be given free tickets for St. James’ with my overriding recollection being that of standing on a semi deserted terrace, against Cardiff, with my United supporting friends and cheering for the visitors.

    At that time, I think it is fair to say, that I had no real interest in watching football and if I followed a team at all then it was Wolves – probably something to do with the name appealing to me (Wolverhampton Wanderers never sounded half as interesting).

    This was in the days of Dick Keith & Barrie Thomas and I must say that I used to be just as bored as I was when my father took me to see Caernarfon Town, on a wet and windy afternoon, as a 5 year old – a decision I think he must have, instantly, regretted because it was never, ever repeated!

    However, things were to change swiftly and dramatically, with by life long love affair with SAFC being born, before the end of my thirteenth year.

    Of course, I was still attending school in Newcastle, still living in Newcastle and so became, very much, the “odd man out” amongst my United supporting friends and schoolmates.

    This meant that there was always a lot of banter, especially on a Monday morning or the morning after a midweek fixture, when one (or both) of the two teams had played.

    I can, in particular, recall the glee with which I attended school the morning after witnessing us demolish Norwich City 7-1 who, in turn, had put 6 goals past United only a few days earlier and my feelings when Stan Anderson was transferred to THEM!

    The banter, though, was always good fun, never spiteful and certainly never violent, or anything approaching it.

    Middlesbrough, on the other hand, (as the article say’s) never seemed to enter the equation and were always just “that team from Yorkshire”

    It was the same after I left school and started working & socialising in the city.

    Friends, workmates and acquaintances invariably supported Newcastle and we would regularly attempt to wind each other up – but the rivalry always remained friendly.

    Indeed, I was persuaded, by a friend, to go along to St. James’ for each of the Inter City Cup matches and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the games and the atmosphere with, on one occasion, the chant of United, United lasting almost the entire first half.

    I then left Newcastle when I was 22 years old and the north east only a year later but had learned to enjoy the banter so much that when attending away games I would, invariably, go looking for it, in a pub, pre match, and end up standing or, as I got older, sitting with the home supporters.

    Doing that I’ve had some great days out, met a lot of interesting people and (apart from a visit to Charlton) never had any problems at all – even then it was a minor one and the Charlton supporters I was sitting with soon put the guy attempting trouble in his place (with words I hasten to add).

    For the cup final, in 1973, I even travelled down (from Leeds) on the Leeds supporters train and returned using the same “special”, resplendent in my colours and with a beaming smile!

    So, what has happened in the north east saddens me.

    It would appear (from a distance) that it has become incredibly tribal and that many seem to think insults and violence are the only way.

    Maybe, that is a result of the “Skyboy” generation and the ease with which people can be brave behind a keyboard although I do appreciate that there was trouble at a couple of derbies in the 1980’s.

    What I can say, with certainty, is that those that adopt such postures do not understand how much they are missing!!

  14. No, nothing against them. Just nothing for them, either. I’m trying to imagine them playing West Ham next season — but there’s nothing showing up in my mind…..

  15. Boro as the beige wallpaper of English football. What a beautiful description of the Boro.

    I have nothing against the Boro at all. I always wish them well, and have never had a problem with them at all.

    I’d like to see them come back up soon as their “beigeness” does add something to the NE football calendar, even if nothing more than a brownish tinge.

  16. As I wrote recently, I don’t see much difference between us and the Toon these days, apart from the colour of our stripes. All the same, I think I’d be very hard pressed to set foot in Sid James Park; I just couldn’t do it. I remember the last time I was in England, Alan Sims, a dyed-in-the-coarse-fraying-mouldy-wool Mag, said if Sunderland had a home game while I was over, he’d get tickets for us. As it happened, I wasn’t but I was bowled over by his generosity. It’s not something I’d have been able to reciprocate. At best, I’d have bought him a ticket and waited for him outside.
    But Middlesbrough? They just don’t register on my radar and never have. I have no feelings for them whatsoever – whatever the quality of their football (and I can’t say that I’ve really known), their image to me is just pure boredom. They’re the beige wallpaper of football.

  17. Right lads, I’m on French time and knackered and I’m also the only moderator, so first-time posters – subject, whoever they support, to meeting a test of decency Alan Hagan would definitely endorse – will probably experience delay. More of an anti-spamming thing than anything else. But their comments will appear as soon as I can get round to it, and Toon and Boro contributions are especially welcome.

  18. enjoyed the article and i would hope the vast majority of football supporters, wherever their allegiances lie, would agree with the ethos of ‘banter, short of brutishness’. A company i worked for merged the newcastle, sunderland and m’boro depots and relocated to Boldon Colliery – i hated the job but absolutely loved going for the banter, mind you, we were quite vicious with the one ManUre fan!! As a toon fan i hope we regain bragging rights with a higher league finish and expect all the NE sides to have a better year. All the best.

  19. I think most Newcastle supporters just feel Sunderlands justa bit bitter, each time something happens its plastered all over their sites, its not with Newcastle, just smacks of a bit o bitterness, plus, Newcastle is concidered to be the heart of the North east, Sunderlands just the poor cousin, sorry, but facts are facts

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