A warm welcome to readers new and old as derby day approaches. A “Who are You?” disappointment lies in store for committed tribal warriors. Our volunteer Mag is a man who sounds nothing like one. Clive Urquhart‘s family was driven from the North East by unemployment and poverty in the 1930s; they came from the right side of the Tyne, as we would see it, but carried with them the wrong allegiance. Like so many sons of North-eastern exiles, Clive embraced his father’s passion for football and also his sense of regional common purpose. He’s been known to cheer the odd Sunderland goal just as his dad made sure of being at Wembley to roar Raich Carter and his men to victory in 1937…
Salut! Sunderland: Newcastle-Sunderland has taken on the feel of a relegation six-pointer, though there is more pressure on us. You must now feel reasonably safe but why do think both teams have struggled?
I think the Mags are safe, but still a way to go yet so anything could still happen, not sure about Sunderland, on balance I think they might just scrape in with a few good results AFTER Sunday. Di Canio might just get them revved up. I think both teams have had injuries to key players and with a small squad players not able to step up to the plate. The magpies adventure in Europe has contributed to the poor Premier League position.
Tell us the story of the Urquhart migration to the south and explain why a family from South Shields (if I recall correctly) are Mags not Mackems
My Dad’s family lived on Tyneside mostly in South Shields but some across the river, and were all employed in various trades in the shipyards. In the 1930’s depression they all found themselves on the dole. My Dad did a Norman Tebbit and got on his bike (literally) and secured himself a job at Dennis Bros in Guildford as a sheet metal worker. Gradually the whole family joined him, parents, siblings, uncles, cousins and even pals. I would estimate the exodus involved over fifty bodies. Not sure why he became a Magpie and not a Mackem, I think it was because a relative in Newcastle took him to SJP regularly when he was a bairn. I do know that a few family members did go to Joker Park and support Sunderland.
Incidentally my Dad was a very good footballer and at 15 was offered an apprenticeship at Liverpool. Sadly at that time he was the only wage earner in a family of 6 and my Grandmother refused to sign the consent form. He was always a bit bitter about that but went on to play a high level of amateur football in Guildford finally hanging up his boots at age 44.
And didn’t your dad attend the 1937 SAFC v PNE FA Cup final and some of the great FA Amateur Cup finals involving Co Durham teams?
He did go and I have his programme to prove it, in good condition and worth a bob or two, I’m told. As a family we followed the progress of any team from the North East in the amateur Cup and attended many Wembley finals, the great Bobby Hardisty of Bishop Auckland being a particular hero. He first took me to watch Newcastle in about 1949 at age five we went to Fratten Park to watch Wor Jackie tear Pompey apart. I don’t remember much about the game but I’ve never forgotten the enormous black and white rosette he bought me and I’ve been hooked ever since.
As a passionate but non-native fan, how do you rationalise the ferocity of the derby rivalries, especially given your late father’s obvious attachment to all clubs from the region?
Not sure I can rationalise the fierce rivalry between the two clubs I suppose it’s one of those things, good natured banter is I suppose quite good fun and entertaining but the open hostility and venom is regrettable. I’ve watched Sunderland play on many an occasion at various grounds and cheered my head off when they scored. Don’t tell anybody though.
Is Alan Pardew the man to lead NUFC onwards and upwards? If not, what is needed next?
What Newcastle needed more than anything before Alan Pardew came along was stability and I believe that provided he gets reasonable funds and sees the full term of his contract out I think he can move the club forward.
What do you really think about the owner Mike Ashley?
As for Mr Ashley he has brought financial stability to a club rapidly going down the tubes. He made some terrible errors when he first arrived, not the least bringing in Dennis Wise, but I think he has settled in a bit now learnt a few lessons and if his financial expertise stops us going the way of Portsmouth, Coventry or Glasgow Rangers then it has to be good. I do wish that as soon as a United player hits the high spots he is not regarded as an instantly sellable asset. If Ashley went you would have to wonder who would come in with the kind of dosh needed.
What have been your own highs and lows as a Newcastle supporter?
My highs as a United supporter is just simply to be in the crowd of Geordies at any match on any ground and feel the hair on the back of the neck go up when the black and white shirts come out the tunnel and soak up the wonderful atmosphere. That’s good enough for me. I hate it when they lose and when we were relegated I was sad, but I think it was necessary and the following season was grand.
Who are best players you’ve seen – or wish you’d see – in NUFC colours and who should never have been allowed near them?
Best players, my boyhood hero was Len White, he was my idol, I’ve watched Jackie Milburn, Bobby Mitchell, Jimmy Scoular, Jim Iley, George Eastham, from the old days I could go on and on, I Think Ronnie Simpson was our best ever keeper, Peter Beardsley was magic Bobby Moncur was a giant Glen Roeder was a classy player. Alan Shearer was great (don’t think he would make a manager tho) Robert Lee, Nobby Solano and Gary Speed I liked to watch. Of the current side Coloccini Ben Arfa and Steven Taylor stand out for me. Can’t think of too many let downs offhand Marcelino of course and Michael Owen was a big disappointment to me.
But not everyone at St James’ Park shares your sense of history. Tell us your story of asking for Len White on your replica top from the club shop
A few years ago I was in the club shop at SJP to buy a new home strip shart. I decided to have No 9 Len White printed on the back lest he be forgotten by the Toon Army when I wear it to a match. So up to the counter I go and tell the lad what I want. ‘Are you Len White?’, he says, ‘Is that your name?’ Well you could have knocked him over with a feather when I told him Len was one of the greatest No 9s to pull on the shirt, only two others having scored more goals than he. Wonder who they were.
Were you surprised by the sharp decline of SAFC fortunes under Martin O’Neill’s managership or were you too busy enjoying it?
I was never all that keen on Martin O’Neill, he was a great moaner always looking for excuses and scapegoats when things went wrong, however I did think he was a good coach and to be honest I thought he would do better. Whilst I wouldn’t want Sunderland to finish above Newcastle in the league I wouldn’t want to see them relegated.
Do you have special memories of any past derby games?
No special derby memories. They are all special. The ones we won especially good, the draws especially ok, the ones we lost especially bloody awful.
Top four this season in order and – rather more important – the bottom three?
Top four: Man U, Man C, Gooners, Chelsea. Bottom Three: QPR, Reading, Wigan.
What do you make of cheating – diving, feigning injury, surrounding the ref, wasting time, shirtpulling, obstruction at corners etc? Too much fuss made about it since everyone’s at it or a scourge that has to be eliminated from the game?
The cheating issue has to be addressed by all the games administrators and steps taken to eliminate the worst excesses. I do fear that if the authorities don’t take action the game will start to decline and eventually fans will stay away.
See Monsieur Salut’s Sunderland musings at ESPN: http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739
Club vs country: who wins for you and why?
Country before club for me every time because I’m a patriot where sport is concerned. I was there in 1966 and remember the euphoria and fabulous feeling of pride we all had and before I die I’d like to go through it all again. Bit naïve really but what the hell? I can dream.
How will you keep tabs on the match and what will be the score?
I will probably watch the match down the pub (Bird in Hand) – more atmosphere there than at home and the ale’s not too bad either. Score will be 2 2.
* Clive Urquhart on himself: : I’m 69 years young, married to Christine and have our children all left home. I did a five-year apprenticeship as a sheet metal worker after I left school at 15 and finished my main working career as the UK manufacturing director of the world’s largest noise control company. I had prostate cancer now in total remission, and a total knee replacement in my left leg. I do a two-hour workout at a gym twice a week, swim 36 lengths of our local pool twice weekly and try to fit in two games of golf. I am a member of the Western Front Association and have a particular interest in the Battle of the Somme.
I have followed Newcastle United since I was five years old and have watched them play on nearly all the grounds south of Birmingham over the years. It’s a real treat, all too rare, to get to a game at St James’ Park. I don’t find it easy to get hold of tickets these days. My son, Christopher, who lives in Alabama, is also a great fan unlike his two brothers. He picks up all the games on TV there (Barry Venison is a commentator) and we have long chats on the phone about team selection, tactics etc.
Interview: Colin Randall (who met Clive and Christine on holiday in Sri Lanka this year; the photo is from a visit to a tea plantation)