Sunday 5th March
24 bleary kids and around 15 equally bleary grown ups boarded the ‘NB Colts Team Bus’ at 7.30 am.
Players and coaches pushed through the mass of autograph hunters that had camped out at Recreation Park, and settled into their plush velvet seats.
Attempts at a rousing chorus of “You shall have a fishy, on a little dishy”, and “Ho’way the lads, you should have seen us gannen” failed to take off. A sports trivia quiz kept us busy during the first leg of the trip to Newcastle. Mind you, the people up the back had no idea whether their answers were heard or whether they turned out to be right or wrong! Attention turned to eating our packed lunches, at 9am!
First stop ….. St Jame’s Park, where a very Geordie sounding Geordie gave us a great tour of the stadium. Gasps as the door was pushed open to reveal the full grandeur of the stadium and pitch. Tales of United’s long history …. the legends, the heroic moments … and plenty of sneaky ideas for ways to undermine the chances of the visiting teams, before they’d even got near the pitch (very unsporting I have to say), (but good ideas nonetheless).
Down on pitch side, the United anthem blared out as the kids walked the tunnel. Dads and mums also pretending they were pretending not to be Alan Shearer as they walked out (or was that just me?). BTW - what a massive slope on that pitch!
Suitably impressed with the First Division set up, we set off for some professional coaching a few miles down the road. More autograph hunters ran at us as we unloaded our kit bags and made our way into our own private changing room, which was actually better than the Newcastle away teams room. The bigger and wee’er wee people split into groups with two fantastic coaches, who seemed to be speaking a foreign language, but it didn’t stop the boys getting the drift and applying themselves fully to an hour of learning and showing off. It was really great to see, and some good learning for us coaches too. The sun shone, the boys played, the adults chatted and all was well with the world.
A quick change out of footballing gear and into children’s leisure clothes (mostly Man C strips) and we were off further down the road to Sunderland. The coaching had really got the kids into the mood for a Premier League clash off the titans, and if not that, then a game involving Man C would have to do. I’m sure I heard an over excited dad singing "Spurs are on their way to Wembley” before they realised they weren’t just thinking it.
Stephen Bedford’s mastery of logistics ensured we all had time for a play at a great wee swing park near the city centre. As the boys descended on the park you could see all the toddlers’ parents sprinting to gather them up and save them from the Scottish invaders. Suffice to say, no injuries sustained (which was a miracle).
After doing our own things for a while it was nice to gather together again at the ground, as we took up fantastic Director’s box seats near the centre line. Chips, juice, crisps, wide eyes and lots of nervous chatter, sausage rolls and steak pies literally sliced in half as the players came out to an almighty roar. All the big names appeared, plus Davie Moyes.
First half was really competitive and fun as the kids suddenly became expert commentators and analysts. I’m sure Charlie was sketching out formations and re-running passing sequences using his finger on his I-Pad, just like that Andy Grey used to do on Sky sports. Sunderland had chances and created a good thrilling atmosphere, but went in 1-0 down and could have been 2, as a result of the run of 10 years worth of endless good luck that seems to follow Man C around.
The second half was more like one way traffic, with the wee Spanish guy running the show for the pale blues, but still the Sunderland lads created chances enough to keep the home fans interested - until about the 80th minute when the stadium cleared like a fire alarm had gone off. By the 90th minute only the NB Colts and a group from Bonnyrigg were still there.
A quick stop off for crisps, juice, ice creams, sweets and chocolate (ie. dinner) and we rumbled through the darkness chatting, sleeping and munching. As we tumbled out of the bus back at Recreation Park we were all a bit dazed and over stimulated, and not an autograph hunter in site. Reality had returned, it was 9.30 pm on a school night.
[Thanks to Stephen B for organising such a great trip, which went incredibly smoothly, great fun and memories for all, and all in spite of a late change of date and logistics which for the time being at least, has left a slight hole in the budget for the trip].
Updated 19:10 - 28 Mar 2017 by Elaine Mostyn