Well, the new season has started with a great win over a team that will more than likely be challenging for a top four finish by the end of it all. The atmosphere, pre-match nerves and tension were all there as usual but I had a different view of everything to my usual one because of my change in circumstance. I had an operation on my knee a few weeks ago and have since had complications so I’m currently having to use a wheelchair to get out and about.

The club were very helpful in finding a space for me to park my wheelchair and just did a straight swap for my own season ticket and have agreed to keep doing so for as long as I need it. The customer service side of things was superb and I must give credit where it’s due.

The stewards were very helpful getting me into St. James’ Park and in directing me to my seat. A number of fans bashed into me whilst I was making my way to my spot or didn’t seem to hear me saying ‘excuse me please!’ I don’t think they did it on purpose but it was just a wee bit frustrating. I had the feeling that I didn’t exist and some of the fans that were helpful by moving to let me past spoke to me as if I was 3 years old.

I have had the same seat in the Leazes End since it was rebuilt so having a different view felt a bit strange. I was on the lowest tier near the corner so it was almost the same as being in the old family enclosure. My space was arranged just for me as I didn’t need a carer and I was placed next to a fella who obviously needed full time care. He couldn’t speak and had a keypad in front of him to communicate with his carer. I said ‘hello’ and tried to speak as normal but he couldn’t reply and I wasn’t sure if he could understand me at all. I got even less response from his carer who spent the whole match texting and didn’t even acknowledge my greetings at all! Oh well, I thought. I tried to engage in conversation with the couple in front of me but again got no response at all. I started to think that I’d have been better off staying at home and watching on the telly! That was until the teams came out and the match started.

I had a good view of the pitch but didn’t see it too often because when the action hotted up the fans in front of me all stood up and I could hardly see a thing and was left to try and peek through bodies to see what was going on. There were no stewards around to have a word with them and I knew it was futile to ask anyway.

I normally never shut up during the games and constantly thrust my opinions and thoughts onto my mates but I didn’t have anyone to have a bit of banter with so I sat and watched, most of the time, in silent thought. I was able to notice more that was going on around me than I normally would because when the ball went out I wasn’t having a discussion about the last piece of play or standing up clapping and cheering. I watched the other fans, noticed the looks on their faces change as the game went on and listened to the idiot designated for this area who was negative about everything from the word go. There’s always one! I watched people more interested in nipping out for a pint or nipping to the toilet. There were the stewards dealing with queries and looking for supervisors who never materialised and the photographers taking pictures of everything that moved and giving each other tips as to what was going on in the dugout area. I noticed the substitutes warming up and acknowledging the crowd with the player’s clap and an ex-player turning away with a wry smile as he was booed. I saw the tiny ball boys sitting waiting in hope that the ball would come their way and I also observed the fans alongside me sat in their wheelchairs trying to watch through a forest of bodies. They showed the same passion and love for Newcastle United as any other fan but seemed to turn away at some points because they had no view of what was going on. I was hugely frustrated myself and this is hopefully just a temporary situation for me, but these men, women and kids have to deal with this every game. I could go on about the state of the paths and access problems getting to the match in the first place but that’s another matter.

One of the highlights of the day for me was when my mate I’ve sat next to since 14th August 1993, when we lost against Spurs, came to find me at half time and we had our usual bit of football chat. The other was when Ben Arfa scored his penalty. I was worried that he may miss, of course, but was overjoyed when he scored. That wasn’t the highlight though. The best part of the match for me came when I turned to my right in celebration, grabbed the shoulder of the lad in the wheelchair next to me and I noticed a smile forming on his face as he lifted his twisted left arm to the sky in salute. This guy certainly knew what was going on and he was loving it as much as anyone else, probably a whole lot more.

by Bleeding Black & White

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  1. darren

    Don’t usually come onto this site but this article is a refreshing change to the same old . I am a carer who works with people with learning disabilities in boro and every week a few of them cant talk about anything else apart from football. They never talk about the polotics of thd game just how much they enjoyed a goal or who there fav player is. It has made me enjoy the sport a lot more for what it is, two teams entertaining the fans no matter who they are. Quality article mate, will be a regular visitor now.

  2. Tom

    Very good article. refreshing and well thought.

    I'm from abroad and have only been to St.James' once, but is it not logical to have seats for the disabled people in the front row with no people in front of them, to prevent just what you describe?

    Or am I missing something?
    Anyway, keep up the good work and get well soon.

  3. BleedingBlack&White

    Thanks very much Darren. I've worked for a number of charities myself over the years and was registered disabled for a few years in the past (I thought it best not to mention this in the article) but I just thought that it was worth trying to get a different point of view over and mention that everyone's opinions are valid. I was also pouring scorn on myself for still having a preconceived idea of the fella I was next to despite my own current position. Cheers!

  4. BleedingBlack&White

    Thanks Tom! There are so many disabled fans that go to St. James' Park there may be too many to fit in front of the rest of the crowd and still be safe. Some wheelchairs used to be placed behind the goal areas but were moved for safety reasons. It's not good to have a ball whacked in your face when you can't jump out of the way! There are wheelchair spaces along the East Stand area and the corners. I'm sure there are fans who attend every match in wheelchairs who may have totally different opinions to myself.

  5. Tej

    A fantastically well thought and insightful article! What you mention about the restrictive viewing is something that definitely should be sorted out! I hope you get well soon.

    • BleedingBlack&White

      Thanks Tej. Restrictive viewing is one issue but attitudes in general (my own included) need to change.


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