Last season when I joined fans in Chicago for a meet up, I thought it was brilliant that fans from across the United States were ready to come together to share an experience over something we all enjoy. It was a great experience speaking with fans from both Denver and Chicago to learn about what got them into the club, and what really brings us as fans together.
This year, Denver hosted the meet up, and they certainly did not disappoint.
“I wanted people who were paying hundreds of dollars for a plane ticket and hotel to feel like they were getting their money’s worth out of this trip,” said Joshua Lumpkin of Denver, the organizer of the party.
He definitely made the event worth going to. I felt like the money paid for my plane ticket (which is a separate issue entirely) got me to an event that I was more than happy to attend. And I would venture to say that the 50 plus people who attended from all across the country were proud to be there as well. Because Denver put on quite a show.
Our own Elijah Newsome and Greg Troxell joined me in Denver to cover the event, and we landed a very special guest in Warren Barton to join us in Denver to not only watch the match, but to meet Newcastle fans from across the country. Warren Barton was more than class, he was a true gentleman, weaving in and out of people to meet as many fans as possible.
Greg, Elijah, and I on our first night there had met each other for the first time as well. After all these years of bossing them around I had never told them what to do to their faces. It’s what is so amazing about SB Nation, and I hope anyone reading this looks into joining a site; SB Nation connects fans from not just around the nation but around the world. We realized just what friends we are, and if it weren’t for SB Nation giving us this opportunity, we never would have crossed paths with our different backgrounds.
Our first night there, we picked up Warren from his hotel in downtown Denver to head to Hogshead Brewery, a bar that Denver will often watch many of its matches at. It’s a smaller bar, with an English feel. We were holding the meet and greet with Warren here.
We were hoping to surprise people with Warren’s entrance, but there was no surprise to be had. The legendary footballer was noticed as soon as he stepped out of the vehicle. While the cheers when we entered were for Elijah, Greg, and myself, Warren got significant praise as well.
But the fans were more than respectful. In front of us was a man who had brought Newcastle United its greatest years as a defender and its captain. Standing in that very room with us was a Newcastle legend, who wasn’t to be bombarded, but respected. Warren commanded that with his presence, but he was unassuming. He was just as much a fan of the Toon as we were, and at that moment we were equals.
People would go up to him and simply ask him what it was like to play under two of the greatest managers in the history of the club. He would often speak about how both Sir Bobby Robson and Kevin Keegan were very different. He would reminisce about the victory over Barcelona that is among the greatest feats in the history of the club. He would share stories of pranks, and talk about how Alan Shearer just wasn’t that good looking. It was the greatest night for some Toon fans, but the morning was to be better.
Spending a couple hours with a magpie hero is one thing, but getting to watch your club soar to victory with a new signing’s home debut is another. Also take note, that getting an Uber or a Lyft early in the morning in Englewood, CO is very difficult, and I don’t recommend trying it.
Elijah and I arrived in the bar shortly before the match started. We met up with Greg, Josh, and Barton was there as well. The bar, Celtic on Market, is run by Noel Hickey and his wife Wendy. Both are extremely amazing and hospitable people who made sure that this event went without a hitch. Downstairs was where we were holding a good old fashioned Newcastle United party.
There were fans who we had met the night before, and there were others who hadn’t made it to the meet and greet with the legendary player and who may not have expected that they were going to be watching a match with “The” Warren Barton.
When the match kicked off, you could tell nearly all the attention was focused on the home debut of one man, Miguel Almiron. The man people kept asking Warren his opinion on, and who we’ve covered extensively just this past January. Miguel had all the attention on him, and he definitely knew it. Fans and legends alike were waiting to see just what the Paraguayan phenom could do in his first start.
Needless to say, the crowd was loud and boisterous, as a Newcastle crowd should be. Yelling and shouting at the television screens over Almiron’s near first goal that went just wide after attempting to play a cheeky chip over Huddersfield’s goalkeeper. The match was madness. The noise of dozens of Newcastle United chanting, cheering, and rooting their team to victory was magical. You don’t get that with other clubs.
The cheers and yelling wouldn’t end until the final whistle blew as Newcastle United soared easily to a 2-0 victory over a struggling and defeated Huddersfield squad. What a way to watch Almiron play, and what a way to enjoy a match with so many other fans who came to watch their club win, not lose.
Sure you could find a good amount of Arsenal fans, Manchester United fans, Chelsea fans, and maybe even some Tottenham fans in the States to watch matches with. But I don’t think they’d be willing to travel hundreds of miles to watch a match with you. Newcastle fans treat a visit to St. James Park as the Fifth Pillar of Islam. If you’ve made it, then you’ve fulfilled your duty as a Newcastle United fan, and Sir Bobby Robson will let you through the pearly gates. The level of dedication is unbelievable, and these fans would certainly do it all over again if they could.
The match generated some of the most excitement I’ve experienced as a Newcastle fan. I’ve never been to England, but being in that bar surrounded by dozens of likeminded fans made it feel like I was in the northeast cheering on what truly is the greatest club in the history of football.
Newcastle fans are widely perceived as warm people — in spite of their cold climate — and they will welcome anyone, from any nationality, any club, any belief system. That doesn’t change when you meet the fans here in the States. Every person in that room would fit right in at St. James Park.
And the best part about it was that Warren Barton felt it, too. As the match ended, no one could contain just how excited they were. And Warren was about to give his analysis, his opinion on not just a Newcastle victory, but Miguel Almiron’s first start.
The audio of the bar proved unwilling to be setup easily, so Elijah and Greg immediately set themselves upon fixing the issues, while I held some trivia for some giveaways to the fans. Like you’d expect, each fan was eager to prove that they knew the answer to the trivia question, because what fan doesn’t know the second Asian signing in Newcastle United history? Duh.
Upon finishing the trivia, there was a period where we were unsure what to do. As Elijah and Greg with the assistance of Joshua attempted to prepare for the podcast, Warren’s professionalism kicked in as he made the suggestion that we run the Q&A before the podcast. He showed no frustration, only wanting to help us proceed in the best way possible. And the Q&A was straight fire.
Not many questions were asked because Warren answered them with precision. His favorite moment as a Newcastle United player? Gosh, well he has so many great memories, let him share with you multiple! The pranks played on teammates, and the time he met David Ginola who he could only pin as such a beautiful man that it threw Les Ferdinand down the pecking order of good-looking magpies. Least favorite kit? Let’s harken back to the days when Newcastle had that 1997-98 away kit with the orange stripe.
When Greg and Elijah successfully managed to get the audio working for the podcast, we were able to proceed with what you’re able to listen to today.
It’s not every day that you get to meet up with a group of people who share the same passion as you. It’s a remarkable feeling of brotherhood. To be able to document the experience is even better.
And it brings me to closing. I’ve been writing about Newcastle United for more than four years. I’ve written some interesting stories, and published some fiery takes. I’ve recruited some amazing writers, and worked on some crazy projects. But I can also say I’ve met amazing people who love this team just as much if not more than I do. And we can’t wait to tell you where it will be held next.