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First Game - Falling in love with Newcastle United

Where the love of Newcastle United began.

Newc/Barcelona Asprilla hat-trick Photo by Owen Humphreys - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

“Dad, Dad! Can we go now?!” I remember screaming from the top of my lungs. It was the day I would attend my first Newcastle United game, in terms of setting expectations there couldn’t have been a worse game for my father to choose. A 3-2 victory over Spanish giants Barcelona saw my expectations sky rocket.

My father is no different to any other Geordie father, he wanted so badly to take me to my first game. One game that would turn into many, many more - All with my father by my side.

I remember being in a sea of black and white while propped up on my father’s shoulders. I was in awe of the sights all around me. My father told tales of his first game with my grandfather as well as telling me his favourite game to date, as we made our way through the sea of black and white and towards St James’ Park.

Faustino Asprilla of Newcastle

My heart was racing, I was as excited as I’d ever been. That was the day I fell head over heels with Newcastle United. I had a lump in my throat as we took to our seats, the atmosphere inside St James’ Park was incredible, it was like nothing I’d ever seen or heard before - I already knew I wanted more before the game had even started.

Newcastle had been drawn in the so called ‘Group of Death’ for their debut in the Champions League. The task was made even more daunting when the fixtures revealed Newcastle’s first game would be against Spanish giants Barcelona.

A huge roar greeted Tino Asprilla as he raced through on goal, only to be hauled down by Barcelona ‘keeper, Ruud Hesp. “That’s a pen ref! Surely that’s a pen?!” My father screamed, before the referee rightly pointed to the spot. A sense of excitement mixed with a degree of nerves, circled around the stadium while waiting for the penalty to be taken. “Come on Tino, come on Tino” one supporter prayed. Asprilla was the calmest man in the stadium, slotting home and sending St James’ Park completely barmy.

Faustino Asprilla of Newcastle

Keith Gillespie caused all sorts of problems on the right hand side. “Go on lad, go on!” Supporters screamed, as the Northern Irishman raced forward. Gillespie found Asprilla with a fantastic cross, the Colombian soared through the air before connecting with a thumping header. “Ahhhhhhhhh hahahahaha” By this point we couldn’t even form real words. Newcastle led 2-0 at half time and we were in dreamland.

Gillespie zipped past the hapless Sergei on the halfway line, he produced another wonderful cross. Asprilla who was watched by Nadal, headed home yet again. “3-0! THREE BLOOMIN’ NIL!” My father bellowed, before repeatedly saying “I just cannit believe it”. “Are you watching Sunderland?” Echoed around the stadium.

Newcastle United v Barcelona UEFA Champions League 1997 Photo by Stu Forster/Allsport/Getty Images

It wouldn’t be Newcastle United without sending supporters through the ringer, that night was no different as Barcelona produced a late fight back. The Spanish giants pulled two goals back but couldn’t find the equaliser. It was Newcastle’s night.

As we made our way home, there were Geordies literally dancing in the streets. Everything about that night was special, my father and I would attend many more games together down the years, both home and away. That night will always have a special place in my heart as it was the day the blood in my veins turned black and white.

You know those expectations I talked about? In true Newcastle United style, we were given so much hope, reaching the FA Cup final that season - Only to lose 2-0 to Arsenal, it’s the hope that kills you with Newcastle but I wouldn’t have it any other way.