Just over a year ago I wrote about my excitement of Newcastle United Football Club being back in Europe and to celebrate the fact I was re-reading the top travel/sport/food/top crack book ever written about the Toon – Toon Tales. Shortly after the authors, Peter Cain and Barry Robertson found the article and got in contact with me, namely to thank me for writing about their book, but to also let me know that a second book had been released.
About a month or two ago the guys let me know that are third book is being written and sent me a copy of Toon Odyssey to fill in the gap of the reducing European schedule of this once great club.
What it means to support NUFC in Australia
Now, I’m a bit of a sad case and generally only support teams that have black and white in them. My home town football team is Port Adelaide, known as the Magpies. Our club was founded in 1870, making it one of the oldest team in any sporting code. Port Adelaide play Australian Rules football in the local South Australian league and we have won 36 Premierships since commencement, the last one in 1999. Due to the success of the club, since 1997 Port have also been in the AFL, the national competition, known as the Power – still black and white, but with the added colour of ‘teal’. And we won it all back in 2004 and are looking good this season.
I have also selected other black and white teams from across the globe to support – Brooklyn Nets, New Zealand All Blacks, NFL Raiders and Newcastle United, among others.
My wife’s twin sister and family live in Northumberland and my brother-in-law is Geordie through and through, so it came as no coincidence when selecting an EPL team that I picked the Toon. But being a Toon supporter is generally a solitary experience in Australia. Out of 900+ people who worked at my place of work, I know of 3 other Toon supporters. The rest are Man U, Liverpool, Arsenal and closest Mackems! Not true, 90% don’t ever watch soccer as they find it too ‘boring’!
- Toon Odyssey - the Pilgrimage Goes on: Barry Robertson, Peter Cain: 9780954835712: Amazon.com: Books
Toon Odyssey - the Pilgrimage Goes on [Barry Robertson, Peter Cain] on Amazon.com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers.
Back to the Book
So, anyway, earlier this week I had a 3 hour flight to Perth from Adelaide and I took along my newly arrived (and signed) copy of Toon Odyssey to read during the long trip. I fly Qantas and I am sure that they put their crappiest planes on this route. While most modern airplanes have an individual screen to entertain you on long trips, Qantas (even at the extortionate rate of over $700 return) only offer one cabin screen and a choice of one crappy movie. To my delight I at least had the book, so I tucked into a beer and something resembling food and dove in.
The book has a very similar feel to the original Toon Tales where Cain and Robertson banter with each other about how they got to far distance European away games to see the Toon in action. It is part boys own adventure as they boys work with other fans and friends to source tickets, find cheap flights to get to the destination, deal with strikes and delays to eventually get to the game just on time.
It is also a travel destination guide where the boys give you some indication of how to get to the destination from exotic departure cities such as Brussels and Luxembourg (where they are based) and from more normal connection points such as London. At times it is a combination of planes, trains and automobiles scattered with ferries and mad Greek taxi drivers. Once you arrive you also can get great tips on where to stay (completed with web sites addresses) where to eat and most importantly where to get a pint or three.
The book is also part social commentary where you get to understand some of the issues of the large European Union and some of the issues facing these far flung communities where the team plays. You learn a bit of culture, history and politics as you travel through the pages.
This is all tied together by the underlying theme of being a fan of Newcastle United and wanting to see the team perform well in two competitions – the 2004/05 UEFA Cup and FA Cup, with the hope that for the first time since 1955 that Newcastle might win something proper. This book contains excellent sports journalism, not from the best seats in the house, but from the cheap seat terraces with the real fans watching a game and feeling the edge of the seat result of the team. This is where the book comes into its own and makes you feel proud of following this club.
So, Did Newcastle win it all in 2005?
Sadly, history will show that Newcastle exited both competitions well before the final and were not to grace Europe again until the 2012/13 season. In fact Newcastle went into rapid decline after this season, including being relegated before bouncing back into the league.
But time moves on and Peter and Barry have promised me that a third book in a ‘seven-part trilogy’ is in the making for more Toon nonsense in Europe!
An especially touching moment in the book is when the guys meet the late Sir Bobby Robson at the Cuths Old Boys’ Dinner. This section was written with so much respect to Bobby and his love of the game.
I remember seeing footage of the day that Sir Bobby was appointed as Ruud Guillet’s replacement and it seemed that the whole town turned out to welcome him to St James Park. The way that he was eventually dismissed by Newcastle’s owners was disgraceful, but in every way he remained a gentleman.
I recall the last time I saw Sir Bobby on TV, he was present at a Newcastle match and he was clearly ravaged by the cancer he had fought so long, but in his face you could see the joy of being in attendance at what would be his final match as he took the applause and thanks from a very grateful and respectful crowd. Vale Sir Bobby.
The future of the Toon
The hardest part of following the Toon in the current era is that in your heart of hearts you know that you will never see silverware in your lifetime. The Club’s owner (Ashby) runs this team like a business. Every year the team must make a profit. This is great if you just want to stay up in the premiership and be mid-table, but not if you like to win trophies.
2013/14 is the year that someone new can win the premiership. Man U are old and out of cash, Chelsea is rebuilding and the other teams can be beaten on the right day. Newcastle could be in the hunt, but instead we buy low and sell our best players during every transfer window. So while, the Club will have a great balance sheet, we can never win it all.
It’s with baited breathe as I wait for the next instalment of Toon travels from Cain and Robertson, and let’s hope we see a follow up in a few years time once the Toon win something, anything, anywhere at all!
Howay the Toon!