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The loneliness of a long-distance magpie

Football-wise, my five years at high school in darkest Somerset were not a particularly rewarding experience.

Possibly, or should I say most likely, the only Newcastle United fan among hundreds of other students in the mid-eighties.

The oft-repeated reactions of other children when they discovered my faithfulness were usually dismissive or ridiculous, generally good-natured yet somewhat humble.

I mean, they had a point.

Either swing around in the middle of the rankings or fight against relegation. I mean, it’s so much easier to be a follower chasing glory of Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton (who were good at the time), Arsenal or Tottenham and winning all that boring silverware.

Outside of that coterie you would rarely find anyone following a club, even if there were scattered groups of fans of Bristol City or Bristol Rovers, two clubs that never appealed to me despite both being based in the West Country and Bristol being both a county and was a city. Anyway.

Yeoville? to be honest, I didn’t even know they had a football club at the time.

No, I was black and white and sometimes it felt like a sign of resistance.

One day a Geordie called Lee (I think?) was seconded to our science class and when I recognized his accent (I can tell Geordie or Mackem) I decided to get myself into his company as soon as possible.

My science folder was covered with Panini ‘swaps’ stickers from the team from the 1986/1987 season (not a good year, I admit, avoided relegation and finished 17th). Eventually he noticed this and we got to talking about how miserable we were that season.

He was also pleasantly surprised when he met a fellow sufferer and this helped him settle in a bit, I think. He was intrigued as to why I was following the magpies in this part of the forest?

I told him the story as I did on this forum in my first (but hopefully not last!) article ever, so I’m not about to go through it again.

Unfortunately he didn’t stick around for long and headed back north, I think. I lost touch and continued my lonely existence preening my black and white feathers in my lonely nest, just as I am now.

My father who indoctrinated me is thankfully still there, but whether he will see them win another trophy is the question we all ask ourselves.

Hopefully that wretched monkey on the back will soon be marched back into the jungle and stay there forever.

My younger brother is also a Newcastle United fan, so if we meet up every now and then we can at least chew on the latest result.

As a final aside, that salute to the lonely Magpie superstition.

I was once riding my mother’s rickety bicycle to a nearby town and saw a lone magpie in a tree. I thought to myself that I didn’t believe in that and continued cycling. You can guess what happened next. The front wheel brakes locked and yours actually went over the handlebars.

Never again would I mock forces beyond my understanding!

Now when I see a lonely magpie I always greet it with a hello, but these days I always walk.

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