Today, Newcastle United’s season began with a defeat at home against Manchester City. But there was so much to be thankful for.
In particular, I was able to be there. We take for granted that it’s only a football match: very few football supporters die going to see a game. But it has happened before. There were 96 Liverpool supporters, 56 supporters attending a match in Bradford, and there are a small number of cases where fans have died on their way to a match. Likewise, over the summer, two Newcastle United supporters were killed while travelling to New Zealand to watch their team play in a pre-season tour. Plenty has been said about this incident: BBC News has its own portal for its news coverage on the crash.
The reaction to the news that two Newcastle United fans were killed was incredible. Not least because supporters of our greatest football rivals, Sunderland AFC, raised in excess of £33,000 for floral tributes and donations to charity. It was a generous and thoughtful gesture. It moved me to tears in fact.
As ever, we look forward to the derby game, but I hope the atmosphere will be different. Of course, I am sure some Sunderland supporters will be upset with the transfer of Jack Colback, and there is plenty of history that the television companies will be only too keen to remind us. But the events of the summer highlighted the bridge between us.
I’ve never had the intense hatred for Sunderland that others purport to have: in fact, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for them, and now I have even greater reason to be thankful. Those Sunderland fans are a credit to their football team and they have my personal thanks.