I arrived in Newcastle around 5:00 a.m. an hour earlier than expected. The driver must be driving so fast. I wished I could have another hour of sleep. There wasn’t much I could do as it was raining heavily and there was no taxi insight. At least 10 passengers including myself waited for the rain to let up. I sat next to Paul, a young guy from London and we started chatting. He is a West Ham fan who’s in town for the game later on that day. I told him I’m going to the game as well but unfortunately I won’t be on his side. Having something in common where both of us support our “hometown” club make it very easy to build up a conversation. We talked about Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan, both players had donned the famous black & white shirt but are now playing for West Ham. There was no nasty footie banter, just a civilised opinion about our team chances. Apparently, Paul has also been to Malaysia in 2008 which he said a “lovely” country. He went to a few islands on the east coast , KL and Penang. By the time the heavy rain turned to slight drizzle, it was almost 7 a.m. I wished Paul goodbye and dragged my bag for a few hundred metres to Euro Hostel. I couldn’t check-in yet so I left my luggage at the reception. The lady at the reception was so nice that she let me have the buffet breakfast without paying. I felt so welcome and had a bowl of cereal, two glasses of orange juice, toasts with butter and jam, an apple and a cup of coffee. I guess enough for me to skip lunch.
It wasn’t until 10 a.m. when the rain finally stopped. I need to go to St James Park, the home of Newcastle United Football Club. Firstly to collect my game’s ticket which a friend had pre-booked on my behalf. Secondly a compulsory stop at the club’s shop. I have a long list from fellow Toon Army in Malaysia to get them the latest Newcastle United replica jersey. It was serious shopping. Unfortunately some of the sizes were not available and I pity my friends once they hear the bad news. Somehow my shopping basket was still full and the “good looking” cashier gleefully ring in £315 worth of merchandise. With my hands full, it’s time to head back to the hostel. I was able to check-in and the hot shower was welcoming. I made a quick phone call to the car rental company informing them that I’m already in town and will be picking the car on Monday morning. Looks like everything is in order. With a peace of mind, I look forward to Newcastle United’s first home game of the season against West Ham United. Despite all those years, I have never stopped supporting the team. Yes, I’m an adopted Geordie and I bleed black & white. To be in the stadium with 50,000 other fans, cheering your team is an experience to savour for every Toon Army. The moment I entered the stadium and sat on my seat, emotion starts to build in which just come short of crying. It may not be a home-coming winning game as the game ended with a scoreless draw but I will cherish the moment as if it was my very first live Newcastle home game back in 1987.
During the game, it started to rain again. After the game finished, I put on my rain jacket and walked back to the hostel. Looks like I won’t be able to see much of the city on my first day here. I had dinner at the hostel’s cafe, sweet potato with curry chickpeas, spinach and rice, one of only two vegetarian dishes available. I was totally knackered, somewhat the hostel’s bunk bed looked so inviting. After 23 years I’m back in my “2nd hometown”, watched my beloved football team play and had bought the latest merchandises from the club shop. I knew that night I went to bed smiling :).