Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Mad Darren - Terrace Legend.

There are frequent accusations that football these days has sold its soul, that formerly noisy tribal bearpits have become sanitised shadows of their old selves and that baying, committed supporters have become demanding, fickle consumers. I agree with all of that to a certain extent, as I think many supporters, whatever their affiliations, of a certain age would.

With this in mind a group of like minded supporters set up the Toon Ultras in a bid to bring back the noise at St. James. It’s a worthy aim and I for one hope it succeeds as it seems to me that grounds these days are sterile, americanised enviroments where the main aim is to extract as much cash from the fan/consumer as possible.

But…It wasn’t always like that. Back in the eighties St. James Park was a crumbling, old fashioned relic of days gone by. The two main ends were uncovered, seats were a luxury and the toilets were unspeakably bad. The catering would give you botulism, the turnstile operators were bent and todays Health and safety police would have a seizure if they witnessed the steps you went up to get to the terraces.

And do you know what…we fucking loved it.

The home end then was the Gallowgate End and all the boys massed up behind the goal there in one of two sections, The Corner or the Scoreboard. On slow days when the opposition didn’t bring many fans we’d amuse ourselves by taunting the residents of whichever section we weren’t in and proclaiming our superiority over them. The Scoreboard was so named because of the giant, subbutteo style scoreboard that was erected above the terracing and was visible from all areas of the ground. This used to be climbed by ‘over-enthusiastic’ fans and the letters re-arranged on the rivals teams section to read something abusive.

The amount of times we played ‘C U NT S’, ‘W A N KE R S’ and, ‘B A S T A R D S’ were too numerous to mention but it was very funny, no matter how many times you saw it.

The Corner, so named because it was the corner of the end and led onto the East Stand had a flag planted right at the top of the terracing and just along from it was little hot dog stand that was robbed left right and centre every other week. It tended to be the preserve of ‘blokes’, thickly muscled gadgies who had graduated from from their teen years in the scoreboard section and held us teenage youngsters in amused disdain. Shaking their heads at us… like you do a drunken nephew who’s just made a play for the local bike.

To stand on the Gallowgate End on a sunny day, full of beer with thousands of other like minded souls was nearly as good as it got. If the toon were winning or even just playing well then your day was complete.

If it was all going wrong though, if you were on the open terracing in the rain and we were getting a hiding you could always rely on one man.

Mad Darren lived and breathed Newcastle United. You could travel to any game, on any day, in any part of the country and he’d be there. He was the type of bloke who planned his life around the fixture list and, once he was at the game, put his heart and soul into it.

I didn’t know him to talk to; I didn’t even know his real name. I just knew he was Mad Darren and I knew who he was, that was enough. You’d have some beer before the match, get through the turnstile and hurry up the steps; maybe stopping halfway up for a swim in the Gallowgate bogs, then the singing would make you run the last few steps to get in amongst it. You’d hit the scoreboard end and there he’d be, stood on a barrier, swaying drunkenly with the undulations of the crowd around him and you’d join them singing lustily as Darren kept all the terrace favourites rolling off the tongue.

To hit a strange town on a dark wintry Saturday or a wet Wednesday night, knowing you’d probably get beat and the locals would be quite keen on re-arranging your face was a daunting task. Sometimes just getting in a bar, having a few pints and then getting to the ground without having to do your Rocky impression was like mission impossible.

But… getting into the match, counting up your fellow travellers in the gloom all the while being taunted by the pig fuckers from whichever crap little town you were in was made worthwhile when, a familiar looking figure staggered onto a barrier and proclaimed he was proud to be a geordie. You knew then it’d be alright and you’d laugh about it later, in fact you might even write a book about it much later!

Mad Darren probably single handedly kept many of us interested during the late eighties, he was probably responsible for imbuing in many of us the terrace culture and the love of making a day of it following the mags.

Sadly, he died in 1989 in London following Newcastle at Wimbledon, there was a scuffle with some Wigan Rugby League fans, and while the circumstances aren’t fully known, the story at the time was that they were mob handed and he was alone. It was a sad end to a young life but, trite as this may sound, he had died as he lived – following his beloved Mags.

No book about Newcastle United would be complete without a tribute To Mad Darren, I was proud to know him, however indirectly, and believe that in a few short years he influenced the lives of more people than many of us will ever meet.

He was the original Toon Ultra.


THE-SHADO said...

Oh I fuckin loved those days, I was a Gallowgate corner boy myself though, just for the Blaydon Races singing and the surge forward. I was young and it was exciting. That was unless we played the Makems or Boro then I was next to the away fans in the Leazers End. I remember when they removed the hotdog stand in the corner (of the corner) which meant is was replaced by a impromptu toilet, where you could piss and watch the match (as long as the ball was in the Gallowgate half). I once saw a young lad slip on the steps and fall face first into the waterfall of piss coming from the said corner. Oh how we laughed.
Can you hear the scoreboard sing…….Noooh…Noooh
The Corner, (clap clap clap) The Corner.
Oh sweet memories. Normally shite games though.!!

Anonymous said...

always wondered what happened to Mad Darren, I can still picture him now swaying on the barrier.

I was always in scoreboard section, that surge from top to bottom in the corner always put me off!

You could stand next to a stranger and by the end of the game you felt like mates. Not always though, some twats would piss down the back of peoples legs.

Mind we were crap then!

Rivs said...

We're crap now!!!

Ownly kidding...I sometimes think it'd be better if we could just be a shite second division team again with low expectations - then we could just enjoy the day out.

Anyway, if you liked that little passage then keep an eye out for the book when it hits the shelves (probably when I'm dead and my genius has finally been discovered!)