[From the introduction to United - The First 100 Years: The Official Centenary History of Newcastle United (updated edition), 1995]
It is a great honour and privilege to write a tribute to my football club on the occasion of the publication of this new book on its history. As someone who was brought up in the North East and now represents Sedgefield constituency, I know how important it is that we now have success in sport.
The current era is the most exciting for the club and its fans since I first began supporting the team in the early sixties. Becoming leader of the Labour Party puts great demands on my time, but wherever I am on a Saturday I anxiously await the results. And, as someone who has a keen interest in sport, when political engagements permit, I consider it a great privilege to be at the match with the family – especially at St James’s Park. Though I have to confess that there isn’t always domestic harmony at 4.45pm on Saturdays. My elder son, Euan, supports Liverpool, as does his mother, and my younger son, Nicky, backs Manchester United.
Football is a great passion, loved by countless thousands of people throughout the country. When I get to a match I’m always reminded that Bill Shankly’s famous comment ‘that football is more important than life or death’ s much to Tyneside as on Merseyside.
I recall as a teenager being elated by Supermac and his hat-trick home debut against Liverpool in 1971. But, of course, in football as in politics we have to live through the darker times as well – and I recall my gloom when we lost the FA Cup final to Liverpool in 1974. I didn’t see Jackie Milburn play, but he and Jimmy Smith, whose genius on the field I did witness, were my great childhood heroes.
We are very fortunate to follow the club in the current era. This is the most exciting period since I started supporting ‘The Toon’. We are a forward looking club with a magnificent new stadium, an ambitious and enterprising management, on and off the field and, of course, a great squad of players.
I wish everyone in the club well and know that we can build on our current success. Most importantly we can foster high standards of endeavour and conduct inspiring our young people – which I think is the greatest contribution one generation in sport can bequeath to the next.
I know that this revised edition of the history of the club will give great pleasure to everyone.
[No commentary needed, I feel]