What It Means To Follow Newcastle!
"Some of my earliest, most treasured memories are set in monochrome.
"Every morning my father, who was a proud colliery man for 51 years, would leave our home in Langley Park, County Durham white as a sheet and return each evening black, covered from head to hobnail boots in coal dust. For an ardent supporter of Newcastle United, as my dad was and I would quickly become, the colour scheme was appropriate.
"The murky gloom of the pits, the blinding gleam of the floodlights - they are the dominant shades of my life. As someone who has been privileged enough to win at Wembley, to play for and manage my country, to work in Holland, Portugal and Spain, I've seen vivid sights and been surrounded by excitement, but black and white is where it began and black and white I've always been.
"Even when I was managing Barcelona, that marvellous maelstrom of a football club, I'd reach the haven of the dressing room and ask someone to find out 'how Newcastle have got on', a query that most exiled Geordies will find familiar. Newcastle the club and Newcastle the city surge through my blood.
"Athens has the Parthenon, Newcastle has St James's Park.
"Visible from every approach to the city, located in its centre and looming over it, this sporting cathedral dominates the skyline of Tyneside in a way that suits the deep-seated role the football club plays in everyday life.
"I was at Wembley in 1955 with Elsie (his wife) to watch Newcastle lift the FA Cup and would have chuckled in disbelief at the notion that this famous team would not claim another domestic trophy for more than half a century. So fans do not expect United to win, but they want it and they yearn for it, and that emotion can be fierce.
"When victory beckons, there is a feeling of invincibility, like riding a wave of elation, but lose and the despair is subterranean. The contrast can be severe, very severe.
"Winning is the easy bit in football; so suffer defeat, pick yourself up and come back for more takes a form of courage and those long years without silverware, the barren times, the near misses, are now as much a part of what it means to follow Newcastle as the gilded history.
"There has been so much change. Players, staff, regimes have come and gone and fortunes have fluctuated. The one constant in the Newcastle firmament has been the hordes kitted out in black and white.
"What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people paid to represent it. It's not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes.
"It's the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It's a small boy clambering up the stadium steps for the first time, gripping his father's hand, gawping at the hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love."
Newcastle: My Kind Of Toon is published by Hodder & Stoughton.