When Newcastle United fans asked Bob Morton to set up a winning team and get back to the grassroots, Blue Star’s director of football told them they already had one. Stuart Rayner reports.
NEWCASTLE have scored 39 goals in an impressive start to the season which has seen them lose just one of 13 football games, watched by fans paying £7 a head.
It might sound like utopia or a bygone era but this is 2008. It is Newcastle Blue Star, not United, and the UniBond First Division North club’s director of football Bob Morton thinks it could be the answer for long-suffering Magpies supporters.
When the fall-out from Kevin Keegan’s latest departure began last month, Morton was approached by fans interested in following the trend of forming a rebel club to start again at grassroots level. Morton said no.
Such a side already exists in the city and those disenchanted with the money-mad Premier League can try it for themselves tomorrow at Kingston Park (kick-off 3pm), when Hucknall Town are visitors in the third and final qualifying round of the FA Cup.
“It gives the people of Newcastle something to watch instead of the disappointment of seeing United getting beaten every week,” said Morton.
“The people of Newcastle want to come and watch football. It’s a good stadium with bars, refreshments and good car parking and a Metro station just down the road. If they want to come, they will see some good football.
“Man United fans set their own team up and Wimbledon’s and Liverpool’s have done the same. I’ve been approached by supporters to set up an FC United of Newcastle after Kevin Keegan left but I’m not sure I’m going to dabble in that.
“If they do want to get back to grassroots football, they can come and watch us. We’re based in the city and we’re having success. It’s a friendly atmosphere, the kids are happy and it’s £7 to get in, not £37.
“We’re top of the table and unbeaten. My priority is promotion but the FA Cup is a great sideline in terms of making money. We’ve got so many cup matches, our next league game is in November. The league clubs come in at the next round so we just want to get a tie against Leeds United.
“Harrogate RA reached the second round last year and we played them off the park this week. Their game was on television and if that happens in the first round you get about £75,000.”
Blue Star’s former Magpies midfielder Jamie McClen has been impressed with non-league football.
“I’ve been in non-league for two seasons now and it’s better than I thought,” says the ex-Kidderminster Harriers player. “I was bamboozled with what I saw. With the facilities at Blue Star I don’t understand why more fans don’t come in.
“Some of the players we’ve got shouldn’t be in non-league. But the lower league clubs don’t pay a lot of good money and there’s lads who’d rather keep their job and play non-league.
The FA Cup has been good to McClen. His only goal for United, who he supported as a boy, came in the competition against Peterborough United, as did the highlight of his career.
“When we played Arsenal in 2002 it was the biggest game of my career,” he says. “I just remember Gary Speed saying, ‘You’ve got nothing to lose, you’re playing against World Cup winners’.
“I was at Newcastle from the age of 10 to 26, I was part of the furniture. It was hard when I left, I was just gutted. But if I’d have thought about it too much, I’d have thrown myself off the Tyne Bridge.
“I look back now and think, ‘What if?’ but I’ll always be proud to have played alongside such big-name players and under Sir Bobby Robson.”
Player-manager Steve Bowey has a fully-fit squad including former West Brom man Stuart Nicholson, who scored his first goal for the club against Harrogate RA.