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We can’t wait for Newcastle United to land in Australia

Back in March, it was announced that Newcastle United were to travel to Australia.

“Understand the motivation — but flying 50 players and staff to the other side of the world for a one-off game is a pretty awful look environmentally.”

One of the many negative comments about Newcastle United announcing a post-season friendly down under.

Ignoring the hypocrisy of it (Spurs are doing the exact same thing), these comments ignore how much joy this is going to bring to us Newcastle fans across Australia.

It’s easy for people who don’t know, to listen to someone like Talksport’s Jason Cundy claim that no one knows of Newcastle United outside of Newcastle and think it’s true, but the reality is, despite 14 years of stagnation under Mike Ashley, we still have a huge global following.

Based now in Perth (Australia), I have been lucky enough to travel a lot of the world and wherever I’ve been, our team has been known. I have had locals shout “Shearer” at me on Indonesian beaches after seeing my toon shirt. I’ve been to supporters club meet ups in the heart of Singapore.

In Rio, I had a conversation with some Brazilians in broken Portuguese about how our season was going. We may not attract the same numbers as Man Utd or Liverpool but our footprint on global football is there.

The reason I mention this, is that these games are often labelled as pointless, but they rarely are. For us Newcastle fans over here in Australia, this is huge.

We watched the champions league draw last year, envious of those who could take two days off work and jump on a quick flight to France, Germany, or Italy to watch the game. We would need two days just to travel to one of those cities. We watched the fan zones wishing we could be there. Some probably did make the long journey across but for most it was too far, too expensive, too time consuming. Having Newcastle United play in Melbourne gives us a chance to emulate those European trips (Although obviously a friendly against Tottenham obviously doesn’t quite compare to PSG away in the champions league).

For the record, I was born and raised in Fawdon. Before I settled in Perth, I was a regular at home and away games.

When a couple of us decided to start a supporters group we just thought it would be a good way to watch the match with other Geordies, but the meets were filled with people born and raised in Western Australia. Some had relatives from Newcastle but a lot had just started following for random reasons. These were just as passionate as the rest of us though.

Since the takeover there has been a lot of talk of plastic fans and football tourists but, while I’m sure there’s probably people jumping on the bandwagon, the international supporters have stuck with the team through all of the highs and lows. It really does take dedication to get up at 2am most Sundays to watch your team play. We have people in our group who have never set foot in Newcastle but I’m sure are just as loyal to the team as you or me.

Although football usually takes a back seat to “Aussie rules football” over here, there is still a huge interest which I’m sure the club are trying to capitalise on with this trip. For the recent game against Spurs at home, our regular pub in the city said we could still host there but the main screen would be showing the Fremantle dockers game. That quickly changed when the crowds started arriving though and they ended up showing us on the main screen and relegating the Aussie rules to the quiet end of the bar.

As soon as the news broke of Newcastle United making the trip over here, people started making plans. There are supporters groups in most major cities in Australia, all linked together by the “Aussie Mags” group.

Every group seems to be descending on Melbourne that week. Here in Perth, it’s been surprising how many people have booked their flights and accommodation already.

For people who don’t know, Australia is massive. Those of us travelling from here will be doing a 4,000 mile round trip to see the games. I’m sure some of the Singapore fans will be heading across as well. One of our members is actually flying back to Newcastle that week for a holiday so, even though he’s in Newcastle, he’ll still have to get up at 2am to watch them play.

All of this highlights that there is a thirst for Premier League football here. Generally, every season a few Premier League teams will come over for exhibition games in the summer, but this is the first time in a long time Newcastle have made the trip and there is huge potential to promote the club and expand the fan base. A lot of people love watching a Premier League game but don’t have any reason to support any particular team. This trip is an opportunity to show them the highs (and lows) of following the toon.

I’m sure the Geordie banter will be on display throughout Melbourne that week and ultimately, if we want to grow and be able to spend money like the Barcelonas and Man Us of the world, we need to embrace these tours and encourage people to join in with us.

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