Tom Locke recalls scenes from the life of the second most fearsome terrace in Newcastle
A friend of mine tells a good story about the Leazes End at St James’ Park. It was the infamous 1974 FA Cup tie against Nottingham Forest, and the score was 3-3. Bobby Moncur scored to put Newcastle improbably ahead, and the crowd, as they say, went wild. My mate was duly leaping around with the best of them when his right foot landed on something a bit sharp. It was a set of dentures. The old fellow next to him grovelled about on the terracing to retrieve them. They had, of course, been expelled in the frenzied delight immediately following the goal. The man dusted his falsies off and popped them back in. They were going in all directions, but he seemed pretty unperturbed.
The Leazes End never quite had the street cred of the Gallowgate. Mind you, it never had the rivers of piss flowing down it, either, which was one good reason for going there. You weren’t exactly regarded as effete if you used the Leazes End, but somehow you didn’t inspire the pie-eyed awe in the bar as the Gallowgate regulars did.
In 1974 the Leazes terracing was, if anything, slightly larger than the Gallowgate. It had a roof, but it was a bit of an apology for a roof, rather like the one on Chelsea’s Shed. When the East Stand was finally built in 1974, after much wrangling and several builders’ strikes, the Leazes was earmarked as the next part of the ground for redevelopment. The roof disappeared, and so did most of the terracing. So, unfortunately, did the team. Newcastle were relegated in 1977-78 and the Leazes was left a bit like the defence – too small, in a complete shambles and with no cover.
And that was pretty much how it stayed for the next 15 years, until the ground was almost completely reborn. The only part left now is the East Stand, which for many years was known as the “new stand”, and which, after redevelopment, was always referred to as the “old new stand”. It is destined to disappear in the near future, though whether the construction that replaces it will be known as the “new stand”, the “new new stand” or the “new old new stand” remains open to debate.
I used to stand in the Leazes End quite often in the days when it amounted to little more than a set of steps. This was often a good option in the Second Division promotion season of 1983-84, when the crowds were returning after some dismal years watching the likes of Bobby Shinton and Billy Rafferty lumbering about. It often proved easier to get into the Leazes End than the Gallowgate, partially I think because people coming from the city centre either couldn’t be bother to walk that far or were simply too drunk. True, if the opposition were well supported, like Chelsea, Leeds or Sheffield Wednesday, the Leazes would be given over completely to away supporters, but usually they were crammed into a corner. God knows how long the poor buggers had to stay there after the final whistle.
Once we’d been promoted, the opportunities to use the Leazes End were diminished. There were still plenty of clubs, however, whose away support leaned towards the minimalist, so we could continue to stay put for a fair number of games. I can certainly recall Terry Fenwick flicking a V-sign directly at the part of the Leazes that I was occupying, after scoring for QPR. Not that it did him much good. QPR lost 3-1 and Fenwick was booked (not to mention fined a few days later) for his trouble. I also took the biggest soaking I’ve ever suffered at a football match while standing there. It was against Oxford (where I was living at the time), and I was still wet through by the time I got back to Oxford at about half past ten on the Saturday night.
One of the star attractions at the Leazes End – at least for those with a sense of humour – was what was euphemistically known as the refreshment stall. This was dubbed the Kenny Wharton Pie Hut for a while (the new West Stand, officially the Milburn, was nicknamed the Peter Beardsley Stand after his transfer to Liverpool) until we realised that we hadn’t actually sold him and never would.
In one surreal moment, I was standing there at half-time and ordered two teas. The lad behind the counter asked me if I wanted anything to eat, mainly, I suspect, because he couldn’t shift any pies. I said no, and that anyway, I was a veggie. The lad snorted with a fine show of contempt. “Bugger all meat in them meat-and-potato, you’re all right with one of them,” he said, with a great deal more feeling than grammar. I did consider buying one for my mate, but we’d been friends for a long time and it seemed callous.
My last visit to the terraces at that end of the ground was in the promotion season of 1992-93. It was just before the club made home matches all-ticket, and it involved getting into the ground at around 1.30, something I’d not done since I was at junior school. The new stand was built on the site of the Leazes soon afterwards and then even the Gallowgate followed. I always wondered, though, if a small group of building contractors were standing there one day bemused at a set of tooth marks in the terracing. They’d probably have suspected Billy Whitehurst.
From WSC 151 September 1999. What was happening this month