Fairs Cup 1969 Tony Rodgers

Tont get his hands on the cup As soon as Newcastle qualified for the Fairs Cup Final, my brother Mick and I decided to go to the away leg in Budapest whatever the result of the home match. We booked to travel on the Official Newcastle Supporters Club trip and set about getting the necessary paperwork. Hungary was, at that time, still very much part of the communist bloc and behind the iron curtain.

After Newcastle's 3-0 victory in the first leg there was a rush for tickets, but the Hungarian/Russian authorities would only allow us one British Caledonian charter flight. After pressure from Newcastle United and the travel company Hunting Lambert a second plane from the Russian airline Aeroflot was allowed. This second plane was arranged at such notice that most of the fans travelling on it arrived in Budapest without the necessary visas which led to much fun and games at the airport.

The itinerary for our official supporters' trip consisted of match ticket, transport to and from Newcastle airport, transport to and from Budapest airport, transport to and from the match, a city sight seeing tour and two meals in the Astoria hotel, one of the best in Budapest and still mentioned in some present day guides. The total cost including the return rail fare from London was the princely sum of £35. At that time my wages were approximately £24 a week before deductions.

On arrival in Budapest and after checking in at the hotel it was time for a stroll downtown to the 'Grey' Danube then back for a meal and out for a few pre-match beers. We quickly discovered a huge difference in the prices of drinks. In a local bar with waitress service a round of five draught beers cost less than one bottle in the hotel. When we boarded the coaches to the match everyone was in high spirits due to the confidence created by the first leg result and the beers.

The match was, as everyone knows a dramatic affair. The first half was a nightmare with Newcastle fortunate to be only two goals down leaving us to fear the worst. All was to change following Joe Harvey's famous half time team talk: "All you have to do is score a goal and these foreigners will collapse like a pack of ****ing cards." This despite Newcastle not really having crossed me halfway line for 45 minutes. Sure enough that is exactly what happened after Bob Moncur scored early in the second half. Newcastle ran out comfortable winners. Good old Joe.

At the final whistle we made our way down to the pitch side for the presentation of the cup. The Ujpest fans were generous in their applause and accepted that the better team had won. Although the home fans were friendly one did run off with my scarf. I gave chase and persuaded him to give it back which he did with a smile and a handshake. That same scarf was stolen a few years later by an Everton supporter; no use chasing a scouser, I would probably have ended up with a punch in the face or worse.

After the game Mick, myself; Bill McEwan and Alan Robinson, the Chairman and secretary of the supporters club and a couple of other fans left the official coaches and took two taxis to the hotel where the players were staying, hoping to see them arrive with the trophy.

few other fans were there and about 12-15 of us sat round a table and beers were ordered. A waitress arrived with the drinks and put down the bill. A fat chap in an expensive looking leather jacket [I don't think it was a young Freddie S] picked it up and said, "That comes to about £5 that's not bad." and paid it. Now £5 was a lot of money in those days, a pint of beer in England cost about 2 shillings [10 pence]. There was no way any of us could afford a round so we sat sipping our drinks wondering what to do next. I asked Alan Robinson who our fat friend was. He's a flash bastard - he's a season ticket holder". Season Ticket holder = Flash, how times have changed. News then came through that the players weren't coming as they'd gone to an official reception. We decided to go back into town and ordered two taxies. Just as they arrived our coach party arrived. They had been to a wine tasting. We told them that the players weren't coming and were about to board the coaches when a member of the hotel staff said we had ordered the taxis and had to pay for them. Quick as flash Alan Robinson told them the fat man in the leather jacket, now at the bar on his own, had ordered them and that he would pay.

Back in town we ended up in a nightclub where we were taken upstairs. Our coats were put in a cloakroom and we were shown to a table on which were placed two bowls of peanuts. We ordered beers but the manager insisted we have champagne to celebrate the Newcastle victory. An argument took place - we wanted beer, the manager said champagne only. Fearing we would be conned we decided to leave but they would not let us out until we had paid the cloakroom attendant for the peanuts!

By now it was getting late and we opted to return to the hotel where we found a basement bar where a small band was playing. More Geordies arrived and we soon had the band accompanying us to a few choruses of Blaydon Races, other North East tunes and various football songs. "Noel Noel Noel Noel Wyn is the King of Newcassell", "He's here, he's there he's every ****in' where McNamee, McNamee" and "Frank Clark knew my father" are a few that come to mind. As always when the alcohol takes effect people who can sing and some who only think they can sing take the microphone to give a rendition of their particular favourite song. One lady, after giving a rousing performance of her favourite number, suddenly turned round and was sick into the ice bucket at an adjoining table. I think that got a bigger cheer than the song.

When the party finally broke up a few of us stepped outside as dawn was breaking. We thought about taking a stroll but decided enough was enough, BED was calling.

Later that morning after the beer, the duty free spirits we had brought down to the bar from our rooms and about 25 cigarettes my mouth felt like the bottom of a bird cage and I felt severely dehydrated. I drank around 10 glasses of fruit juice and three pots of tea with breakfast. There was no way I could face a two hour sight seeing tour of the city. However in those days I could bounce back. I was after all a relatively young man [29 if you must know] and after some packing we were off down the town to the banks of the 'Grey Danube' for a few beers before setting off to the airport for the journey back to Newcastle.

The only disappointment for what was a memorable trip was that the team left on an earlier flight so by the time we arrived back we had missed the victory parade and the presentation of the Fairs Cup at a packed St James' Park.

Mick and I met up with a couple of friends for something to eat and a few beers in what seemed a strangely subdued city. [I am sure the next time Newcastle win a trophy the partying will go on much longer]. Then it was the overnight train back to Kings Cross.

Although we missed the homecoming celebrations, Mick, myself and a few hundred other fans who went to Budapest on that day in June 1969 can say, "We were there when Newcastle last won a trophy."

©1969 Tony Rodgers

Newcastle United Supporters Club London

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