A 'once-in-a-lifetime opportunity'
The Toon Army is coming to Wellington, and one pub manager is set to make the Newcastle United fans feel right at home.
Four Kings sports bar manager Alistair Craib is transforming the Dixon St pub into The Strawberry, the pub outside Newcastle's St James' Park ground where supporters go before and after games.
The transformation will be checked out for authenticity by a Newcastle United legend. Bobby Moncur, who captained the team last time they won a major trophy, back in 1969, will be at the bar to meet fans before the game against the Wellington Phoenix on Saturday.
Seeing Newcastle, known as the Magpies, play in New Zealand would be a huge thrill for fans, Craib said.
"A lot of us expats don't get to see them very often any more, and for some this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said.
The Football United Tour games were special because fans got to watch some of the club's new signings, such as Siem De Jong and Emmanuel Riviere, before the English Premier League season started.
Craib believed De Jong and Riviere were two of the best signings the club had made in years. "Now we expect the team to finish in the top six next season."
Fans were also looking forward to watching Jack Colback, signed from Newcastle's biggest rivals, Sunderland.
Craib, who travelled to Dunedin to watch the Magpies beat Sydney on Tuesday night, said the atmosphere was great but it was likely to explode at Westpac Stadium.
The Toon Army plan to go head-to-head with the Phoenix fans, singing their anthem Blaydon Races and other chants. "We will make ourselves heard," Craib said. "The Toon Army are the best fans in the world."
But there was little fanfare for the team's millionaire players when they arrived at Wellington Airport - just one fan was there to greet them.
Australian Doug Haughey had actually been on their flight from Dunedin - but was too nervous to speak to them.
Haughey, of Perth, travelled to New Zealand to watch the team play because it was cheaper than a flight to England.
A Magpies fan for 20 years, he could not believe his luck when the team got on the same plane.
He was too star-struck to talk to them, however. "Being in such a small place, I got close to the players, which is unusual. I didn't want to encroach on their space, but during the flight I did talk with assistant manager John Carver."
MEET THE TEAMS
Fans can meet and greet players from West Ham United, Newcastle United, Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC at Midland Park tomorrow from 1pm to 2pm.
They can also attend any of the open training sessions:
TODAY 10.30am-midday: Newcastle at Newtown Park
TOMORROW 9.30-10.30am: Phoenix at Westpac Stadium 11am-midday: West Ham at Westpac Stadium 10.30am-midday: Newcastle at Newtown Park
HOW TO SPEAK GEORDIE
Four Kings sports bar manager Alistair Craib provides some translations for Wellingtonians meeting Newcastle fans:
Toon = town (specifically Newcastle)
Mortal = drunk
Neet = night
Teem = pour
Oot = out
Way Aye = yes
Nowt = nothing
Nee = no
Hyem = home
Guannin = going
Linney Howay = come on
Marra = friend or workmate
Pet = a term of endearment
Lads/lass = boy/girl
Mackem = Sunderland fan
The Dominion Post