From Russia with Love .... for the Toon
Newcastle United fans are renowned for being passionate about their team and Darren Amers is certainly living up to that stereotype.
The past fortnight has seen the 41-year-old from Ayton take that loyalty to new extremes as he follows the club on its Europa League adventure.
First up was a 1,650 mile trip to eastern Ukraine to watch the Magpies play against Metalist Kharkiv.
And having safely negotiated that fixture thanks to a Shola Ameobi penalty, next up tonight is the first leg of the last-16 tie with mega-rich Anzhi Makhachkala in Moscow’s 70,000 capacity Luzhniki Stadium.
Sandwiched in between have been Premier League games at home to Southampton and away to Swansea.
“The last couple of weeks have been hectic even by my standards,” admits the married dad-of-two. “It’s taken quite a bit of organising given the flights involved and the visas required.”
Then there’s the costs to consider which are enough to make the eyes water.
“The Ukraine trip cost about £500 and Moscow is about £1,000,” said self-employed Darren, who grew up in Berwick.
“I reckon it probably costs me £5,000 or £6,000 going to watch Newcastle in a regular season but the travel involved this season has been exceptional.
“It’s cost me over £10,000 already with the European games with a fair bit more on top if we make it all the way to the final in Amsterdam.”
Fortunately he has an understanding wife who was well aware of Darren’s commitment to the black and white cause.
“Paula knows what I’m like - we’ve been married 15 years now and I was just the same back then. I just have to make sure I make up for it when I am at home.
“I even had to get my wedding date changed when Newcastle got to the FA Cup Final against Arsenal in 1998!”
Importantly, he now has an ally in the home in his 11-year-old son Ben who is also a regular at St James’ Park for home games.
Darren has been a season ticket holder for more than 20 years.
His European adventure began in 1994 when a Robert Lee hat-trick helped Newcastle to a 5-0 win over Belgian side Antwerp in the UEFA Cup.
There have probably been more lows than highs on the road since then but that doesn’t seem to matter to Darren.
“We do lose our fair share but what can you do?
“People call me daft and I can’t really argue with that. I know it’s like an addiction but it’s great to follow them home and away.”
The Metalist game involved a drive to Stansted Airport for a flight to Istanbul where he waited seven hours for a connection to Kharkiv.
He was staying in the same 6-star hotel as the players and had his picture taken with some of them.
He arrived back in the UK just in time to see the 4-2 win over Southampton.
Last Saturday then saw him catch a flight from Edinburgh to Bristol and a train to Swansea to watch his team go down 1-0 at the Liberty Stadium, a trip costing a further £200.
After a brief trip back to the Borders, Darren was off on his travels again on Tuesday morning to catch an early flight from Newcastle to Brussels for an onward connection to Moscow.
A further indication of the organisation involved is that he arranged for the fast-track visa he required, costing another £230, to be delivered to his hotel in Swansea.
“We even booked our flights to Moscow while we were still in Ukraine because we knew they’d be far cheaper than trying to get them from the UK,” said Darren.
He doesn’t often manage much sight-seeing, preferring to spend time with fellow fans in the pub, but says it might be different this time around.
“It’s not every day you get to go to a place like Moscow and I don’t travel back until Friday night so you never know, I might manage to see a bit of the city!”
Then it will be the familiar 70-mile trip down the A1 again on Sunday when the lads face Stoke City at St James’ Park.
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Weather for Duns
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 2 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 21 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 9 mph
Wind direction: West