Because Matt Watson-Broughton, unusual Geordie name or not, is a born-and-bred local who now resides a lot of the time in Hungary’s capital and works for, among others, the Hungarian Football Federation.
That has afforded him special privileges when writing a book ‘The Amazing Journey – How Newcastle United Conquered Europe’ recalling in fascinating two-way detail United’s amazing journey through the great clubs of Europe to claim the Fairs Cup of 1969.
Not only has Watson-Broughton written his work of love in a unique way through fictitious social gatherings of those who were there, but he has interviewed many closest to the action on both sides round by round.
United’s victors have their say as they must but players who took them on have been tracked down across a continent all these years later to produce a fascinating insight into how great battles unfolded. The outcome is a brave, different and fascinating account of what has gone down in Geordie folklore.
I have known Matt for a long while and he is very much one of us. Born in Newcastle’s General Hospital and brought up in Ponteland, his dad put a rugby ball in his cot as a baby but instead he changed tack and became a Magpie fan – his first season on the terraces was 88-89 when United were relegated!
He said: “I thought I would go to Budapest because that was where United lifted the European Fairs Cup against Ujpest Dozsa and I applied to work in the Hungarian Football Federation Press department between studies.”
They are now married and have two children. Who said Geordies are not quick workers?
I sat down with Watson-Broughton, who now splits his life between Budapest and Gosforth to talk of his experiences retracing United’s footsteps of 69. He added: “I interviewed more than 30 players from all six of our opponents which was fascinating and gave me an alternative view of the Fairs Cup that season.
“It meant travelling to Rotterdam, Zaragoza, Lisbon, Setubal, and Copenhagen to see Benny Arentoft.
“The most illuminating chat was perhaps the one I expected least from – Frans van der Heide was Feyenoord’s right-back who suffered so much at the hands of a rampant Geoff Allen.
“He could easily have refused but was instead an absolute gentleman.
“He invited me and my interpreter into his family home just before Christmas, wined and dined us with his wife and daughter’s family, signed autographs and talked at length about issues and characters involved in the Fairs Cup which we Newcastle fans would surely never have otherwise come to know.”
“There were few exceptions and I suppose the thought that another British side, Glasgow Rangers, perhaps nullified him most tells us one of the most important conclusions – foreign teams had no answer to our direct style of play with such a brave, effective standard-bearer up front.
The mighty Magyars of Ujpest were skippered by Janos Gorocs, named by Geordie World Cup winner Bobby Charlton no less as one of the best inside forwards he ever played against and the man who scored Ujpest’s second goal in Budapest which threatened to rip the trophy from United’s grip.
Gorocs has just enjoyed his 80th birthday – and at his party received a retro Magpie black and white striped shirt with the number 80 on the back presented by Watson-Broughton along with a copy of his book in Hungarian!
He added: “It was a special occasion because Janos is a legend at home and I wanted to remind him of a wonderful time for both clubs.”
Warming to a theme close to his heart and which has dominated his days for a good year now, he went on: “Contrary to my early expectations I discovered stories from every tie on my travels which rival each other for drama or humour.
“I can now see there was never a dull moment and that winning such a competitive tournament was a truly remarkable achievement.”
What intrigued me was his bravery in placing his characters in various genuine local settings to discuss match by match what went on.
“I wanted to do something different, to try to break the mould by placing our loved characters in a setting which was authentic and faithfully use their quotes to provide a narrative at a conceivable location where we would have all loved to have been present,” explained our author.