In the mid-1990s, Kevin Keegan brought sporting romance and expectation of trophies to Newcastle, Sunderland moved to the Stadium of Light backed by a wealthy consortium, Middlesbrough signed one of the best Brazilians of the era and won their first major trophy – even little Darlington had a former safe-cracker turned kitchen magnate in charge, promising the world. The region even provided England’s two key players in Euro 96 in Alan Shearer and Paul Gascoigne – the far corner seemed destined to become the centre of England’s footballing world. But it never happened.
Using travels to and from matches in the 2018-19 season, The Farther Corner will explore the changes in north-east football and society over the past twenty-five years. Visiting new places and some familiar ones, catching the stories, the sentiment and the sound of the supporters, locating where football now sits in the life of a region that was once proud to be what John Arlott suggested was ‘The Hotbed of Soccer’, it will be about love and loss and the happiness to be found eating KitKats and joking about Bobby Mimms on cold February days in coal-scented northern air. The region may have been left behind in the Champions League stakes, but few would doubt the power of its beating heart.