It hasn’t exactly been the best couple of weeks for football as far the game’s image is concerned.
Last week saw England’s under-21s racially abused in Serbia and Leeds United ‘fan’ Aaron Cawley attack Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Kirkland on the pitch at Hillsborough.
In and amongst the ‘banter’ flying about at the Tyne-Wear derby at the Stadium of Light on Sunday afternoon, some Sunderland fans decided to engage in a chorus of ‘Steven Taylor we wish you were dead’.
Newcastle United’s Senegalese striker, Demba Ba, was also apparently the subject of some racist abuse at the same game.
Add this to the fall out surrounding certain high-profile names refusing to wear t-shirts supporting the ‘Kick It out’ campaign and you get a pretty unsavoury chain of events.
The back pages have, in recent weeks, been dominated by stories that none of us really want to see making the news.
So, it is nice that I am able to report on the ‘beautiful game’ in a more positive light following my Europa League experience on Thursday evening.
This week’s travels took me to the Wonga Dome, sorry, I mean St James’ Park, for Newcastle’s clash with Club Brugge.
The game itself was nothing to get excited about, the Magpies rested most of their big guns and just about did enough to squeeze past the Belgians.
However, what went on before the game did impress me.
The sizeable and not inconspicuous travelling contingent mingled with the Toon Army in pubs and bars around the city in the hours prior to kick-off.
The drink flowed and songs were sung, but that, from what I saw, was about as far as it went - it was all very good natured and added to the event.
The atmosphere on the way into and inside the stadium was great.
That is what football is all about for me. I love games under floodlights on dark nights, especially European ties.
It is even better when you’ve got a noisy group of fans from the continent marching around singing ‘who are you?’ rather than ‘who are ya?’ and other amusing chants in their funny accents.
From what I saw, the fans of Club Brugge were a credit to their club, their nation and to football. The same goes for the Geordies.
You probably won’t read about it anywhere else in the media because nothing about the evening’s events off the pitch were scandalous or sensational, but sometimes that can be a good thing.
Lets hope that relations remain just as cordial when the Toon make the trip across the Channel in a few weeks time.
If the final score is also the same, that is fine with me too.
Agree with Rhys or not? Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter @howell_rm