PETER JACKSON realises more than most just how much Newcastle United supporters long for success.
That's why the former Toon Army favourite will be hoping for a victory over Manchester United in tomorrow's second FA Cup semi-final at the Millennium Stadium (2.00).
The former centre-back spent two years at Newcastle after joining them from Bradford for £250,000 in September 1986.
He realised the day he signed what a big club they are.
"People turned out at the stadium and the training ground to wish me good luck, and I soon realised just how passionate the Geordie fans are," he said.
"It's a cliche, but they really do live and breathe football.
"There are two teams in that city - Newcastle United and Newcastle United Reserves.
"The stadium seems to tower above the city centre and the whole place is black and white.
"You'd never see anyone walking around in a Liverpool, Arsenal or Manchester United shirt - they probably wouldn't last long if they tried it! - and while the passion of the fans brings it's own pressure, it makes Newcastle United a fanstastic club to play for.
"As long as you give 100%, they back you to the hilt, and I was lucky enough to win a Player of the Year award.
"It was given out by the supporters, and it's still something I treasure."
Jackson, who left St James' to return to Bradford for £290,000 in September 1988 with 72 Magpies appearances under his belt, was disappointed to see his old club crash out of the UEFA Cup in Lisbon on Thursday.
"They have this knack of getting close but never quite making it, and that only adds to the fans' hunger," he added.
"They've got to a few finals and been below par, but they haven't won anything major since the Fairs Cup in 1969, so it's been a long wait.
"Hopefully it will end this season with an FA Cup win."
Jackson, who keeps in touch with Magpies goalkeeper Steve Harper, the man he brought to Town on loan during the 1997-98 Great Escape season, will also be keen to catch up on news of today's first semi.
Blackburn, whose squad includes Town old boy Jon Stead, were taking on Arsenal, also down in Cardiff (12.15).
Stead was hoping to pip Paul Dickov to a place in the Rovers starting line-up.
Rovers were hoping to reach the first FA Cup final since 1960, when they lost 3-0 to Wolves.
It's 77 years since they last lifted the trophy, beating Town 3-1 in a big upset in the 1928 final at Wembley.