Meet the ‘Blackbirds’: Adam Radwan’s all-female fan club is a player sponsor like no other

Meet the ‘Blackbirds’: Adam Radwan’s all female fan club is a player sponsor like no other
Left to right - Gillian Watson, Lynne Crowe, Adam Radwan, Christine Powell and Isabel Fleming - Lynne Crowe

Scrolling down the player profile of Adam Radwan on Newcastle Falcons’ website, and all is in order. There is the usual information: favourite food – “chicken parmo, chips, garlic mayonnaise”; date of birth, height, weight – 86kg which, given the speedy wing’s preferred grub, must require an awful lot of training to maintain – as well as his ideal holiday destination of the Seychelles and his passion of fly fishing.

Alongside those snippets, however, is a fairly nondescript logo. It reads simply: ‘The Blackbirds’. Plain white writing on a black background – mirroring the Falcons’ own palette. A pub? No. A local ornithological group? Not that, either. The Blackbirds – almost definitely the only group of its kind in the Premiership – are a group of four long-standing Newcastle fans, with no business interest in the Falcons, who clubbed together to sponsor a player. First, it was former full-back Simon Hammersley and, when he left for Sale, the quartet snapped up Radwan.

“They have sponsored me for a few years now,” Radwan tells Telegraph Sport. “They are local supporters – at all the games. Four of them. They’re great and I see them after all the matches. They travel home and away. They’re brilliant. And it’s great to see them. When we win they’re always happy and when we lose they’re there to pick me up.

“It’s ultimately [a syndicate]. They used to sponsor Simon; for the whole time he was here. When he left, my sponsor stopped sponsoring me so they were quite keen to snap me up. I’ve had them for four or five years now.”

Meet the ‘Blackbirds’: Adam Radwan’s all female fan club is a player sponsor like no other
Falcons wing Adam Radwan breaks the tackle of Exeter player Will Haydon-Wood - Getty Images/Stu Forster

But why Radwan? And why the name ‘Blackbirds’? Thankfully, Telegraph Sport has tracked down the quartet to answer such questions. Gillian Watson, Lynne Crowe, Christine Powell and Isabel Fleming are long-standing Falcons fans, travelling home and away to support their Geordie gems. Season-ticket holders all, they have made a name for themselves as vociferous denizens of Kingston Park’s south stand. Silent partner’s of Radwan they might be, but only metaphorically.

“We’re not silent!” says Powell. “In the stand, we’re known as the sponsors that go ‘woo’.”

“The guy who used to run the sponsorship at Newcastle was leaving,” adds Crowe. “We had told him that we were thinking of sponsoring and he said that we could get it done quickly before he left. He asked us what we wanted to call ourselves and we were throwing names around.

“We looked at initials, and nothing jumped out, and nothing worked with Angels. We said we’d let him know, but then a few days later the contract came through and it just said ‘Blackbirds’. That was that. When Simon moved on, Falcons sent us a list of the available players. We already knew Adam – it was no contest! We were gobsmacked that his name was on the list and we said, ‘Quick, quick, let’s get in!’”

Powell continues: “At one point, we had ‘Adam’s aunties’ but Lynne didn’t like that. We had ‘South Stand Sister Act’, too, but we thought it made us sound like a load of nuns!”

The group could not be happier with their business, either.

“I saw Adam last Thursday at a testimonial do for an ex-player,” says Crowe. “He came over to chat. He always comes over after matches – home or away – for a chat. At Kingston Park, we might be upstairs having a drink after the match and he’ll come over. He introduced us to his family, his fiancée. Every year, there’s a sponsors’ do and you have your player – and maybe a couple of others – on your table with you. He’s so easy to get on with. He’s got a good heart. And we’re very lucky to have him. He’s such a good guy – as well as an excellent player.”

That Radwan is. The Blackbirds’ choice was an astute one. The 25-year-old has developed into one of the Premiership’s most devastating wings; arguably the most agile and quickest that the league possesses. Such superhuman qualities caught the eye of former England head coach, Eddie Jones, in 2021 leading to two caps, with a hat-trick on debut. Since then, however, the international call-ups have dried up; Radwan is yet to feature in even a Steve Borthwick training squad.

Newcastle’s form this season has “frustrated” the wing – last Sunday’s narrow home loss to Exeter, in front of the Blackbirds, was “not the first game which felt like the one that got away” – but he is convinced that the Falcons are not far away. Radwan is determined, too, to force his way back into Borthwick’s thoughts ahead of the 2024 Six Nations.

“I’ve got things to work on – which is good,” he says. “I’m excited to get stuck in and work on them. But [Borthwick] also wants me to use my strength – my speed – as often as I can, with or without the ball. I’ve got plenty to work on and coaches at Newcastle are helping me a lot. I’m keen to keep grafting and force my way into that squad.

“The World Cup was great to watch. Ultimately that’s why you play the game, because you want to be in squads that are in those competitions. Fuel for the fire, for definite.”

Whether in the white of England or the black and white of Newcastle, one thing is certain: Radwan’s Blackbirds will never be far away.