LEAVING Newcastle United is a hard decision for any footballer, not least one who has supported the club all his life.
One player who faced such a heart-wrenching decision was Peter Ramage, who reluctantly left St James's Park last year in search of first-team football.
While the Queens Park Rangers defender, back at his old stomping ground for the first time tomorrow night, candidly admits he will never know whether he'd have had a more significant role had he stayed on Tyneside, he insists he has no regrets about heading south.
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Ramage found himself down the pecking order at the club after returning from a serious knee injury, and signed for Iain Dowie, Alan Shearer's assistant during his brief spell as manager at United, at Loftus Road.
"I feel I'm a better player, and I've grown up as a person," Ashington-born Ramage told the Gazette.
"I don't regret moving on. Maybe if I'd stayed I might have played a few games last season, and that's at the back of your mind, but I'm enjoying it down here.
"It's a fantastic bunch of lads – everyone sticks together and looks after each other."
However, the 25-year-old – who went to QPR as a specialist right-back, having been a centre-half at Newcastle – has found himself on the bench ahead of the one fixture, above all others, he wanted to play in at the start of the season.
Ramage said: "This is the fixture I looked for – I didn't care about the others!
"It's not only myself, but the other lads as well. Newcastle's a Premier League team, and it's like drawing them in the cup.
"It's been frustrating, and I've been itching to get on. If I start, I'll be looking forward to it more than any of the others.
"Everyone knows what the club means to me.
"If I'm not playing, I'll be supporting the lads and trying to gee them up. It's an old clich, but it's not about me. It's about the team getting a result, but if I play, then great."
Ramage has closely followed United's fortunes since he left the club, and while their start to the Championship season might have raised many eyebrows many given the turmoil off the field at St James's Park, Ramage isn't surprised, having shared a dressing room with many of Chris Hughton's side.
He added: "They've got experienced pros there who know how to do their jobs. They know how to put other things to the back of their minds and get on with the job.
"It's no surprise to me. I predicted they'd do well in the division.
"They've kept the nucleus from last season, which has been the key.
They've got players who know how to grind out results, and they've won games comfortably.
"And from a fan's point of view, I hope they keep going, apart from tomorrow night."
Ramage raced home after his team's 5-2 home win over Barnsley to watch the second half of Newcastle's 4-0 win at Ipswich.
"I watched the second half – I rushed home for it – and I was impressed with them," said Ramage. "Ipswich are a good team, no matter what their league position is.
"They weathered the storm, and scored goals at the right time. It was a great hat-trick from Kevin Nolan. They're scoring goals through the team."
Tributes were made to the late Sir Bobby Robson before, during and after the game on an emotional evening at Portman Road, and the former England manager was a huge influence on Ramage as he came up through the ranks at St James's Park.
He said: "I travelled a few times under him, and was also on the bench. He was a massive influence – I had my education under him.
"It was good to see the game played in the right spirit, and from a Newcastle point of view, they did a professional job and came away with the points."
Leaders United, two points clear at the top of the Championship, are favourites to collect another three points in midweek, but Ramage insists Jim Magilton's side, lying eighth, fancy their chances of an upset, having been beaten just once so far this season.
"The gaffer's philosophy is pass and move, and to get the ball down," said Ramage. "We've done that, and played some really good stuff.
"We outplayed Cardiff for 90 minutes, who are a really good Championship side. We did the same on Saturday, and we're going there full of confidence.
"Some of the players haven't played at St James's Park before, and they've been asking what it's like. They're looking forward to it as much as me."