So, that’s visits to St James’ Park over until August with only a trip to Anfield next weekend for the sado-masochists amongst our number. We can’t say where our final PL position will be for certain but 11th is the lowest we’ll finish. Be still my beating heart.
The game with Cardiff was just plain dull. On another day against players who could finish, we’d have lost that match given the sitters they missed. But that wasn’t the main talking point of the match.
The game against Cardiff marked the largest show of dissent against those running our club since the Hull City game back in 2009. I’ve not seen as many anti-Ashley/Pardew flags at games since then and I’ve not heard as unified and heartfelt chanting against those supposedly running our club as we did in the Cardiff match. I’ve not known a Newcastle United manager unable to leave his place in the dug-out because of the cacophony of booing that greeted the sight of him. Let’s get it right, that is why John Carver was on the touchline. Pardew was unable to do his job because supporters have lost whatever confidence or patience they once had in him. His position looks untenable.
The protests themselves need to be put into context. This season there was a protest march held before the Liverpool game which attracted around 5-600 and finished with speeches in Leazes Park. Then there was the attempt to demonstrate by holding up covers of The Chronicle before the Chelsea game. That was the dampest of damp squibs and flopped completely. A few weeks ago an open top bus parade was arranged as an ironic jibe at the club’s mediocre ambition. None of those protests can be claimed to have mobilised a substantial section of our support, the majority of which, in my opinion now has deep misgivings at how our club is being led.
In that context the staged walk-outs were an outstanding success and I’d estimate around 7000 deliberately left the match early and a game we were winning 1-0. There is visual evidence all over the internet of the numbers that walked out and the protests preceding them. This was a definite and significant ramping up of protest against the Ashley regime at Newcastle United. It might have lacked the drama and mass-support that many wanted but this was a substantial step forward for those who want to highlight the damage being done to our club.
Those that did not take part in the protests or who remained after the 69th minute are not the enemies of Newcastle United. They are supporters like you and I. There should be no division between us. In my experience of organised protest no-one has ever changed their mind or been won over to an argument by being harangued, abused, shouted at or insulted. That is not what any of us committed to organised protest at Ashley’s trashing of our club should be about. We all have a responsibility to persuade by force of reason, with evidence and respect for fellow supporters about what this man is doing to our club. Persuading our fellow supporters about the need for sustained protest and what it can achieve is our responsibility and we should do it in the correct manner. The word is respect.
I’m disappointed some friends of mine who are as Black & White as any chose not to leave yesterday. I didn’t persuade them it was the right thing to do. I failed on this occasion whereas with others I succeeded. I’m not going to insult them or attempt to question their credentials as supporters because that is plainly ludicrous. Nor they, mine. At the moment they aren’t persuaded. I won’t give up, I’ll continue to present the arguments as best I can and I’ll also listen and I’ll reflect upon what they say and respect that. Then I’ll attempt to refine my argument to account for their views and try again.
Supporting Newcastle United under Mike Ashley is an exercise in joyless defeatism – it is corporate football of the worst possible type. I don’t want to be writing these laments every week for an unending time into the future. I’d like to be discussing big games, fantastic moments, dreams, ambitions, debating the merits of players, formations, tactics and everything else we should be doing as fans. Neither do I want to be defending myself and others from wild accusations following an intervention NUST made supported by both this fanzine and The Mag made last week in what was judged to be a calculated effort to raise the profile of the planned walk-outs on Saturday. Fair play to whoever had the original idea of a walk-out. I’m unclear whose idea it was and where it appeared but it existed somewhere either on a message-board or elsewhere on social media and had received a cursory bit of attention in the national and local media.
By Thursday there had been little in the way of mainstream coverage of what was planned. I’m aware it was rattling around in social media but whilst Twitter, Facebook etc. are useful tools to get messages out for vast sections of our support and the mainstream media, they are just not all that.
To get a story in the media takes nous and what journalists like is a bit of an angle, a story if you like. I’m aware there was a call for a 60-minute walk-out but why 60 minutes? What meaning did that have? So, for better for worse, to catch the eye of news-desks a decision was made to push the 69 minute angle, in reference to the year we last won a trophy and thus highlight the club’s suffocating lack of ambition and even desire to win another. For that, we faced something of a reaction with various persons known and unknown over-reacting to what they perceived as a hijacking of a campaign that was already underway.
The problem with that allegation is it was difficult for those who aren’t engaged with social media (and many don’t even know what it is) there was no campaign. It wasn’t until Friday that the media picked up on NUST’s press release (69th minute walk-out) and as a result of that every major news desk in the UK and beyond picked up on it giving it the publicity that it desperately needed. Any half decently organised supporters group could have come together and got behind it and co-ordinated it but they hadn’t.
Following NUST’s press release, supported by true faith and The Mag, the following news agencies picked up on it – BBC, ITV, SKY, BT News, The Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian, The Mirror, The Mail and it was also going across agencies in the Middle East, Australia etc.. I’ve just watched Gary Lineker on MOTD reference the 69th minute walk-out and Alan Shearer respond with a wholly honest and accurate assessment about where our collective heads are at as a group of supporters. He just needs to stop calling Man U “United” and he’ll be back in our good books.
So, without that intervention from NUST, the walk-out might have been a complete wash-out. Again, social media is great, occasionally enjoyable but it doesn’t reach the parts that some others can reach. I’ll stop before I go all Carlsberg adverts on you.
I’ve described following United in recent years as one big ball-ache and it certainly is when allegations are made of “ego”, “hidden agendas” and seeking the glory. In terms of ego, if I can let on about how things work with those of us who knock out fanzines etc. I can honestly say, seldom a week goes by without getting a request from the press or TV to appear or speak on some programme or another. I knock virtually all of them back and happily some now don’t even bother asking. Mark Jensen (The Mag) is the same and Biffa at nufc.com would hide in the hills of Tora Bora rather than go on the telly. In terms of the NUST, none of the board so far as I can see fancies themselves as a TV star. Ego? I don’t really think so.
Hidden agenda? Well, it’s pretty well hidden because I don’t know where it is or what it is.
To quote the great Stephen Patrick Morrissey, these are “heavy words, lightly thrown”. I think if anyone is going to make an accusation of that type then it helps if there is actually some real hard evidence to back it up rather than an enigmatic, knowing wink over a metaphorical pint as if the person passing the comment is in possession of some devastating cachet of information. Hidden agenda? Really? Please enlighten us?
As for stealing the glory (what glory?) or hijacking a campaign, all I’d say to that is it hadn’t reached the campaign stage and that is no disrespect to whoever had the original idea and the motivation. It really was a good idea and in the final reckoning, it did work. In these circumstances the likes of us at true faith and others are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. We will get involved and promote campaigns if we judge them to be the right things to do. This fanzine doesn’t fulfil a role of supporters representatives and nor do we claim to be. There are some campaigns or stunts we judge to be a bit crap so we have nowt to do with them and others we think are right and do. They are editorial decisions. Sometimes we’ll get criticism for not getting involved in one thing but for backing others. That comes with the territory. You might judge us right or wrong and that’s your call.
But back to the here and now! Back to that word, respect! I can say hand on heart I do not believe any Newcastle United supporter is an enemy of the football club we all support. I can happily accept I am not everyone’s cup of tea and that they may disagree with what I do or don’t do with true faith. I am perfectly fine with that. I have a little more difficulty with lies, character assassination, smears and innuendo from those who cannot, through force of reason, persuade me and others that what they want support for is the right thing. As if I am such the big deal to be convinced by the way. Just get on with it is my advice. To return to a point made above (you are still awake by the way?) and that is people are seldom likely to change their mind, be persuade through abuse, vilification and smears.
There are some who get off on that kind of shite but it all it does harden opinions.
Where do we go from here? Our club needs a massive injection in the summer if the sorry form of the last 18 games isn’t going to carry into next season. As we stand now, I’d suggest we need a Left-back, a central defender, two quality creative midfielders and a winger as well as at least two strikers. That’s just for the first team without addressing the absence of strength in depth we have. Personally, I don’t get a hard-on about how much money a player costs – after all we got Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye for peanuts between them and they were excellent for us. If the club can pull those rabbits out of the hat then great. But United does need to spend money and it does need to hold on to the likes of Krul, Debuchy and Tiote. I don’t think United will even attempt to retain Remy and I’d prefer not to have my intelligence insulted by Alan Pardew they are even bothering to try.
I believe our pay-bill for wages needs to increase if we are to recruit the calibre of players and the number we need. I also believe we need to recruit some players from the UK and Ireland who will understand what this league is about and the football culture they play in. Sometimes there is a premium on that.
Will that happen? I have my doubts and the evidence for that is what has gone down in every transfer window under Ashley bar one (and only then because our PL status was in question).
I fear Ashley’s intentions towards the club are nowhere near what they should be and further what we will see this summer will be tantamount to a simple re-arranging of the deck-chairs on the Titanic.
I do not doubt there will be some player-trading but this is in marked contrast to the squad and team-building it should be. I suspect Ashley will be looking at the margins on those deals and gaining from them. At best, we’ll start next season in the same clip we started this – perhaps upholstered by some loan signings as we attempt to manipulate that market. I fear Pardew will promise things that won’t happen in the summer and he’ll be left fronting it out, grimacing a smile at media whilst our support becomes ever more hateful. It’s all entirely unsatisfactory.
The club requires investment but it all requires respect and straightforward love from those who run it. It needs to be recognised and nurtured for what it is i.e. a sporting institution which forms a big part of our Geordie identity and is an expression of our civic pride. It is a lot more than a revenue stream, numbers on a spreadsheet or an advertising opportunity for Mike Ashley. The club needs its soul saving.
What can be done? That is the really difficult part but Saturday was an indication that whatever happens, we should not allow our club to be trashed by Mike Ashley. Saturday gone wasn’t the storming of the Winter Palace but it was a first and a real indication that our support might just be getting up off its knees at last.
Have a great week.