The legendary Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly once claimed “football isn’t a matter of life and death – its more important than that”. I have no doubt for one moment that Shankly, part of a generation who had lived through WW2, the deprivations of the 1930s and hewn from West of Scotland mining stock so similar to the North East never actually believed any of that. I guess it was tongue in cheek and intended to underline the obsession he and many others had and continue to have for the best game in the world.
I was reminded of Shankly’s famous quote last week and how empty it sounds at the loss of John Alder and Liam Sweeney, who whilst innocently crossing the world to follow Newcastle United were killed as a result of a conflict which had nothing to do with them and which they knew little about I’d guess. Whatever the geo-political tensions at play here, the human tragedy from a murderous decision to send a missile towards a passenger jet, MH17 is now being played out amongst the friends and family of John and Liam right now. As well as the many others on board that flight.
In these circumstances it is difficult to know what to do, how to express sorrow and respect for people, who whilst our fellow-supporters are by and large unknown to us. We feel something different to the visceral grief experienced by those closest to John and Liam. But we do feel.
Whilst whoever made the decision to shoot down a passenger flight filed with innocent men, women and children for no good reason shows the worst facet of man’s barbarity, the response in the North East to the tragedy has been moving and shown the best of us.
Firstly, as an arch-critic of how Newcastle United operates and is led I cannot say anything other than the club has responded very well to the tragedy and I congratulate them for that.
Secondly, Newcastle United supporters have responded generally very, very well and via just about every platform available have hit the right tone in sending condolences to the families and friends of John and Liam.
Perhaps most moving however, has been the response from Sunderland supporters to the tragedy.
Throughout my life supporting Newcastle United (I attended my first derby in 1976) our derby matches and relationship with the Wearsiders has become steadily worse. I have no doubt that but for crypto-military levels of policing, restrictions on tickets and all the rest of it, lives would have been lost had the worst of both sets of of our supporters been allowed free reign over the last 30-40 years. Thank God that has never happened. I have never experienced the intense rivalry played out between the clubs without bitterness and bile between the supporters. Up until the mid-60s it was possible for supporters to mix at derby matches without attempting to tear each other apart.
That said, there will be many of you reading this who have life-long friendships with Sunderland fans and for my own part, I will happily confess to knowing “Mackems” of the most partisan I am proud to call my friends and others who I would regard as the salt of the earth. There are supporters of our own club who I do not have the timeof day for. Anyone who equates the character of someone on the basis of the football club they support is seriously lacking in grey matter.
I have long recoiled at descriptions, used by supporters describing each other as “scum” or “filth”. Its been almost as if to show your credentials as a supporter, you have to have to be venomous towards your neighbours. Its a lot of nonsense.
The tributes and donations made to contribute to funeral costs and flowers as well as charitable donations has been spontaneous and genuine. They have served to underscore the inherent decency of people in the North East, our natural solidarity with each other and the empathy felt at the losss of two lads going to follow their football club. These types of tragedies are entirely random. People know, it could have been them and vice-versa.
I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever had the fortunes been reversed, Newcastle United supporters would have reacted in exactly the same way.
In terms of our relationships with Sunderland, I wonder if we have reached a watershed moment. If the nadir in our rivalry with them was an idiot punching a horse outside the Gallowgate End, I do feel as though a small step forward was made when supporters of both clubs joined to oppose the Northumbria Police-inspired “bubble-trip” for the derbies in January.
Who knows? But I do know that whilst we have seen the worst of humanity in the Ukraine, we have seen the best of it in the North East of England.
We all enjoy the intense, unique rivalry with Sunderland. Real football fans can take the rough with the smooth. I’ve had great nights out after derby wins as I’m sure they have too. I hope we never lose that passion to get ione over on the other but I would like to think well-behaved Sunderland fans could walk through our city centre to SJP just like any other sets of fans and vice-versa down there. In truth and let’s be honest, going to the away derby hasn’t been any fun for a while because of the nature of the policing and the rest of the restrictions.
We must not forget the kindnesses of Sunderland supporters and the respect they have shown at the loss of two of our own. We must not allow the idiots on either side who will in the weeks to come look to score points and re-ignite hatreds. They must be marginalised.
Not that any of this will matter to the families of John and Liam. Football and the passions it enflames are small beer to them. We must remember this is a personal tragedy for them and we must respect their loss and remember this isn’t an abstract loss of strangers, for them it is jarringly real. The tributes made and the donations are marvellous but it must not become mawkish, maudlin or worst of all, showy. This sad occassion must be dignified.
That of course is just my opinion, I don’t have or seek to have any authority over how any of this develops – no-one does .
The world goes on and so so does Newcastle United Football Club.
Last week we played the first of our pre-season matches away at Oldham. The game was arranged I have no doubt whatsoever as part of Mike Ashley’s promotion of his businesses given the relationship he has established with the Boundary Park club. The club is travelling to New Zealand not to promote Newcastle United but as part of Ashley’s expansion plans for his businesses. This is what Newcastle United is about and what it means to Mike Ashley.
Obviously, we all give big Geordie welcomes to the lads joining the club this week –Remy Cabella, Daryl Janmaat and Emmanuel Riviere. Everyone at true fait wishes these three lads all the very, very best and like every other Mag hopes tyhey have a long and successful career with United as well as enjoy living in our comunity.
Welcome though the new lads clearly are, I don’t think anyone should be getting carried away we are on the cusp of some kind of new era under Mike Ashley. We have pulled in around £32m from the sales of Cabaye and Debuchy and we have spent probably a little less than that this summer. You have to ask if Cabella will be as good as Cabaye or if Janmaat will be as good as Debuchy. Similarly, you have to ask, were the club not to make any further purchases if Riviere will be as good as Remy?
In this place I made the claim that this summer would see some player-trading but no real squad building and certainly no strategy to make real progress next season in all the competitions we enter. You might argue Colback will be an improvement on Gosling and Perez should be nowhere near the fierst team following his move from Spain this summer in the short term. For me, Riviere should be viewed as a replacement for Shola and the club still has business to do in bringing another striker in. With Mbwia unwanted and likely to be on his way, United needs to sign a new central defender and preferably of the powerful in the air type. When we sign those two whilst keeping Krul, Tiote and Sissoko, I’ll concede some progress has been made. Not until then.
By all accounts, Hatem Ben Arfa has been fined for returning to pre-season training overweight. For me, he has looked to have been out of condition for 18 months. He now has no squad number and like Marveaux is training with the U-21s. He has no future at Newcastle United. Where he goes now is unclear but I doubt it is up the football ladder. And that would be something his acolytes in the stands should think on. HBA has squandered his own talent. Its too lazy and easy to claim he has been Pardewed. I doubt the manager or any of his coaches was telling him to eat too much and not to go out running over the summer. If Pardew has been bad for HBA then so has Laurent Blanc currently manager at PSG and Didier Deschamps currently the France national team manager – both of which HBA has managed to have disputes with in his stunted career.
The simple truth of the matter is, no matter HBA’s talent, he is unprofessional off the pitch and unreliable on it. Those who mourn his talent being wasted and blame the manager are ignoring the opportunities HBA has been given at United to step up to the plate and become the main man. He has not grasped those opportunities and I find it embarassing that those who value his talent so much continue to blame the manager for it all going wrong with HBA. It is down to the player to control his weight. It is a real shame but it is best that he leaves and starts again.
Conclusions can’t fail to be drawn that The Sun is now another of United’s media partners. The Sun was the only newspaper invited to the announcement of Remy Cabella’s arrival at the club (bizarrely announced during the World Cup Final). This is another reason to fall out of love with Newcastle United. There is not a worse newspaper imaginable for our club to be associated with and almost immediately we can see the reasons why. As The Mirror’s Simon Bird identified, The Sun has been doing some well, er, generous reporting of Mike Ashley already. One of the reasons submitted by The Sun as to why Ashley is a good guy really, is because we don’t like him. So, there you go, a reference for Ashley is our disapproval and that really tells you everything about that newspaper’s position towards the community that supports Newcastle United.
Of course that is far from the only reason why the selection of The Sun as media partner to Newcastle United is all wrong. Do I need to remind everyone of the disgraceful reporting of the Hilsbrough tragedy under the editorship of the odious, the repellant oxygene thief Kelvin McKenzie? Or that newspaper’s conduct under the phone hacking scandal? Hacking the phone of a murdered child and giving the family fale, cruel hope?
I could go on and whilst my antipathy towards The Sun for its Thatcher-adoration, for its poisonous, hate-filled rhetoric towards those who are “different” won’t be shared by all of our supporters, I do think enough of us are repulsed by this tie-up for it not to have been agreed. But then, it is Big Mike’s club and all of us lot can fuck off, he’s Mike Ashley, he’ll do what he wants.
Then again, so can we – DON’T BUY THE SUN!
We had a fantastic response to the sale of the city crest badge a couple of weeks ago and that has been followed up with the Kelly / Peacock bucket-hats that went on sale for the first time last Monday night.
The response to their quality and style has been overwhelmingly positive and they are selling really well. We are starting a gallery of you lot wearing the merchandise we have started shifting, so either tweet the pics on our Twitter time lines at@tfeditor1892 or @TFShop1892 and we’ll sort the rest. Or e-mail them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in getting hold of one of our hats, don’t delay, click here.
The first deadline has passed for the next issue of true faith, which we will have out for you on 8/Aug/14, a week ahead of the season starting. We have some brilliant material already and I expect to get more in the next few days and week as our scribblers stir their arses and put their talent to work. As ever with Newcastle United there is always loads to talk about and no shortage of entertaining and informative lads and lasses to amongst our ranks to do it. TF113 looks every inch a belter of an issue in the making. We’ll have further news for you coming uip soon.
Next season we will be doing 10 issues and each issue will be 100-pages each (minimum).
Now that we are exclusively in the DIGITAL format we have been able to offer more content, enhance the design and layout, improve our level of customer service and of course make it cheaper.
An annual subscription will cost £17.99 but you can take out a quarterly subscription for £5.99. All of our subscription charges are exactly the same no matter where you are in the world. Everyone gets their new issue at exactly the same time.
As well as 10 issues next season you will also get access to our 169-page true faith SUMMER SPECIAL, which has been very well received. You will also get access to 30 back copies of true faith in our archive.
We started true faith in 1999 and over time established it as one of the best-selling, most widely read and respected club fanzines in the country. For the last three seasons we reached a shortlist of six in the Football Supporters Federation’s writers awards under the Fanzine section.
We are now at the beginning of the DIGITAL era and it is one which is re-energising the fanzine movement with an increasing number of long established titles switching to this new format (When Skies Are Grey, (Everton) and Heroes and Villains (AstonVilla) amongst others, like us getting to grips with the potential of this fantastic new format.
You can read true faith on all kinds of devices i.e. PCs, lap-tops, i-pads, i-phones, tablets and smart-phones. It is in every way as portable, handy and readable as the hard-copy version.
We will always look fondly back to our hard-copy days but the truth is fanzines have always evolved in accordance to the availability of technology. That is traced back to letraset and xerox to advances in desk top publishing and now DIGITAL.
To get signed up to true faith, just click here.
We will soon be starting our SATURDAY SPECIAL weekly newsletter up again for the new, approaching season. This is our fanzine within a fanzine and it is absolutely, 100% FREE. This is exclusively the work of the true faith Deputy Editor, Gareth Harrison and our design guru, Glenn Ashcroft.
Once you have signed up for the SATURDAY SPECIAL – click here – you will be added to our massive list of recipients and every Saturday morning just as you stir yourself, it will be sitting in your in-box waiting for you.
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Well, its FREE.
This last week has been as sad a one I can recall in the time I’ve followed our club and naturally all of our thoughts with the families of John Alder and Liam Sweeney.