I must confess what unravelled at Southampton didn’t really surprise me. Southampton’s laundry staff won’t have to work too hard to get the sweat stains out of their kits because truth told The Saints didn’t have to work too hard to earn possibly the easiest three points they will collect this season. Or any season to be honest. We were abject. Again!
I see Rafa Benitez on the touchline and keep looking at the pitch and the only conclusion I can come to is the same one he is arriving at and that Lascelles alluded to after the game as well. We have a squad full of really bad seeds. We have one of the best managers in the world but the players are performing with the same conviction they did for John Carver and Steve McClaren. Right now, you could be easily forgiven for thinking they have chucked it. When a player, even one as junior as Lascelles talks about his team-mates having a lack of desire, I think we are getting an insight into what is in the heads of those who are pulling United shirts over their heads every match-day.
Of course, we’ve been here before with this kind of criticism of players. In the 2008/09 season the finger was pointed at the likes of Michael Owen, Damien Duff, Geremi, Marc Viduka et al who without question couldn’t give a fuck. The management and coaching of the team was up the spout that season but it was quite obvious United was also infected with an appalling attitude. That’s where we are again – though between them Charnley and Carr have invested £80m of United money on players who have achieved the impossible from last season and made us worse.
With every defeat and every cowardly surrender our chances of survival in the PL become more difficult. The failures to pick up a single win after the winter break in La Manga (Stoke, Bournemouth, Leicester, Sunderland, Norwich and Southampton) means the situation is becoming desperate but it is not completely lost.
We do have four home games and starting with Swansea on Saturday we have to start winning. I realise two of the games we have at SJP are against Man City who beat us routinely and title-chasing Spurs but we have to believe. Mad results happen at this time of the season and we have to think they can happen for us – as increasingly irrational as that might sound. Similarly we have Villa and Liverpool away from home. The Mackems got a draw at Anfield so we have to go there with a belief we can get something. Villa are worse than us even so that’s a game we should be targeting for three points as well. Palace at SJP? They have a shit manager, have been on a shit run and we have to think we can beat them. If we stop imagining we can win, we might as well stay in the house, write to the PL and withdraw from fixtures now. That might appeal to some of the knobhead players we have on our books who clearly do not give a fuck about the club, city or its support but it doesn’t apply to the manager or us, the people who Newcastle United is all about really.
We have to go to St James’ Park on Saturday not to sit in sullen, silent resignation as the very weird supporters of Aston Villa are doing (well, the ones that still bother) but rather we have to give what we believe Newcastle United to be, the club we all love 100% support. That’s not a de-facto support for Ashley, his idiot Managing Director, Charnley or any of the hard-to-like players stealing a living from United. It is about supporting the institution, its meaning and its potential. Frankly, I’d rather chop my feet off and fry them for dinner than allow Lee Charnley to think any of the support in that ground on Saturday is in any way an act of faith for the way he has systematically trashed Newcastle United.
As the prospect of relegation becomes ever more a possibility however, speculation in the media grows fevered. Benitez is being linked with the Spain job after Euro 2016. That’s likely to be expected by the British media who have ignored the other candidates currently available because they don’t know them and they don’t achieve clicks on websites.
There does seem rather less speculation at the future employment possibilities for Sam Allardyce who despite being at Sunderland for most of the season, having a transfer window to purchase his own players, have full control of the club is talking about baling out if the Mackems go down. Yet, he’s a “good fit” for the Wearsiders. That says everything about them and the complete absence of critical scrutiny they get from the media.
I’ve little doubt the way the club has treated the media over the last few years has come to bite them on the arse and even with a paedophile, alleged rapist and a fascist manager on the books, Sunderland get a better coverage than United. Charnley et al seem oblivious to learn the lesson, you sow what you reap.
What is even more depressing than any prospect of Benitez leaving should we go down would be any arrival of Tony Pulis. I really think I’d have reached my personal limit with him on the SJP touchline but if Ashley allows Charnley to make one more decision at United, then I think we are all through the looking glass yet again. That can’t happen. Ashley has signalled a review of what has gone wrong at United at the end of the season and I desperately hope that is code for sacking Charnley and having a serious scrutiny of Carr’s contribution.
If there is a split in the dressing room between those who fancy doing a bit of running around and sweating on a match-day and others who are looking for semi-retirement in Argentina, China, Turkey, the Middle-East etc then I think the same might be happening in the boardroom. Newspapers are dropping hints that Carr’s first choices and recommendations haven’t been signed and let’s be honest, if deals had been concluded for Joel Matip from Schalke who is more likely to be on his way to Liverpool and Klopp this summer or Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon, a left-back or Shelvey last summer then we might have avoided the situation we are now in. Previously that might apply to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Wilfred Bony and even Loic Remy. Instead we are lumbered with a selection of duds who I can’t believe we’ll be able to jettison easily. Who has shown the remotest interest in signing Obertan et al?
For me it seems as though a fair amount of positioning might be starting between Carr and Charnley regarding responsibility for the £80m that has been pissed down the toilet. What neither man can successfully distance himself from however is Steve fucking McClaren. A blind man on the back of a galloping horse could see he was a dead-beat but not the men in the SJP boardroom who fancied he’d happily pull on the trackie top with YES-MAN emblazoned across the back of it. There’s a reason why McClaren agreed to put up with the shit way Charnley runs United and that’s because he had no other offers. And there’s a reason for that.
Whatever happens at the end of this season, everything has to be done to keep Benitez at United but he has to be surrounded by people who will help him succeed rather than the venal incompetents like Lee Charnley et al. Charnley and Carr have to go whatever happens and whoever comes next. Tony Pulis though? Fuck that.
As the team ruins yet another weekend, so the calls for action against Ashley grow louder again. It’s perfectly understandable and it’s justifiable. I have feelings that fluctuate between doing everything I can to force Ashley out of United (which isn’t much), completely walking away from something that has been a massive part of my life since as long as I can remember or just treating the match for what it has become at best, an opportunity to meet friends, have a few pints and then go home with the football almost an afterthought. The problem with all of those scenarios however is I think I share that need as all supporters do, to be actively engaged and mentally committed to something I still care deeply about. That club represents a community, a shared history, tradition and longing. It is alive. If I am seriously going to the match without a real interest in the game, the result, the performance or dreaming about what my team can achieve then I am really participating in the Zombie football this fanzine spoke about last season.
There’s no question social media rattles with discontent and demands for action. But it’s all white noise and I say that as someone who has contributed to it. I’m not criticising anyone who vents their spleen on Twitter or Facebook – that’s more or less the function it serves but it is a plastic display of passion. Anyone can demand we should boycott home games or have this walkout or that march before the match until they lose their fingerprints on a keyboard but that will ultimately be meaningless.
I’ve been around since the United Supporters For Change campaign of the late 80s, early 90s (as a supporter of that campaign) and I’ve been involved to a lesser or greater degrees in numerous campaigns since the 90s too. I always think I could do more personally but I do think I’ve done a bit. I’m also conceited enough to believe this fanzine has done its fair share to raise awareness of what several so-called custodians of Newcastle United have done and are doing to our club and that includes this and the previous regime. This fanzine has always enjoyed an outsider status and it always will. We have never wanted to be mates with players, managers, directors, managers, employees of United or any of that shite. We’ll never change that.
But those who demand action from the ether need to put up or shut up. Let’s be honest if NUST or anyone else organised a meeting in NE1 one night next week to hold a public forum the turnout would be pitiful. People just don’t stir themselves and are happy to bark at the moon but don’t actually do anything. If NUST or anyone else isn’t to the taste of those who want action, form a separate group or whatever do something and keep it going.
I’m personally tired with the whole thing. I’m bored with the banality of some of the criticisms of those who organise stuff get – which is at times bitter and poisonous for no reason. I despair at some of the stuff I hear about the protests too – I’ve honestly heard protestors slagged off because the clothes they wear or some fans are wearing replica tops with the loan shark sponsor on them. There are others who appear to want the moon on a stick, who want to know what is definitely going to happen a fortnight next year and won’t lend support unless their very personal opinions aren’t completely accounted for and even then only if everyone is wearing the right kind of jacket. Talk about being up your own arse!
That’s not to deny there have been some personal enmities out there. Certain situations could and should have been handled better (and I’m one who could have done better in that regard I admit) but ask yourself this – if you have been insulted, abused, lied about and been the subject of malicious gossip then you aren’t going to take kindly to the same people when they come to you smiling with their hand stretched out in some kind of faux-friendship. There are others out there who appear to take a delicious delight in presenting what their over-fertile imaginations suspect as incontrovertible fact in what I can only conclude is a means to ingratiate themselves with people and cause mischief in pursuance of their own pointless vendettas. I’d like that to all end.
I must confess to a maddening frustration with the fatalism and defeatism I hear around our support. Nothing can be done, so do nothing. That emotion has a massive amount of traction amongst us and even when little victories are achieved they are shrugged off as inconsequential (i.e. the FSF achieving a £30 limit for away tickets and the local action which opposed and overturned the planned Bubble Trip for the derby a few years ago). It’s a football cliché to talk about players and how they would behave “in the trenches”. It applies equally to a lot of our support as well. They are beat before they start and at times imagine the world runs to the same time-frames as a reality TV show. As any of you reading this have been involved in campaigns of any type they require people to think long term, be resolute, determined and to accept nothing happens quickly. Some I’ve come across can’t wait for a commercial break. Campaigns are time-consuming, frustrating and boring. There’s a lot of work to be done to get a fraction of what we want.
There is also the myth that as a group of supporters we haven’t done anything to oppose how Ashley has trashed United. I’m reasonably plugged in with the people who have run the protests at Rangers, Liverpool etc and let me tell you gentle reader, we have done more than anyone else ever has and we’ve done it for a longer period as well. There has been all kinds delivered by various people – match-boycotts, walk-outs, displays, marches … you name it. Should there have been more? Yes, in my opinion and we could do more, yes, very likely. But don’t get a down on our support about a lack of action. There’s been plenty of that and more than anywhere else.
What I do know is this however, every fibre of the being of every supporter has to be piled into supporting what constitutes our team until we are either safe or are relegated. When either fate is known, let the blood-letting begin.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
We were desperately sad to learn of the death of Gav Bolam on Friday night in a road traffic incident in Hebburn. Gav was our go-to-man for as many years as true faith was published in hard-copy. Gav managed the printing of every single issue of true faith and those of you who enjoyed reading the printed version of true faith have Gav to thank for the brilliant production he organised for it. Nothing was too much for Gav and he was a smashing bloke, great supporter of Newcastle United and he’ll much missed by everyone that knew him. The loss to his family cannot be described. Everyone involved in this fanzine sends their deepest and sincerest and condolences to Gav’s family.
NEW ISSUE OF TRUE FAITH (TF125)
We are delighted to let on to you all that true faith (Issue 125) is now available for you to download at your pleasure. In less than a week literally thousands of you have downloaded the fanzine and we’ve had some fantastic feedback on some of the articles we’ve already featured and others too.
This latest issue has over 120 pages of the finest fanzine writing you will read anywhere in the UK. Our writers come from near and far as do our readers and all share a deep love for Newcastle United. If the club cat farts we know about it and we’ll have details of which way it blew in this and other issues.
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