Thru Black and White Eyes

THRU BLACK & WHITE EYES – Who Are We? – 26/Sep/16

by • September 26, 2016 • TBAWEComments (18)2780

One of the articles of faith this fanzine has always has had is that Newcastle United is an under-achieving football club Phoenixlogobecause the fervour and scale of its support is not matched by its achievements. It’s what has energised us down the years and I don’t think it’s a unique sentiment to this publication which is why decades without silverware for our club strikes the football world as well as ourselves as a freak and an absurdity.

I’ve had the privilege of being amongst some astonishing displays of support in the face of adversity and the pride I’ve taken from being amongst people whose devotion and dedication to our club is something I’ve always taken pride in being part. Of course down the years I’ve been embarrassed at several incidents involving our support but they have been rare and in comparison to what has gone elsewhere quite minor really.

This season I’ve wondered however about some of the people who describe themselves as Newcastle United supporters. sels4The latest is Matz Sels removing himself from Twitter because of some of the most spiteful and abusive posts sent directly to him by so-called supporters of our club following the 1-1 draw at Villa Park on Saturday. Frankly, what these cretins feel they are achieving with this poison is beyond me but as ever they revel in the licence anonymity gives them and feel powerful when I will say with some experience (having been on the end of some rubbish myself) that the authors are invariably unfulfilled, inadequate, unattractive and emasculated in their real lives. For a period after seeing some of the stuff fired in our goal-keeper’s direction I felt like organising a lynch party to name and shame them here and turn back some of the bile they had spat in the direction on themselves but a good sleep has perhaps made me think a little more wisely on that score so I won’t be. But we have to acknowledge that amongst our number we have some people who appear to be unable to express themselves with any degree of intelligence, perspective or dare I say it respect. Those of us who do inhabit the online world of social media might therefore have a responsibility to behave correctly ourselves and impose some standards on others too.

Not that this is exclusively an online problem. That the team was booed from the park by a section of our so-called supporters following the disappointing Wolves defeat a week last Saturday was similarly shocking. I’ve heard the argument that people who have paid good money to see a football match are entitled to express an opinion if they are disappointed. I agree but booing isn’t an opinion. Booing is simply a petulant, empty, destructive braying that achieves absolutely nothing and quite often makes a bad situation worse.

Here’s a thing – Rafa Benitez has invited me and several others to meet him at the training ground over the last couple of gallowgate-corner-admonths and whilst those hours will be the most treasured of any I’ve spent following United the invitations weren’t because of a desire to give a clapped out fanzine editor a good time. No, the intention clearly was to express directly to supporters the importance of backing the team to the hilt this season. To put aside past enmities and whilst we are in the stadium give 100% support to those on the park wearing our colours. It’s a delicate subject for anyone at United to get involved with because the knee-jerk response of a lot of our support is to point to the attendance figures and season ticket sales and say the support is there. It’s a reasonably fair point to make but I’d suggest running out to play in front of a packed house where mass sighing at every mistake and booing at a poor half or game isn’t making the most of the extraordinary advantage we should have at a full St James’ Park in particular. In fact I do wonder what our players now think of our support after their team-mate has been abused from Twitter, they were booed from the pitch only days after smashing QPR 6-0 and I think the theft of flags from the Gallowgate End might still be in the back of some minds. If I was newly arrived at United I might be wondering who some of these people are.

Collectively, we have to raise the standard of our support. The numbers are there but is the quality? That is in how we express opinions on the team here, via social media and everywhere else and particularly at the match. Personally, when the team or a player has a disappointing game then that is when our support is needed the most. That is when we have to show what we are made of – not when we are shooting fish in a barrel at QPR for example.

Or am I hopelessly out of tune with the ways of the modern game?

I must confess the modern football media excites and appals me in equal measure. As a fanzine that is determined to embrace the possibilities of the digital era I see us adding and refining our output all of the time and we are committed to providing supporters with a platform to express their opinions but we also hope they are well-rounded, reasonable and correctly articulated.

This new habit shared by fans and the local press (which is plumbing new depths in its banality) for submitting a team sheet online ahead of matches is risible. I’ve never known a more empty and pointless exercise. None of these budding managers have a clue about how players have trained, injuries, general fitness or the threats of the opposition and the analysis conducted to counter them. It really is of its time all of this but not in a good way – its reality TV meets football and it would be laughable if those indulging in it didn’t take themselves so tragically seriously. Of course, The Chronicle in its desperation to drive clicks onto its site with the concomitant impact upon advertising revenue is bang into it and is now turning the day or two before a match into something like eviction night from the Big Brother House. I’m picking on The Chronicle but they aren’t alone in this new trend with some completely giving up any respect they might once have had as a worthwhile fans’ publication to drive clicks. It’s completely depressing.

The clamour at the weekend after Villa was for Sels to be dropped and Darlow to be picked for the next game. Apparently, city-tshirt-adDarlow deserves his chance and its only fair because Rafa uses a rotational strategy and because, because, because. Let’s have a look at that in detail. Do people really think Rafa is playing the second best goalie at United because he’s daft? Do people really think Darlow is being kept out of the team because Rafa can’t see the goal-keeping genius at his disposal and is ignoring the advice from his coaches and his own analysis? No, precisely at this point, the manager judges Sels is the best man for the job. I prefer to acknowledge the judgement of a man who has managed Valencia, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Real Madrid to a kid on social media who doesn’t understand that sometimes you don’t win football matches no matter how much you want to.

Clearly, as someone who has edited a fanzine since 1999 dedicated to providing supporter opinion it may all read a little odd I should be pouring cold water on what fans say about their own club. I’ve given this some considerable thought over the last few weeks and I will say this – true faith has always attempted to express opinions which are in context, evidence-based, balanced and acknowledge the restrictions they are drafted within. I would hope we have never committed the cardinal sin of thinking we’re experts or worse taking ourselves seriously.

But whatever has gone on in the past should be left there. Newcastle United has a manager we should all believe in 100%. Imagine where we’d be without him. He is a great manager but he can’t work miracles and he’ll make mistakes just as the players will. If anyone is of the belief this season is going to be one garlanded parade back to the Premier League then they delude themselves. This is a tough division and frankly we don’t have as good a team as we had in 2009 for a variety of reasons and those of us who can remember that far back will know the first half of that season wasn’t exactly a feast of brilliant football. The opposition really want to beat us as much as we do them. But we have a squad of players who all want to be at United in the main. Rafa is working on them to improve them individually and collectively. It is not going to work overnight but at this early point of the season it’s reasonably good and we are in a strong position.

Our job as supporters who should be completely behind the manager is to do everything we can to ensure his success and his team. That’s what supporters do. Rafa Benitez isn’t a weasel or puppet as per Pardew and McClaren. He is a world figure in football and I don’t think we’ll ever get better. I want him to grow a deep bond for our football club and our community and stay here for the rest of his career ensuring Newcastle United’s long term success. I want our players to develop a strong affection for the club and its support, to respect Newcastle United and love it as we do. None of that will be achieved by booing disappointing results, disgraceful treatment of our players on social media or anywhere else.

Rafa Benitez is the best chance our football club has for long-term sustained success at Newcastle United. The majority of our support knows this and understands it but we have some noisy arseholes who think they are supporters who need to change their ways and fast.

Keep On, Keepin’ On …  


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18 Responses to THRU BLACK & WHITE EYES – Who Are We? – 26/Sep/16

  1. Peter Ward says:

    It isn’t just in football Michael. This sort of stuff is everywhere and is getting worse. Look at the recent shenanigans over Brexit. Look at Trump in America. There has always been a nasty fringe element in football and society is no different. Bad behaviour has become the norm and where it will all end god only knows. The only hope as far as NUFC is concerned is that the majority have always behaved well and they have to make their feelings clear to the unacceptable minority. So called social media is only making things worse.

  2. Ben says:

    Hi Michael

    Agree wholeheartedly re. Selz and the support.

    And though I do share your disdain for the clickbait pieces and FIFA gamers’ team selection, I think a policy of never questioning Rafa isn’t advisable either.

    Obviously we are extremely lucky to have him, and the alternatives don’t bear thinking about, but I’m sure he would admit he’s made some mistakes in team selection in the past, as well as some bad signings (look at the Liverpool list for example). Very simple things like not having a defender on the far post is a very niche example of possible mistake, or at the very least something to debate.

    Anyway, I still believe we will go up, and there’s more to be positive about than negative for a change!

  3. Martin says:

    Criticism and negativity has always been present. It’s part and parcel of life and football. Due to the rise of anti-social media you now get to hear more of it. An opinion of someone who you disagree with, someone who has a totally different moral compass and a totally different attitude to life will get heard, it’s globally accessible. Coupled with what i call “lazy journalism”, the local media just re-hash “fans” opinions off twitter/Instagram without out a fair sample taken, it seems worse. We live in a celebrity obsessed culture where portraying yourself in the best light and appearing as popular as you can on said social media is the aim.
    What people tend to forget is, if you don’t like what your reading, don’t read it. Some idiotic keyboard warriors might of of taken to abusing Matt Selz, but in my opinion he did the right thing and removed himself from a platform to receive that abuse.
    When your a footballer, you’re in the firing line, you need to surround yourself with the right people, focus on the task in hand and ignore the imbeciles who can’t see the bigger picture for NUFC, but instead get carried away for the “likes” and “re-tweets”

  4. Steve Byers says:

    This comes down to personal responsibility (or lack of). Do you go to the match to try and push on the team or to abuse the players so you can let off steam? I’ve seen too many coked up so and so’s in the gallowgate screaming at the likes on Santon from the opening whistle to retain respect for some of our fans.

    This is an unfortunate part of our regional psyche. A region with people happy to nick flags off its fellow supporters and abuse its players and then complain that when they don’t love the club. There is no logic or responsibility – just anger and stupidity. The guy above me slags off the brexiters but i see this lack of responsibility in the left wing part of our region too. With local Labour councillors and mps happy to scrap a chance at self governance and become more like other stronger northern cities just so it can spit in the face of the Tories at the expense of the region itself.

  5. Robert Brown says:

    Well said Michael . Nihilism is everywhere . As in life , we just have to drown out the narrow minded little brain , little town nasties who coupled with no apparent care or recognition of the irony in Wonga , SD , have embraced the tatification of Our Thing . Rafa is deploying , applying and teaching real intelligence and thought , and that is a journey -too much to grasp for a few noisy children – particularly from where as an entire club we have been for some years . He is sorting it and he will sort it . The need to burn the latest witch is nothing new ,amongst so called supporters or elsewhere . Challenge them wherever and whenever . So support the keeper and and cheer Anita ., and trust Rafa . He knows .

  6. Sam Wilson says:

    Well said Michael, positive and whole hearted support for 90 mins has proved to work and assist the lads in achieving results. I’ve got every faith in Rafa. The guy oozes class, simply put the best manager since Sir Bobby.

  7. John Grren says:

    I was lead to this article by a member of Newcastle United F C Supporters – toon army. I have read it through and am pleased I did. This is one of if not the best articles I have read in years.
    I, like you, and the vast majority true fans are appalled at the treatment dished out to Matz Sels on twitter. It was not only an uncalled for attack on a player who comes across as a very nice man who probably can, but should not need to defend himself, but was also a disgusting attack on those who unfortunately are suffering from the vile illnesses mentioned.
    It has unfortunately been an aspect of life in recent years that a few disgusting morons do things that get the majority of fans of practically any team you care to name a bad reputation. A couple of examples are the battles started by England fans abroad and Millwall anywhere they played. I must admit that since the advent of social media is is easier for the cowards to hide. I cannot think of how to stop it but one will hope that if the club finds out who they are and they are season ticket holders or members that they are banned for life.
    Finally before I close I must say that in my opinion Darlow is the better player I will not boo any player during or after a match and will cheer on any player that Rafa puts out on the field whether they start or off the bench.

  8. Scott says:

    Broadly I agree with the points made. Booing the team and getting on at the players, whether at the ground or on social media, is counter productive and makes me cringe. No exceptions.

    But the deification of Rafa and placing him above criticism? I’m not sure about that. Part of the appeal of football is having opinions and being able to discuss them. Supporting United wouldn’t hold the same appeal if we couldn’t debate and disagree about the merits of certain players.

    Personally I think Sels has looked shaky and I’m not sure what Darlow has done wrong. I thought he looked promising last season and I like the idea of having an English spine to the team.

    Does having this view make me less of a supporter than you? Does expressing it mean that I don’t have faith in Rafa or don’t support the club?

    I don’t think it does. I love Rafa too but let’s be careful we don’t put him above criticism.

    • Robert Brown says:

      Fair points , agreed . Most notably agree that debate good , burn the witch bad . Onwards ….

    • Jarra mick says:

      Well said Scott managers and players shouldn’t be above criticisim. This sort of sycophantic clap trap makes these overpaid fuckers believe they are infallible and can say and do anything. Of course Rafa is a good manager but to suggest every decision he makes is the correct one is plainly wrong. Of course people shouldn’t be personally attacking Sels,it is wrong, but to point out the bloke is nothing short of a liability at the moment is fair comment.

  9. Mark Simmons says:

    I’d usually have something informed and meaningful to add to this kind of debate. But Rafa, man. Fucking Rafa.

  10. Wallace Wilson says:

    My worry is that in two years time, after All seduce leads England to humiliating failure at the World Cup Finals, the FA will come calling and Rafa will be tempted to leave ‘the project’ because he will remember this. He is the best chance we have had since Jackie Millburn was playing of us finally winning a domestic trophy. Let’s get behind him and our team

  11. Wallace Wilson says:

    All seduce is an interesting auto-correct of Allardyce

  12. Bob says:

    I am amazed at the turnaround of NUFC in such a short time and this is almost totally due to the Rafa effect. As has been said many times recently I look forward to games now. I’m sure the players as well as the fans respect Rafa. It’s still early days and he’s going to get some things wrong some of the time, for me it’s still a settling in period for everyone. He obviously picks a team to win each game but once the players cross the line it’s mostly down to them but we always see Rafa encouraging from the sidelines, making changes, coaching. We’re not really used to that , are we? I’m sure he’ll get it right more times in due course but it still won’t always be perfect, we’ll still lose some games. There is a plan, one that we can support for the first time in a long while and it needs the fans support through good times and bad, however difficult that is sometimes. The alternative is to go back to McClaren, Pardew, Carver, Allardyce. Surely, even the “idiots”don’t want that, or do they just want something to object to. Yes, we all like to comment on tactics, team selection, performances etc. we all have an opinion but Rafa is the only one who makes the decisions and we have to leave it to him. Ask 10 fans to pick a team and you could well get 10 different options. I don’t think Rafa thinks himself above criticism but it should never get abusive.

  13. Mick says:

    Well said Michael. We all have room for improvement.

  14. Sam says:

    This is an excellent, thoughtful piece and reminds me of the Keegan era when Mike Hooper was subject to some awful treatment. This was obviously before social media, when Hooper was being confronted face-to-face in the street, in front of his wife and kids, by clowns who felt they were entitled to behave in such a manner. He also received hate mail (seriously, what kind of inadequate takes the time to write a letter abusing a total stranger? I would imagine 140 characters was the norm even then though.) Yes the lad wasn’t the greatest but it wasn’t for lack of effort or courage, and he certainly didn’t deserve the abuse he received. I think Keegan even threatened to quit at one point, he was so outraged at this behaviour. I also seem to recall one of the senior players of that era (Venison maybe? He would speak with some authority having played at Liverpool for so many years I suppose) being quite taken aback by the casual manner in which fans would approach players in a bar after the match and tell them they were shit and they should get out of the club. Darren Peacock was another who I believe has mixed feelings about his time on Tyneside due to fan abuse. Remember this was only a few years away from the team nearly dropping into the old 3rd. I’m not saying this is purely a Newcastle United problem, Manchester City fans have very quickly acquired a sense of entitlement to unabridged success. Seems there will always be idiots with little or no sense of perspective and an innate, impotent rage. Social media and cretin-hosted phone-ins just give them a more convenient platform to rant from I guess. Hooper retired from the game in the end, aged 32. Maybe that made some people happy.