One of the things that you notice about New York is how fast paced it is, a non-stop, city that never sleeps being a cliché for a reason, with everything being delivered instantly. Were but the same true for this blog. Truth is it has taken until now to get over the festive period and get writing the second installment, such was the force of the visit from the ‘emissaries from the tf bunker’. That and the complete lack of motivation to think about anything NewcastleUnited related given events over the last couple of months results in a very late submission.
There was a TV advert running over here until recently at the for the slightly beer flavoured alcoholic water beverage ‘Bud Light’ which runs along the lines of fans doing daft things because they think having done them once when their team won it must be lucky and so they don’t want to change winning routine. Eating a Quinoa burger, playing the ‘Dawson’s Creek’ theme tune on the pub jukebox, fetching beers from the basement and missing ‘scoring plays’. The punch-line being ‘it’s only weird if it doesn’t work’ played out to Stevie Wonder’s ‘superstitious’. All of which is a very long-winded excuse as to why I hadn’t for so long joined the lads and lasses of Toon Army NYC at the excellent Legends Bar in the shadow of the Empire State Building. Our last visit for a league game saw us lose to Hull with the goal of Aluko’s life and the previous visit for a league game before that the loss at home to Swansea last year. So despite the lively atmosphere and it being the only place in NY we have been able to find a real bacon (not that streaky nonsense) sandwich we have stayed away. Perhaps the royal visit (and yes one of the visitors managed to convince many a NY lass he was a bona fide Earl) would bring better luck for the Arsenal game.
While early morning starts are not a novelty for away trips there is still something a bit
discombobulating about the match actually kicking off at 8.30, something akin to being jetlagged – it feels like it should be much later than it is, funny how after 13 years abroad this feeling still hasn’t gone away. But as Johnny Cash once said “the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad. So I had one more for dessert” There was a reasonable crowd in for this game, with United certainly better represented than Arsenal with only 4 Gooners venturing in. The service to the Toon Army NYC from Legends is excellent in all respects and a huge Toon Army NYC flag is placed up for every game separating the area where the Newcastle match is showing from the other games and I am convinced this flag has some magical soundproofing qualities as somehow the commentary from other games is never audible. It was a shame the co-commentary on this game wasn’t audible being as it was provided by the dreadful Chris Waddle who could barely hide his contempt for us, arguing every marginal decision should have gone against United and calling for Cabaye to be dismissed.
Legends is an interesting spot to watch football as not only is it home to the NUFC foreign legion but also various NYC branches of supporters clubs from Blackburn to Brann, from Preston to Sao Paulo and various points in between. This makes for good post game mingling and conversations. Generally the mood between the different groups is good and the atmosphere friendly, helped by excellent service where no matter how busy it is they seem to know your name and order and there is rarely a queue at the bar.
As for Toon Army NYC they are a hardy bunch, regularly up for the early kick offs (albeit usually arriving slight late in one honourable case) and sneaking out of work for weekday evening kick-offs which work out to 3pm here.
Before living overseas I was always curious and perhaps even a bit dubious as to why someone from overseas might support United – the toe curling images of foreign Manchester United and Liverpool ‘fans’ were certainly off putting but as you mix with overseas supporters you come to admire the strength of character it takes to self inflict this madness upon yourself when it would be so easy to jump on whichever bandwagon happens to be on at the time. Although as one lad rightly pointed out the highs are just that much higher when unexpected and when you have been through the lows. In fact the group is a real mix with exiled Geordies, second or third generation immigrants who have kept the tradition going and some who have come to support the team more recently either attracted by a particular player or manager and have subsequently stayed the course. However they have arrived here the passion and commitment are not in doubt.
The Arsenal game was passing with a sense of optimism, given the run of form we had been on and a similar recent performance against Chelsea where we shut up shop in the first half and created chances in the second, however a mistake at the back from a free-kick changed that and the subsequent pressure United applied began to show that perhaps there was a missed opportunity here in not getting at Arsenal from the start. A criticism leveled at Pardew is that he is too conservative and that if something works once he will stick with it, difficult to know what would have happened had the intensity of the final 20 minutes been applied from the outset but there was certainly was fragility about Arsenal in that period that should have been tested earlier.
After the game it was on to part two of the ‘double header’ with a trip out to New Jersey for the NFL game between the New York Football Giants and Washington Redskins. Although a local rivalry it was a somewhat low key affair with both teams already well out of contention for the playoffs, a major disappointment for the Giants, Superbowl winners the season before last. And this is strange thing about US ‘Sports’, in a country where something so mundane as basic health provision by the State causes hysteria and allegations of communism the very flagship of red blooded Americana, the NFL, is run in a manner that would make the Soviets blush. Salary cap to ensure ‘parity’ between teams, collective bargaining on commercial contracts and equal distribution of commercial revenue all contribute to a league where it is very difficult to sustain a ‘dynasty’. Of course all this works in the closed system in a sport where there is only one major professional league and would be nigh on impossible to implement in our football unless last year’s champions have to be managed by David Moyes the next year or something. It certainly does make things more interesting than the usual procession most of the major football leagues have become.
I am grateful for the fact that St James’ Park is in the city centre and the ‘game-day experience’ here just reinforces that 2 trains from Manhattan, then herded straight into either the stadium or an official party zone sponsored by aforementioned lightly beer flavoured beverage. Having arrived somewhat early we opted for the latter, and found again that it is easier in this country to buy a gun than it is alcohol, having to present full ID and sign some form of waiver before being served a maximum of one pint at a time each. Not to be put off it was just double quick supping and a couple of hoedowns for the lads from tf before heading into the stadium to be confronted by any amount of beige and orange food and a plethora of tat emporiums selling branded everything but the ponchos that would have been useful as the heavens opened. With so much focus on the match-day takings these days you have to wonder if this is the path that the Premier League will eventually take.
As for the game, the Giants won and that is all I am sure you want and need to know, until hopefully soon, Keep On …
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