I read the great piece of fanzine writing by Graeme Cansdale and have just watched the excellent True Faith video blogs
Like Graeme, who now watches North Shields, I get my football kicks away from Newcastle United. Those who follow my Real Spain articles ,in the True Faith, will know that I am now a shareholder at Spanish 5 th division club CAP Ciudad de Murcia.
I had followed United for more than thirty years on and off, I was by no means a super fan but I had followed the club all over England and Europe in my time.
The last straw for me came just over two years ago when I attended the Manchester City away game with some Spanish friends in the 2012-13 season I think. I watched United capitulate 4-0 in a sanitised stadium surrounded by corporate types, my mates had received free tickets from the then City player Javi Garcia. As I looked over at my fellow Mags in the away enclosure, who had paid over 40 quid for the pleasure, I decided that not only had I had enough of a Newcastle United run by Mike Ashley but also I had had enough of Premier League football generally.
I hate the way football has gone. I’m old enough to remember the bad old days, dilapidated stadiums, open racism on the terraces, hooliganism and people being killed just going to watch a sport, I’m referring to Hillsborough and Bradford. No right person wants to return to that but football has gone too far. Tickets are too expensive, players are overpaid and television has too much say in the scheduling of matches. At Newcastle we have and odious sponsor on the iconic shirt and the ground is being used as a commercial vehicle for an odious shop that employs people on zero hour contracts. I feel that Newcastle United is no longer a representation of the city and wider Tyneside area and it has lost its soul and community feel.
It doesn’t have to be like this. In my Real Spain section of True Faith I have often quoted Athletic Bilbao as a benchmark.
Again they are not perfect and I’m sure if they were analysed faults could be found. Nevertheless I visited there about eighteen months ago and I found Bilbao to be very similar to Tyneside. An area with a strong industrial heritage, which once built ships and has strong regional pride. Their club is their club; there is a proper membership scheme. Rightly or wrongly they only play people who have been born or brought up in the region. This however means that any money brought in from transfers etc. is invested in the grassroots levels of football around the area, they have to do that because that is the clubs lifeblood. The sense you get when you walk around Bilbao on a match day is one of immense pride. I don’t think they will ever win the league or Champions league but they compete. This year they are in the Spanish Cup Final and will play Barcelona, they’ll probably get beat, and they also played in the Champions League. They may not win trophies BUT they are competing, with what are self-imposed limiting conditions. The President of the club is an elected ex-player, the manager is an ex-player, every player has come up through the ranks and they all get what Athletic Bilbao means to their fans and the city in general.
Newcastle United can and should be like that in my opinion but apathy among the fans has allowed the current people who run the club get away with lots of things. It’s not too late get out there on Sunday and support the Boycott, I wish I could.
Tony Higgins – Follow Tony on @Higgins1892