By By Playing In The Hole
Thursday 10 Nov 2011 17:41:00
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Well I suppose it was all too good to be true wasn’t it?  The cynical pessimist that is an inherent part of being a Newcastle United supporter was always waiting for the wheels to come off.  Somewhere.  Be that on the pitch, a hiding from an unexpected source, the off field antics of some over paid recalcitrant player, an unwise word from the higher echelons, a training ground bust up.  Something like that.  Most likely self inflicted, of course.  But nothing of quite the scale, insensitivity or awful timing of what has eventually come to pass.


I had got something down relating to matters black and white over the last week.  I was going to wax lyrical about how great the performance at Stoke was.  One of the most complete performances I have seen by any away team at the Britannia, not just NUFC.  Efficient, organised, hard working and nothing short of exceptional in a controlled and clinical way.  Even down to winning mind games by using Delap’s towels and beating Stoke at their own game in many ways.  I was even going to amuse myself by touching on if playing teams in red and white stripes on Halloween historically makes players score hat tricks then we’ll have more of it every year thank you very much.


I was then going to applaud NUFC for taking a stand on racism in football.  While the FA seem to be letting the Evra/Suarez incident fizzle out and allow John Terry’s own situation be buried under the “Poppygate” affair and Chelsea fans embarrass themselves in Europe without proper reprimand, NUFC were prompt in their actions which eventually saw two 17 year olds, lets not call them supporters because they have forfeited the right to call themselves that in my opinion, arrested following the abuse of Sammy Ameobi via social media.  Sammy himself deserves high praise for his dignified, calm response and maturity in a week which saw him not only make his first team debut at St James’s Park, there I said it, but also get a deserved call up to the England U 21 set up.  Well done Sammy.  Young, gifted and Geordie!


Then NUFC were also due further praise for donating tickets to the tickets for troops campaign.  This is something close to my heart as it was suggested by NUFC Fans United, a coalition of supporters groups, organisations and individuals striving for improved and proper communication with the club on all levels.  The fact that the club picked up on the lead suggested that there were people ready to listen and interact with fans and their ideas.  A dawning of a new age perhaps on the back of  last week seeing 4500 people taking advantage of a genuinely amazing half price season ticket deal.


And I was also singling out Alan Pardew for his excellent handing of the media in the past week, especially when faced with deliberately loaded questions about fan expectations in his midweek press conference.  Pardew has impressed with the way he has got the squad together in spite of what has been done above him.  Tactically he has the team playing good football with a terrific work ethic.  And I do honestly believe he has a much better understanding of the club and its relationship with the fans, the city and community than any manager since Sir Bobby Robson (excluding KK second time round of course) and where someone like Graeme Souness talked the talk Pardew is currently walking it in a way he never could.  And certainly a better understanding of it than the people above him in the halls of NE1.


Finally I was going to wrap up with further praise for the team in their grinding out of a result against Everton, finishing the game very much on the back foot, missing key players with injury and with a collection of walking wounded on the pitch to secure 3 points ahead of an international break from which we return to three very tricky fixtures.  And what a strike from Ryan Taylor showing that he doesn’t need a wall in front of him to pull off the spectacular.  The performance and the way the points were earned said a lot about how this team is performing under Pardew, the fans stayed with them throughout even when Everton took the game to us in the second half and there, for a brief moment, we stood.  Second in the league, and even by the time our neighbours could do us no favours at Old Trafford, third.  Unbelievable.


Yet here I am sat still trying to fully get my head around the latest attempt at PR suicide to come from within the club I love.  And as it has been throughout the tenure of Mr Ashley’s ownership it isn’t so much the message that is the problem but rather the tactless, classless way in which it is delivered and the timing which is once again less than optimal.


Unlike, as it has been suggested since it was announced that St James’s Park was no more and the ground to be “showcased” as the “Sports Direct Arena” as part of a package to sell to future sponsors, I think Newcastle fans do understand progress is required to remain financially competitive in modern football.  I think they are acutely aware that under new financial fair play rules new income streams need to be maximised to ensure a club stays ahead of the game.  Stand still and you do indeed fall behind.  Worse and you may not have a club left.  And I think the majority can understand the precarious set of figures that were inherited by Mr Ashley needed addressing.  And I think we all agree that the needless relegation we suffered made that even worse for us all.  Mr Ashley’s pockets included.


This decision has been taken without real warning or discussion about the possible impact on the fans and feeling within the city.  NUFC are riding high on an unexpected wave.  Alan Pardew is winning fans over with his media savvy attitude and with a team that plays just as that; a team.  The football is good, not brilliant or spectacular but rather hard working, honest and structured.  Whisper it quietly the back four and goalkeeper show a level of organisation and commitment long missing in defences that have graced the turf at St James’s Park (see I did it again) in recent years and are the foundation of every result so far.  We sit third in the league with a run of tricky games ahead.  Yet with the international break and 2 away games coming up we don’t have a home game until December 3rd.  And I don’t think for one second that this fact hasn’t gone unnoticed when this announcement was planned.  But I don’t think that this is one that a few weeks will heal.  There will be, no doubt, anger, upset and protestation of some sort.  And how does this potentially affect the team as it is difficult to separate the two.  “Support the team, not the regime” seems to be the cry.  Hard to argue with, difficult to do.



The air of mistrust and uncertainty around the club was beginning to ease and bridges to make the connection between club and its support were starting to be rebuilt, plank by plank, rail by rail.  4500 fans bought back into the club taking advantage of a season ticket deal that seemed too good to be true.  I suppose it was.  And, I wonder, would they have still done it if this had been done in the wake of the “rebranding”.  It would seem once again for every ten good things that the current regime do they quickly undo it with something crass, disrespectful or thoughtless.  And if anything is to be the definition of Mike Ashley’s ownership it is his seeming ability to score own goals when it comes to relationships with supporters, the very people who will pump more money into his coffers should he get it right more often.


So we are left with this constant dilemma.  As supporters we see the sense to moving forward and keeping up with the game.  As supporters we want to see NUFC with a seat at the top table. As supporters we would, and don’t laugh, like to try and win something and at the very least enjoy watching football played by players who give their all and appreciate the opportunity they have to wear the shirt we follow.  As supporters we do, however, deserve more respect than at times we get and as supporters we would like a degree of consultation when it comes to something that effectively bulldozes 120 years of history and more in one fell swoop.  And there remain many questions, far too many to list here, about the exact arrangement of finances in  the short term, whilst the name is being “showcased” especially when you think the last showcasing from 2009 of “ @ st james’s park” hardly had them flocking in.  And I don’t believe for a second that the “st james’s park” bit of that showcase was the barrier.


Ultimately it is Mike Ashley’s club; he can do what he wants. What’s in a name?  To me, you and most football fans it will always be St James’s Park. And that’s the way it always will be.  At the same time where does the line get drawn?  When the club colours are changed?  The club’s name? I sit in the middle having been involved in supporter’s groups and fanzines for years and as a former Chair of the Supporters’ Trust.  I can see both sides of the coin from the cold business decision on one hand that means NUFC must learn to adapt or die to the angry young fan who feels betrayed, let down and his history taken from him.  Never at one time have I felt so helpless yet empowered at the same time as we, as a fanbase, have to stay united on this if we are to find a solution to this awful conundrum that is the arranged marriage NUFC supporters have with the club’s owner.  And it is why, working with NUFC Fans United I am determined to keep pressing the club for better and open communication and to keep asking the fans to back the team throughout this, they have earned our respect and support.  We’ve conceded another own goal.  It’s time to battle back from the brink, again.


To find out more about NUFC Fans United follow them on Twitter @NUFCFansUnited or visit the website at  Follow me on Twitter @geordiedentist and comment and abuse is welcome at


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