Playing In The Hole
By @geordiedentist
Friday 18 Nov 2011 23:28:00
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In an international break it should really be a quiet week.   This is of course NUFC and there is never such a thing as one of those.  Ever.  As the dust was still settling in the aftermath of the renaming of St James’s Park announcement came reports that Derek Llambias had been recorded in a bar rather indiscreetly having a pop at Keegan, Shearer, Hughton, Andy Carroll and Liverpool FC. 

Now we’ve been here before.  Remember the “Fake Sheik” and the News of the World sting on Freddie Shepherd and Douglas Hall?  I know we can hardly forget that fiasco.  I can see parallels between these two incidents and I think if we look more carefully can actually start to see just what it is that causes so much tension from actions and decisions at board level and the reaction they create amongst the supporters of NUFC, even when things are going well.

When push comes to shove and trying to look at the latest faux pas objectively, Llambias mouthing off in a bar is in some ways a non-story.  It is almost presumed behaviour and we know how bloody nasty they can be; we don’t need reminding.  We know the board had issues with Keegan and Shearer.  One ended up in an employment tribunal the other is still waiting for a call that never came.  All well documented history.  We know Hughton had his limitations and delivered way above expectation and frankly I think we all choked on our beverage of preference when we found out just how much had been extorted from Liverpool for Andy Carroll, a player with little top flight experience and only just into double figures of top flight goals. 

Like Shepherd and Hall before him, Llambias was daft enough to put himself into a position where he was caught bang to rights.  And as with the “Fake Sheik” sting it raises questions about the suitability of someone in the position of MD of a multimillion pound organisation who is prone to making derogatory comments about and veiled threats towards the supporters, their “customers”.  It begs questions about behaviour, language, tone and also breaking business confidentiality in claiming that Liverpool paid late and more monies were taken in interest.  The very bottom line on all of this for me is not so much the comments that were made but rather the way in which they were made, the tone and the lack of class.  Very much how the renaming was handled and perhaps it is once again not the message but rather the messenger and the delivery of the message that are the problem combined with the utter lack of respect for the supporters and history of the club in the way business is conducted.  As Freddie Shepherd himself remarked “Geordies are forgiving people but they never forget”.  It may be some time before Mr Llambias sees that statement realised however.

That said history can also shed more light on how the renaming of St James’s Park could and should have been handled.  It’s not that long ago that fans were quite soundly behind an idea to relocate the club to a brand new stadium just up the road into Leazes Park and onto Leazes Moor.  A move which would have seen St James’s Park consigned to history and redeveloped into a sporting arena of a different kind while NUFC went up the road to a San Siro like mega stadium.  Fans were consulted and history handled sensitively.  Fans were brought on board to the concept and encouraged to become involved.  The legacy of St James’s Park would have remained, even if the club no longer played there and if it hadn’t have been for the campaigners for “No Business on the Moor”, vilified by sections of the NUFC support in the same way Llambias is right now, it would have happened and we wouldn’t have a naming rights issue right now.  I think this shows that NUFC fans are open to all ideas.  We were progressive then and are progressive now.  All we ask is that we are respected and listened to and the club is treated with the same love and care that we have for it by the owners and the board that make the decisions that shape its future.

Elsewhere this week Sepp Blatter has made a bigger fool of himself than even Derek Llambias could by my reckoning.  His astonishing statement, later claimed as misunderstood (no we heard you the first time Sepp), that there is no racism in football and anything said in the heat of the moment on the field can be resolved with a handshake is disgraceful in the extreme. What next?  Sort out anti-Semitism over a nice cup of tea and a digestive biscuit? Resolve homophobia with a cuddle?  The man is a fool.  Try telling Patrice Evra, Anton Ferdinand or Richard Offiong to name but a few there is no racism in football.  Blatter's stance is one of acceptance by denial and that makes him complicit in my book.

The football family as a whole must surely rise as one to oust this man from his position.  For the head of FIFA to make such an outlandish and reprehensible comment places shame on the game we all love.  The trouble is it will likely take pressure from big sponsors such as Coca-Cola, Sony, Visa, Emirates etc. to get this odious man out of office.  ChangeFIFA are doing all they can and I’d suggest to give them a follow on twitter @changeFIFA and see how you can help build the wave of opinion to see proper transparency in the game.  One of the lads is a season ticket holder in the Milburn stand and they deserve our support. 

As I have supported NUFC not only have I grown up but so have the city and the club alongside me.   I first stood in Gallowgate under the scoreboard in a ground that had seen better days, in a city that was suffering as traditional industry disappeared and unemployment rose.  Racism was endemic in football; ask the Man City side I saw bullied into capitulation by a horrendous atmosphere of hate at St James’s Park in the 80’s.  Today I sit in the Milburn stand in a modern stadium at the heart of a multicultural city where the old and the new sit comfortably side by side from the banks of the Tyne to the new science city sprouting up alongside St James’s Park.  Today we celebrate a young Geordie signing a contract to stay at the club with the potential to be the next local hero.  That young man is backed by fans who already sing his name in terrace chants.  He is gifted and has been called up into the England U 21 set up.  He is one of us. His progress has been meteoric and his contract well-earned and deserved in my opinion.  He is Sammy Ameobi.  He is black.  A recent victim of racist comments via social media himself he could probably tell Sepp Blatter a thing or two as well.  Yet the way NUFC and the fans reacted to the disgusting words used against Sammy and the perpetrators of the act tells me something else about NUFC over time.  We are now truly black and white having shown the footballing world how to properly react to racism in the game and as a fan base we cannot allow Sepp Blatter to get away with ignorance that we all agree belongs firmly consigned to history.  Geordies never forget.

Follow me on twitter @geordiedentist or you can email me at . Follow the campaign for open communication with NUFC on twitter @NUFC FansUtd.

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