Tweeting in a Pardew Wonderland
By Ian Cusack
Tuesday 10 May 2011 09:14:00
Browse all Ian Cusack articles

Tweeting in a Pardew Wonderland


One of the best things about dumping your season ticket and paying, or scrounging, on a match by match basis is that you don’t have to put up with the incessant whinging of the miserable sods nearby who’d been getting on your nerves for the previous decade and a half. You’re now free to sit anywhere you want in order to hear yet more irrational, misjudged, blinkered criticism. Since I vacated the Gallowgate Centre in summer 2009, I have to say I’m not missing the dulcet tones and the continuous complaints of a pair of miserable gets from Ashington or thereabouts who would start their monotonous moaning when the team were warming up and bring it to a crescendo by the hour mark before nicking off early for their bus.


This season I’ve sat in complete silence in the official NUFC Trappist section, level with the 18-yard box in the East Stand Lower and seen both Coloccini and Williamson fail to deal with an aimless punt forward, allowing Jason Roberts to criminally steal the points for Blackburn in a desperate game. I’ve groaned in frustration at our inaccurate play and willingness of some (mainly pissed) fans to slag off our players, on a particularly frustrating day in the Leazes West Centre against a pitiful Fulham, but at least this was a freebie. I’ve also shelled out £40 for the privilege of seeing 86 pulsating minutes against Manchester City from the back row of the Milburn Paddock. It was a great seat with a charming neighbours and a superb view; certainly I saw Carlos Tevez in the build up to the first goal when Tim Krul didn’t. Thus, the enjoyment of the last 86 minutes was rather spoiled by the fact I’d seen my £40 pissed down the drain in the time it takes to boil an egg. As a consequence, the seat I opted for when the Hammers came to visit was a comfy armchair in the corner of my living room, though I was leaping around quite a lot!


Another game where I didn’t set foot in the ground was Pardew’s debut against Liverpool. I could pretend this was because of a principled stance of support for Hughton and opposition to another incomprehensible kneejerk response by Ashley, though I’d be lying if I did. I was actually at Firhill, watching Partick Thistle 1 Ross County 1 as part of a long arranged weekend in Glasgow, mainly to see my favourite band Teenage Fanclub; you can read about it here if you like. Blogs are important, as I’m about to demonstrate.


Following Hughton’s sacking, there was a great deal more heat than light generated by debate amongst Newcastle fans about how best to respond to this turn of events. I hate to say it, but the shameful, ragged away displays at Bolton and the Baggies were not acceptable and simply could not be allowed to continue. Obviously Hughton had been undermined and overworked by the lack of a replacement for Calderwood (and as a Hibs fan I’m not exactly delighted with his new job either), but I still had doubts as to whether he was turning in to the reincarnation of Richard Dinnis.


However, regardless of Hughton’s strengths or otherwise, the way Ashley runs the club is what is really under the microscope following Pardew’s lucky break. Even if it had been Jol or O’Neill who’d got the gig, questions about the current owners need to be raised, especially by those who have the power to raise them. Obviously good journalists like George Culkin and Simon Bird do their bit, but what about those who don’t need to be objective or professional?  In one of those quirks of history, all 3 Newcastle United fanzines came out Liverpool weekend; while two of them, namely Toon Talk 3 and the highly promising debut issue of Black & White Daft, had great content and showed no dilution of the contempt at the way the club is run (though the less said about The Mag 253 as a campaigning vehicle the better), publishing deadlines had conspired against them. Hughton’s sacking had happened while they were at press, meaning only Toon Talk could respond interactively to events via the website, which showed a level of fury among fans that was almost reminiscent of September 2008 all over again. Of course, it may just have been hot air in some instances, but at least it gave a flavour of how fans were feeling.


It became abundantly clear in the days leading up to the Liverpool game that NUST were not interested in the slightest in co-ordinating or indeed being involved in any form of protest, official, organised or otherwise, against Ashley. When a statement appeared on their website on the Thursday, the NUST board, now shorn of their 3 most prominent, proactive, crusading members in the shape of Bill Corcoran and Neil Mitchell who had resigned in disgust at the Trust’s inertia in the post election period and Steve Hastie, who remains suspended for hitherto unexplained “disciplinary” reasons, which may or may not emerge at the long awaited NUST AGM, were obviously intent on seeing this particular war out in Switzerland. Their call to arms was as follows; “The Trust board believes in supporting the team and for the fans to decide for themselves what message they want to send out to both the club hierarchy and the global audience watching on TV… For fans to have real influence it has to be through a financial stake in their club, that is our aim and what we will pursue no matter who owns or manages this great club.” It’s not quite Lenin arriving at the Finland Station now is it?


With only Toon Talk among the fanzine fraternity showing any interest in any form of protest either outside or inside the ground, it was made abundantly clear to me that as technology moves on, so has our support. Concepts such as Blogs, Flashmobs or Twitter were unknown half a decade ago; these days they are the global cyber underground, ripe for spreading dissent and fomenting social unrest. Witness the spectacle of fifth formers and College students bunking off lessons to protest at education cuts, then closing Vodafone and Top Shop stores in protest at the legal tax dodging of their owners. These youngsters don’t organise public meetings to plan things, or have committee elections, they text, tweet or message the time and the place of the next protest. The next generation knows the importance of using social networking sites on laptops and phones because they provide an easy, free and immediate way to organise demonstrations. It’s not anti democratic; it’s totally democratic, in an anarchic way. There are no leaders and they cause maximum embarrassment to the furious ruling elite. Of course, a new wave of articulate, radical public speakers may emerge, but only time will tell if they are needed. At the minute, anarchic rabble rousing is proving far more effective than anything the National Union of Students is doing.


As Newcastle United fans, we need to learn from these young protestors and the technologically sussed members of our support. Spontaneous protests may not run Ashley out of town, but they’ll achieve more than the snails’ pace Fabianism of NUST. One of the most perceptive of Newcastle United supporters in the cyber field is Andy Hudson ( who had this to say in the run up to the Liverpool game: Over a year ago (the day the YWC campaign launched) I made my feelings known to NUST that as a single entity they will split our fanbase…The correct tactic should have been a supporters organisation that would unite all of the fans that was not going to be afraid to campaign against anything that they believed was not just or in the fans interests and that organisation should offer full transparency to build credibility amongst the fanbase. NUST should've then operated alongside that… At this moment in time NUST is dead. Outside of the current members it has no credibility; within the current members' ranks it has lost too much credibility and should not be used for anything moving forward in the short term but as something to build links within the community (which it is doing well)… In the short term the fans need to unite - which is pretty much a given - and engagement needs to begin to motivate, reinvigorate the fanbase - in my opinion there cannot be any exclusions else that becomes a mirror of the current NUST board which is in turn mirroring Ashley's toxic regime.


The most important elements to Andy’s proposals are that he is both positive in his outlook and inclusive in his philosophy, which are two vital elements that appear to have got lost in the infernal, internal politics of NUST during the past year or so. Indeed, Andy’s points need remembering and while the Liverpool protest may have came to little, in the wake of 3 great points, terrible weather and the apparent willingness of huge sections of the Newcastle fanbase to pour vast quantities of cash, hand over fist, in to Ashley’s coffers on a match day, the use of interactive technology and social networking to provide an immediate and hopefully unequivocal response to Ashley’s future outrages can not be ignored.


As Paul Simonson said “you can crush us, you can bruise us, but you’ll have to answer to” a 5,000 strong, roaring mob who just won’t take any more shit. Well, one day hopefully….



Ian Cusack

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