Over the past few months, we’ve seen lots of targeted action against Mike Ashley – largely by The Magpie Group (TMG), but also by smaller groups and individuals who choose to take action in their own way. Whether that be season ticket cancellations, refusal to buy official club merchandise or a keyboard-driven tirade against SD promotional tweets.

In this time, the owner has shown rare flashes of weakness – proof that he has been and can be rattled, particularly in his public response to Chi Onwurah’s open letter to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and backlash from SD’s own AGM which saw him lose key ally, former chairman Keith Hellawell.

But in this new fight to rid him from Newcastle United once and for all, it seems that it’s the fanbase itself which is now rattled. And Ashley will be laughing.

Building up to a Boycott
The calls to Boycott Wolves surfaced online in October, after a dismal start to the campaign, one that has reportedly proven to be the worst start for the club since 1898. By this time, TMG had already organised several protests, both outside SD on Northumberland Street and outside the stadium’s club shop, another SD outlet in all but name.

Public meetings held by the Group at the Newcastle Labour Club and the True Faith Supporters Forum at the Tyneside Irish Centre. They offered a floor to those in attendance to stand up, air their views and give suggestions about forthcoming protest action, and calls for a boycott have been prominent by fans at these events.

In the latest schedule of protest action released by TMG, the boycott of the home game against Wolves on 9th December was announced amid lots of other planned activity, home and away, which will include an 11th minute walk in vs West Ham on 1st December, a litmus test that may indicate how many match-going fans will engage in a full boycott.

A Fractured Fanbase
This last week after another 0-0 away draw, and with Newcastle still winless since May, the debate about #BoycottWolves has rumbled on. It’s an incredibly divisive topic, and one that I can see both sides of.

On one hand, it’s one day, one match and an opportunity to show the world just how angry, distraught and desperate supporting Newcastle United currently is. Mike Ashley continues to run the club in the same way he runs his tatty sports outlets – a masterclass in asset-stripping and doing ‘just enough’ to survive in the Premier League.

Of course, this genius strategy of Mike’s has already led to two relegations in a decade, maybe three. A strategy that baffles, even from a purely business perspective.

The other side of the argument sees fans reluctant to give up supporting the team, even for just a match, and see it more important to give the team full support to help lift them out of the relegation zone. It’s part of routine, social engagement, habit and a lifestyle to go to the match – supporting the team through thick or thin.

I was at the Sage Gateshead when Kevin Keegan, the man in charge of my first ever Newcastle game back in 1992 and a man who I believe should have a statue outside the stadium, warned against boycotting games, even despite the appalling treatment he’s endured by the owner.

Rafa Benitez, likely in his last year as Newcastle manager, has yet again called for full support of the fanbase in these troubling times, another relegation battle under Mike Ashley. Two huge Newcastle idols, past and present whose views will be respected.

I will boycott Wolves
At the start of the season, I couldn’t imagine myself advocating a boycott, even after another appalling transfer window in which Rafa was undermined and not backed. But boycotting after January – the possible crescendo to the Benitez-Ashley dynamic – will be like closing the stable door once the horse has bolted.

Does anyone really want to boycott? Of course not, and those who have decided won’t have taken their decision lightly by any stretch. It’s in our blood, and many fans will have been preceded by many generations of their family in their love for those black and white stripes.

It’s so engrained in Geordie culture, it matters so much to the city and surrounding region – supporting Newcastle is a perfect example of modern tribalism.

But it’s wrong for pro-boycott fans to suggest that any fans who decide against the boycott to be a ‘Mike Ashley supporter’ or ‘not a true fan’. Quite simply, the decision-making is never as black and white as that.

It’s also wrong for anti-boycott fans to suggest that any fans who do boycott are deserting the team and compromising their potential chances on the pitch. We’ve had years of this emotional torture, years of 52,000 attendances, and years of a world class manager – and yet Mike Ashley’s actions have still conspired to leave us towards the foot of the table.

Something has to change, the world should understand how poisonous his tenure here has been, how he is suffocating a great club with selfishness, recklessness and greed.

Staying United
But whatever you decide to do on 9th December, the worst thing we can do as a fanbase is insult each other, disrespect decisions, partake in name-calling and in-fighting and pour judgement on each other.

This weakens us, and only serves to strengthen Ashley’s position, especially when he craves apathy and resignation, which essentially represent an easy ride for him (see Brighton at home). Let’s focus all our spare energy on undermining the social presence of many of his businesses and continuing to help his share prices drop.

Before taking to social media with negativity against other fans, remember that we all want the same thing, we’re all literally on the same team here.

Yes, there is disagreement about how to reach that Ashley-free promised land, but rest assured we’ll all be partying side-by-side when he does leave. The good times will return but first we need to take a step into the unknown.

We have to keep fighting. We have to stay together. And we must all continue to be United Against Ashley.

Adam Widdrington (@AddingRandomWit)