There’s nothing quite like a football chant done properly. Witty, often self-deprecating, terrace roars can bring smiles to faces in a way that few things can.  The best get supporters on either side of the tarpaulin divide grinning.

One of their beauties is how they form a universal language; walk into any ground in the world and you’ll likely recognise a tune or two. And appropriating music from all walks of life is a longstanding tradition. New takes on Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, the theme tune to “The Happy Days” and Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha” have all been belted out at St James’ Park in recent years.

Most are harmless. Plenty are annoyingly catchy. But, as with much in life, there is a downside. A distasteful side. One that makes right-minded folk cringe.

And – as inevitable as an ill-timed Jamaal Lascelles penalty box challenge – December brings with it a song that should have been long-since consigned to wherever it is things get consigned to.

Yes, that’s right, “Feed the Scousers, let them know it’s Christmas time” got an airing in the away end at on our recent visit. The adapted version has been around for as long as the original Band Aid tune itself. Stored away by the idiots for 11 months, it comes out for Christmas whenever Merseyside opposition present themselves.

Now, the whataboutery-ists will at this point have their ears pricked up. Some will be thumping their own heads in anger. “Everyone does it…where’s your sense of humour?”    

Well, just because multiple groups of people decide next Tuesday is when they will next see each other, it isn’t suddenly a Wednesday meet.

As a chant, it’s embarrassing. Factually inaccurate too – food poverty is sadly rife across the land, but that is a minor point. The big issue is the complete lack of human understanding it displays.

Now, if it accompanied videos secretively recorded at illicit Downing Street festive gatherings, it would at least be true to type.  These are after all the same folk who, without hint of irony, argue one week that cutting the £20 Universal Credit uplift – a lifeline for millions during the pandemic – is justifiable, before crassly seeking pity for their colleagues who have been called out for taking highly paid side gigs. ‘How will they cover the school fees?”

But to hear it from folks who should know better? It really grates.

You may think this is an overly serious take on what is supposed to be light-hearted jousting. But it isn’t. A simple lack of empathy and understanding is responsible for much of the world’s current pick.

Is the fact that so many are struggling to put food on the table a laughing matter? It might be if it weren’t so prominent. The numbers are staggering. “Unprecedented” volumes. A “Tsunami” of demand. Aye, let’s take the piss lads and lasses.

The Trussell Trust provided some 2.5 million emergency food parcels between April 2020 and March 2021. That’s a 33% increase on the previous year. Compared to five years ago, the numbers are up 128%.  Yes, that’s right, in our supposedly lovely safe haven, the amount of people short on sustenance is climbing steeply.

A staggering 980,000 of those parcels went to children. Kids. With no food. What chance do they have? It took a footballer from Manchester – and what a stand-up chap he is by the way – to shame the Government into raising their free school meal game.

Sadly, those figures do not demonstrate the full extent either. They simply cover the 1,300 foodbanks that form part of the Trust’s network. The Independent Food Aid Network has identified upward of a further thousand. So, in reality, you can double all of the above.

And the issue is as prevalent in our city as it is Liverpool or any others.  The Newcastle West End Food Bank provides food for 3,700 mouths every month. With gas and electricity prices rising, and inflation high, it is only heading in one direction too.

For match-going Newcastle fans, the presence of Bill Corcoran and his team have become a Saturday staple. Both food and cash donations are welcome at the collection point outside the Gallowgate.  Past donators include Ian Byrne, Labour MP for Liverpool West and co-founder of the Fans Supporting Foodbanks – a union of Spirit of Shankly and the Blue Union – on Merseyside.  That group has, by the way, provided life-saving PPE for care homes in Newcastle during the pandemic.

The cause has even been clocked at board level with Jamie Reuben’s charitable organisation – the Reuben Foundation – matching the total donated during the 2021/22 campaign.

It’s easy in a crowd to get drawn in by mob mentality. And one hopes that if most pondered the meaning of what they were actually singing, there might be a little more reluctance to join in.

Bob Geldof rarely gets quoted on True Faith but this might be about the only exception. “There’s a world outside your window. And it’s a world of dread and fear.” So perhaps a little less being a prick and a little more consideration for others, eh?

The West End Foodbank by the way needs our help now more than ever. It’s 2021 Christmas appeal can be found here: Newcastle West End Foodbank: Food Bank Christmas Appeal 2021 (enthuse.com)

SAM DALLING