Remember Summer 2009? I do. A really good trip to Eindhoven (it’s a cracking city, go!) and a cracking Summer at my student job which was working at Headingly Cricket Stadium and Leeds Rugby League stadium (which are adjoined to each other) made it enjoyable. Getting paid to ‘steward’ and watch international and domestic sport. My last ‘Summer holiday’ before University ended and ‘real life’ set in, it’s as good as Summer as I’ll ever have. Which is odd. As the side we all follow had just done the unthinkable and been relegated for the Premier League for the first time in my football supporting life. I did every home game and 15 away games that season, so I saw first-hand how pathetic and lifeless the side which stuttered to a paltry 31 points was. Just not good enough.
The despondency that set in at Villa Park at the final whistle was replaced by defiance and anger after 15 seconds or so. This publication helped a lot. I was just a reader of true faith at the time, not even a contributor, but the stance of defiance from the editor and this fanzine helped set a tone with the 40K who stuck with the club through relegation. No tears or heart break, just anger at the people who did this to us and defiance to those revelling in our misery, predicting an empty SJP and a tumble through the leagues. However that Summer was odd as for the first time I paid no attention to Newcastle United at all. None at all. Normally I’d be transfixed on transfer rumours, club news and attending away friendlies. Not the Summer of 2009. There was no football fix. Not even an international tournament to distract. It was easy as well, to forget about football. To not even contemplate our manager less side until the season opener (live on BBC). Defeats, player departures and manager rumours – I switched off from it all. It was too easy. I’m sure you’re bored of hearing about my Summer of 2009 and I’ll get there eventually with my point, but that Summer I intentionally paid no attention to my football club and was happier for it. It shouldn’t have to be that way.
I fear the Summer of 2016 to be a repeat of 2009. That’s why it’s worth fighting. Forget about the worst parts of relegation, even the best bits aren’t worth accepting demotion to the second tier. We have 4 home games left. We CAN win those games. Maybe we’ll win none of them. I don’t care about being wright or wrong. I don’t understand the people who have thrown the towel in. I will believe survival can happen until it is impossible. Even if we lose this weekend, we can stay up. Imagine the feeling walking out of SJP 4 points behind Norwich when they draw against Sunderland after losing at Palace. The place will be rocking.
You know it will, so why give up now. Keep fighting. I don’t think the players have given up, as they had done under McClaren. We scored twice away from home last week. It’s a start. We were terrible and Norwich could only beat us with a 93rd minute goal that should never have stood. They were if anything, worse than us. We will get better under Benitez. We already have, each game. We’re still terrible, but so are the sides around us. Remember how bad West Brom were when we beat them at home? That’s the same side Allardyce simply couldn’t break down. The other teams around us are rubbish. 21 points to play for. 4 wins could be enough. Maybe 4 wins and a draw. It could happen. I think it will. I’m not ready for another Summer (and beyond?) of emotionally dethatching myself from this football club. It’s the last thing I want to do. So I’m going to keep on fighting and believing. If I’m wrong then so what.
You don’t know me and I don’t know you. If you’re telling yourself and all around you that we’re gone already and it’s not worth the effort I’ll give you no credit whatsoever as no one cares about opinions or who is right and who is hopelessly wrong. Staying up is the only thing anyone should be interested in. All the people desperate for tickets to the derby ever year should be more desperate to get tickets to Swansea, Man City or Palace. Everyone should be excited about these games – a chance to do something special and pull ourselves out of all of this. I’m going to do everything I can each game to help the team win. If 50,000 others do the same, I’ve no doubt we’ll stay up.
This is a hard game to kick start a miracle. I’m not interested in our rotten run of form on the South coast. Benitez won’t care, neither should you. Southampton are beatable. They’ve lost 5 at home already. They’re capable of conceding goals. Scoring them too. But so are most teams. We needed to start scoring away from home, and we did. Mitro will start. Hopefully De Jong will come in for the utterly anonymous Winjladum. Let’s hope we turn up for a first half. Colo and Dummet might be back. Hopefully they are, it’s almost essential they are. There’s not a lot more to say. Asides from playing our best players we just need something from the game. I believe Leicester and Palace will do us favours this weekend, so we’re still alive despite a defeat, but every game gone and points not collected make things more difficult, if not impossible.
Benitez will play cautiously in the first half again. Get in at half time in the game. Get to 60 mins in the game. Win the game, or take something from it. We can play like that and not be terrible like we were for much of Norwich.
We can stay up.
Prediction: 2 1 United
ALEX HURST – FOLLOW ALEX ON @tfalex1892
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