“Unprecedented times”

This has already become a cliché of the global pandemic which is half a year old already. Yet, we are only just seeing the impact of the “new normal” in football as the Premier League has returned to our (virtual) lives in the past week. Football now joins the growing list of unprecedentedness as premier league football is played through June and July, solely for the TV cameras for the first time in history.

Firstly, after a handful of games, I haven’t yet decided how I feel about televised only, empty stadium football. I might be wrong, but I feel like the consensus so far is that there’s just something not quite right about it – it doesn’t feel the same. Yes, we were all desperate for football to return. Even those like myself who had been completely turned off NUFC by the manager and the inevitable endless cycle of relegation battles, were desperate for that void to be filled. Football coming back has been a huge part of life feeling a bit more normal and it’s absolutely better to have it in this form than not at all. I’ll therefore withhold judgment and hope it’s just a case of getting used to this unprecedented version of football.

The unprecedentedness doesn’t stop there though for NUFC fans as the Saudi backed takeover saga has rumbled on throughout the exact same time period. We seem closer than ever to seeing Mike Ashley sell the club (unprecedented?) and yet we are seeing, and hearing things never seen before when a Premier League club is taken over almost every week. World Trade Organisation reports into international piracy, Amnesty International concerns (rightly so) around human rights records. An endless stream of “in the know” pundits, very few of whom have any actual information and others who have literally been banished halfway across the globe, somehow making themselves relevant again – all because of little old Newcastle United. We’re all anybody can talk about (that’s not unprecedented though!).

All of this in a season where the team with the joint least goals (before Sheff Utd game), least possession, least shots on target and least time spent in the oppositions box – are somehow comfortably mid-table, almost mathematically safe and the furthest in the FA cup we’ve ever been under the current ownership with a squad that still contains Jack Colback.

Add to that, we have a manager who would not get a sniff at any other club in this league, who replaced a manager who has won league titles and champions leagues. We also have a £40million centre forward with a paltry 2 goals in 31 league games. Compounded by all of this, there are unprecedented levels of animosity amongst the fanbase as nobody seems to be able to agree whether all of the above is very shite or just slightly shite.

EVERYTHING about NUFC in 2020 feels unprecedented and I’m sure you’ll forgive me for drawing parallels between a global viral pandemic and the microcosm of that, that is, supporting NUFC in 2020.

So what next? We wait – every day – for news on a cure of course. For most of us, that cure is Mike Ashley selling NUFC. He remains the virus that is the root cause of all the above symptoms and at this stage, I think most of us would be willing to take any form of vaccination that rids us of him, even without fully understanding the side effects. We don’t just need football for life to feel normal, we need NUFC to be a football club again because that is part of “normal life” in this city.

For younger mags especially, an NUFC that once again has ambition and a desire to improve and compete would feel totally unprecedented. Which is the kind that we all want!

Simon Campbell | 26th June 2020