At the risk of looking daft (something which I’ve ventured with varying degrees of success over the years) the takeover of Newcastle United is moving inexorably to its conclusion. Our beloved football club, the thing that binds us together, is moving from the ownership of Mike Ashley into the hands of the Amanda Staveley-led consortium. The overwhelming majority of supporters are in support of the transfer of ownership and when it is confirmed, COVID-19 restrictions permitting, #CANS will be trending on the Black & White planet. I may have a small sherry myself and wish the club’s new custodians the very best of wishes.
From then on in, our world is going to change.
A fundamental shift will occur in perceptions of our club and by association the people who support it. I’ve always been amused by the myth propagated by the less cerebral of our friends down the road that there is a national respect for their support and a recognition for their history and legacy. That (cough) stands in stark contrast to the apparent antipathy for what they say is a deluded support with ideas above its station. Where they affect a nauseous, Uriah Heep-like faux-humility they frame us as loud-mouths imbued with a misplaced arrogance which makes us a national laughing stock. This is the stuff they tell each other and they naturally swallow it whole. Arrogant Mags? You’ve all heard that one haven’t you?
Perceptions of Newcastle United and its support vary. There are some who believe United is a sleeping giant with a mass support in a football mad city-region that is consistently let down by the people who run it. That in turn leads to us as supporters largely being patronised by the media as a doomed club which will never win honours and us condemned to walk the earth bemoaning near-misses and cursing those who fail to deliver for United. There are those who I’d say count amongst Everton, Villa particularly who see us as an irritation. They follow clubs with impressive histories but who are locked outside a historically dominant trio of Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal and who lack the new money power of Man City and Chelsea. We represent a threat to their status as the best of the rest. These are the people who will bore you for hours with debates about “big clubs” and all that shite.
From my experience fans of Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal, when they do reflect upon our club probably think of some great away trips, regular wins at SJP, good nights out in NE1, generally very good atmospheres with the occasional defeat for them that are the exceptions to the rule. For more traditional Man City, Chelsea and Spurs fans, I think there is the recognition they have been amongst the dead men in recent years to know their good fortune when they see it and our lack of it.
Of course there are clubs with which we have had, how should I put it, various levels of needle down the years … West Ham, Leeds et al so I expect any hostility had lain dormant in the PL years by and large.
Generally speaking however, I don’t think there is a particular hostility towards Newcastle United per se, though there is an ignorance towards the North East in general which manifests itself in a full suite of regional class based prejudices I don’t doubt will be dusted down and presented for the nation by a resentful chattering class unable to compute the establishment of what we hope will be a powerhouse of football energy in NE1.
When this takeover happens there will be an initial news tsunami which will include half-baked analysis of human rights abuses, geo-political machinations and all of that from people who took a decade to understand the off-side law. The world is full of bluffers and chancers. If as expected a stellar manager is appointed followed by elite players for multi-million fees and wages then attitudes towards Newcastle United will change.
By change I mean they will become resentful, bitter and very hostile overnight. I especially fear for the collective mental health of those in that diminishing tribe with Red & White affiliations down the road.
This is new for many of us and we are going to have to develop the tools to deal with it. It’s just my opinion but we Geordies like to be liked as a rule. That plays into our reputation for hospitality and it may be a cliché but Newcastle is without question a generally very friendly, welcoming city. We seem to lack the edge of Mancunians and Scousers or swagger of Londoners generally and although we like a party, we’re pretty good-natured and inclusive. Not always obviously and I’ll concede I’m speaking in broad general sweeps.
Down the years I’ve had the good fortune to meet fans of clubs not known for their general popularity – Man Utd, Leeds, Chelsea and Rangers in particular. I recall a conversation with some Man Utd fanzine lads a number of years ago and discussing the hostility they faced almost everywhere they went. Without exception they all said they thrived on it, it provided them with a buzz which made their victories all the more enjoyable. Of course they had a manager in Ferguson who used that hostility against Man Utd to build an impregnable bunker mentality that extended to their support and that was evidenced in the pages of their fanzines – which to this day I continue to read voraciously. There is Leeds of course who revel in their Dirty Leeds tag-line and have built in that stereotypical Yorkshire belligerence as a part of their whole culture as a club. Rangers are the very quintessence of a football club that seeks no friends – “no-one likes us, we don’t care” cut into the DNA of the Teddy Bears and their vast following.
Our lack of success on the park, a consistent failure to get amongst the trophies has excluded us from the hostility of the football public and its media. There are few who celebrate our failures with gusto (outside a small minority) which I guess was the cause of such surprise at Villa Park in 2009 and the reaction of their support to our relegation.
Most of the football world, by and large doesn’t give a fuck about us in much the same way we don’t care about Sheffield Wednesday.
That is going to change. And how!
We have to be ready for it. Frankly, I’ll not give a flying one about justifying the root of any success we enjoy. Football as I knew it growing up variously under the Leazes roof, on the terraces of the Milburn and Gallowgate as well as on the benches of the East Stand has gone. The days of deciding to go to Man City the night before a game, piling into a transit sans tickets and all of that palaver is never coming back. The game was up almost thirty years ago when Man Utd, Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal and Tottenham formed the breakaway Premier League to make themselves richer and succeeded spectacularly.
If someone out there that I don’t know who supports a different club resents whatever success comes our way, I really couldn’t give a fuck either way. If they decide they hate us then I’ll think back to the glee of those Man Utd fans who told me it made it even sweeter knowing there was someone in Leeds kicking the cat when they were jumping around with the Premier League trophy again.
No-one is envious of failure and mediocrity but success will bring a green eyed monster and every effort made to diminish our victories. Good, bring it on.
The more unpopular the better and the more successful we become.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …