Remember the early days of EURO 2020 in the summer just gone? Remember when a racially diverse England team were booed by some of its own supporters for the gesture of taking a knee to draw attention to the campaign against racism in society but also the racism many black footballers experience, particularly from nuggets using social media platforms?

That was a heady week or so in an otherwise really memorable tournament. I tend not to forget these things because I don’t think those who booed the team they were there to support for a gesture that does them zero harm, have changed really in the intervening weeks and months.

I still think they’ll be thick, mean-spirited arseholes talking nonsense about “Marxism” and “Black Lives Matter” to anyone unfortunate enough to fall within their ear-shot.

Some of you will remember the habitual liar we somehow have as a Prime-Minister being less than condemnatory of the booing as he pedalled the culture war populist crap he is building his premiership upon.

You might remember the Home Secretary condemning the “gesture politics” of taking a knee. Then you might remember her being photographed in an England shirt supposedly being passionate and excited about the Three Lions in front of a TV screen.

You may also remember some Herbert Tory MP declaring, florid of face that he wouldn’t watch the England team because of the taking a knee protest and that he thought Gareth Southgate was “woke” and other pointless noise that I guess might go down well in his local Conservative Association.

As the England team progressed throughout the tournament the anti-woke bandwagon pulled over onto the hard shoulder because those driving it didn’t know where they were going any more.

Southgate’s innate decency and intelligence (helped by a winning team) trumped the bonehead booing. The minority, pseudo- opposition to taking a knee melted away. Supporters appeared to respect their racially diverse team highlighting opposition to racism generally but similarly the abuse many of them have faced on the various sewers of social media.

I don’t think people really think Raheem Sterling and his multi-millionaire footballer friends are Marxists determined to impose a command-economy with associated Stalinist five year plans do you? I’m not 100% convinced Harry Maguire reads up on Soviet collective farming in the 1950s and fancies that for wherever he lives in Cheshire either.

I really can’t see Gareth Southgate sitting at home at night flicking through the vegan cook-book for things to prepare for his partner as he plans the fight back against the patriarchy do you?

The whole “woke” labelling beloved by the hate-filled right-wing blob had dissolved so much by the time we got to the final, the clown from No.10 rocked up in the posh seats with an England shirt put over his shirt and tie and under his suit. Kids, this was not a cool look. Don’t try it at home.

But here we are. EURO 2020 is fading in football’s rear view mirror. We’re about to reacquaint ourselves with those ancient rivalries and enmities which so characterise English football. I don’t suppose the tolerance Jordan Pickford gained in an England shirt will last the start of the season and if he does anything daft for Everton, we’ll be laughing at the short-armed bull’s knacker from the Village of the Damned.

At St James’ Park on Sunday, Newcastle United will walk down the tunnel to face West Ham. It’s a great old historic fixture in English football. Two great clubs which have been sustained in lean times by loyal and traditional working class followings. Both clubs’ followings are imbued with a strong sense of identity and community.

We may have had our ups and downs (okay, and petrol bombs) with West Ham over the years but I think there is a grudging respect for the East London club and of Hammers fans I know that is reciprocated. Let’s be honest also, both clubs supporters have something of a swaggering machismo sprung from the industrial masculinity which defined the terraces from Dockers, Miners, Shipyard workers in our clubs’ formative years. I’m not going to condemn that either.

Times change and the days when our clubs were represented by the likes of local icons Bobby Moore, Billy Bonds, Trevor Brooking or Jackie Milburn, Peter Beardsley and Alan Shearer are long gone.

The modern PL game is a global phenomenon drawing players from every part of the planet. But the PL also a theatre for some of the seismic changes in British society.

Like that England team that performed so well in the summer, Newcastle United and West Ham field teams rich in ethnic diversity. Our side is packed with lads who are from a variety of backgrounds – even, perhaps especially the ones who are UK born.

The vast majority of us don’t see that colour any longer. We have grown through it and are on the other side.

I cringe at some of the things that went on at Newcastle United games when I grew up following the side in the 70s and 80s. We’re better now.  Most of us. Most of the time.

We’re better now but we’re far from perfect.

I’m a working class Geordie with an Irish lineage. I’ve never experienced discrimination. My parents’ and grandparents’ generations did however, particularly on account of their Roman Catholic faith in various parts of the British isles. No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish.

But for my generation on Tyneside it wasn’t ever something I was ever conscious of. I’m an avowed atheist who has poured more scorn on the RC church than any of its historic detractors could ever hope to and it gladdens my heart we’re moving into a more secular age when all of that mumbo jumbo is consigned to history.

For what it’s worth I’m similarly dismissive of any religion – be it any particular Christian denomination, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or anything else. Let them get on with it but don’t ask me to take it seriously. That’s different to actively abusing or discriminating anyone on account of their faith, it’s just I don’t believe any of it. I’ll respect your right to do so however.

Sorry, I’ve gone off on one of my tangents.

I do think Black people can get a raw deal. I don’t want to go too far down that road because I’m not the right person to argue all of that and this isn’t the right place.

What I do think is wholly wrong and if you disagree, I’d prefer you not to continue reading, is that Black footballers should not be racially abused in football grounds by fellow professionals, managers, coaches or anyone else. That obviously extends to supporters.

We have all seen incidents in recent years of black players being on the end of ridiculous racist gestures and insults. We saw it after EURO 2020 after the Penalty Shoot Out that handed the trophy to Italy.

It is nothing new. High profile Black players are routinely abused on social media with vile words that seek to dehumanise young lads on account of their colour and background. It must hurt and wound players in different ways that a white, middle-aged Geordie such as myself can never truly appreciate.

But I can empathise, understand and I hope respect their determination to mark a protest against that racist abuse.

I have been enough Newcastle United crowds down the years to understand that sometimes the only thing I have in common with a minority of knuckleheads is to reluctantly accept they support the same team as me.

I know that in the stands at SJP there will be people whose heads have been filled with nonsense about “woke”, “Marxism” and “Black Lives Matter”. They have a false sense of grievance that is impossible to articulate because it doesn’t exist.

I never used to worry about these people because I thought they were a dying breed. I laughed at Alf Garnett’s world view articulated superbly in Til Death Do Us Part because I felt those attitudes were dying out.

But they haven’t and as Ian Wright explained to a suitably concerned Alan Shearer it is something of an epidemic via social media.

And that brings me around the houses to this coming Sunday and the opening game of the 2021/22 season when our very own Newcastle United face West Ham.

Before KO I expect our players to take the knee to highlight the racism and abuse within society but primarily which they face as black footballers in the modern sporting world.

Some may have an ill-defined argument about what they have been misled into believing it means. By all means contact this fanzine and attempt to articulate that on these pages. I seriously doubt anyone will take me up on that challenge because it is impossible to achieve.

But please stay quiet, respect the players on the pitch who wish to make a dignified protest at how they can be dehumanised and abused because of their race and background.

Respect the players and respect yourself.

Keep On, Keepin’ On …

MICHAEL MARTIN