It would seem that the reference to Adam Johnson’s goal celebration at Sunday’s derby in this week’s true faith editorial has exercised a few responses and observations.
Personally, I can’t know what was in Johnson’s mind when he celebrated his goal (as the editorial referenced) and I would prefer to think it was not designed to cause offence in relation to the MH17 tragedy of last year.
However, let’s be clear on a few matters.
Adam Johnson was loudly, persistently and distastefully abused by a large section of our away support on Sunday. Probably more than he has been previously. Its a personal thing for me but I don’t like it, not solely because Johnson is innocent until proven guilty but because I don’t think its particularly respectful of the family involved. For all of that you can imagine Johnson might be angry and hurt by some pretty crude abuse of him and wounded by the accusations.
When Johnson scored the penalty he had Sunderland fans behind the goal to celebrate with and he had them on either side of him. I’ve no doubt Johnson’s own family were in the main stand and it would have been natural for him to gesture in celebration to them after the goal.
Instead Johnson ran the whole length of the pitch at exactly the opposite end of the pitch to where the United away support was and on the way back he had his arms outstretched and some (as did several around me) interpreted that as a reference to the MH17 tragedy of last year. He seemed to be gesturing his arms like the wings of an aeroplane.
There are those who claim this is how Johnson celebrates goals and always moves his arms out wide. Fair enough and I’ll await to see footage of Johnson running to the opposite end of a football ground in this manner and further appreciate the context of those celebrations being explained.
I can’t honestly say if Johnson’s actions amount to him goading the Newcastle United support after scoring or what his continued waving to the away end from the pitch meant either.
What I can say is that Johnson’s actions haven’t just been interpreted by only some United supporters as a reference to the MH17 disaster as the enclosed distasteful tweets from Sunderland supporters demonstrate. For the record I am certain the overwhelming majority of Sunderland fans as will their club be absolutely horrified by this behaviour. They have demonstrated that on many occasions and their gestures following the MH17 tragedy won’t be quickly forgotten.
My understanding is that it was Sunderland AFC who contacted The Telegraph regarding their match report’s reference to Johnson’s actions. I can imagine that newspaper would be fearful of having its NE correspondent banned from both Sunderland AFC and Newcastle United but that’s only my opinion.
Its just my opinion but if Johnson makes a statement in which he denies that it was his intention to mock the deaths of two of our supporters in the MH17 tragedy then I think we should all accept that and move on.
Michael Martin, Editor, true faith, Newcastle United Fanzine.