It’s Winter sometime in the late 90s, it feels like minus12 and Stuart Pearce is stood on the edge of the centre circle staring out a shaking, teenage striker. Kingston Park is being peppered with unrelenting hail whilePsycho, representing the reserve side, is in short sleeves, has his shorts pulled up to his nipples and performs hisown silent haka – it’s one of my formative memories of watching live football.
Into his late 30s, around the time he alledgedly fought hisway out from his smashed up car in a Sainsbury’s carpark and with pace comparible to that of a fridge freezer, it was a way for the veteren defender to take combativesteps towards the problems he would face against an opponent he knew very little about. From what I remember it was effective.
Fast forward 20 years and United fans find themselves ina similar situation. Ok, Ashley has been at the club for a decade, but nobody knows anything about the Cockneybesides his weight, disputed parentage and his moralambiguaty.
His secretive approach and lack of transparency to theoutside footballing community give no indication to theimpact of any action taken against his current reign – Is he close to succumbing to pressure or does it still notbother him in the slightest?
As everyone will be aware by now there will be a boycottof the Wolves home match on 9th December organisedby the Magpie group. Surrounding the protest, it has beenquoted „It is about sending a message to Mike Ashleyabout the strength of feeling against him”.
Will this strength of feeling be truly quantified by emptyseats though? No, Everyone will have their own opinionon going to the match. Some won’t have been for years, some will decide to just miss this one and some will optto support the team at the ground as they have done foryears.
It is not going to be an easy decision for everyone and it’snot something that can be forced.
For whatever reasons, not everyone will miss a trip to Gallowgate and that is before any match to match ticketsales. Effectively, there’s about as much chance of a fullstadium desertion as there is a Newcastle strikermanaging to hit double figures this season.
Regardless, it could still be a pretty strong message. Newcastle is well known for high attendances regardlessof the situation the club is in, so for a match to drop waybelow the average, it would register noticebly on Sky’s live coverage.
No doubt it will get a mention across media outlets.However, following almost ten years of among otherthings; terrace abuse, public opposition from heroes pastand even parlimentary discussion, is a bit of extra coverage – a footnote on Match of the Day or a superficial mention on Sky Sports News – the only and greatest outcome that will be achieved?
On the surface, it might appear so. The long desiredchange won’t happen over night or over the span of 90 minutes.
In 1956, Hungarians took a stand against thier communistopressors. They stood up to the regime in a revolutionwhich spread all across their country. The uprising, whichinitially drove occupying forces out, was emphaticallycrushed following their inability to keep up the constantpressure for change.
Now don’t get me wrong I’m not comparing Hungarianfreedom fighters who sacrficed their lives for theircountry to Town fans not turning up to watch us play Wolves. I’m not saying Ashley is like the CommunistParty of the Soviet Union – he’s not Russian – and of course I’m not suggesting a violent uprising acrossTyneside – though if the revolutionaries had some ladsfrom Byker in their ranks, they might not have faced 30 years behind the iron curtain.
Like in ’56 though, it has come to the stage where actionshould be taken and regardless of the outcome of thisparticular protest, it can’t be a lone strike. It has to be continuous and in number. Whether that be in the form of more boycotts or other efforts – at least Ashley isn’t going to counter strike with tanks or reinforcements.
The biggest achievement of the boycott could be that it, for want of a better turn of phrase, gets the ball rolling foran on going battle to get the club back on track. Changewill come but it will be a long process. It is not aboutshouting at his shops or individual tirades during a match,it’s about bringing the attention back to Newcastle United in a collective movement of the fans.
As Sir Bobby said “What is a club in any case?”