I returned to Kent late Sunday evening following a hugely enjoyable weekend in Newcastle, which I had organised for friends (non-Newcastle fans) from work.
Staying at the Sandman Hotel opposite St James, the scene was set from the word go.
A Cramlington lad, I love Newcastle intensely and am highly proud of the area and my football club. Working from Kent (in Northern France), colleagues are made up predominantly of those following the likes of Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea to name but a few.
Of course, it can work for me when Newcastle play at White Hart Lane for example, albeit we were trounced there some weeks ago. On that occasion, I sat in the Spurs (home) end but it was heartwarming to see the away support for our club – the noise was constant, even when 4-0 down.
Which takes me back to my trip and the purpose of this piece. My friends (some of whom had never been to our City) were impressed. With some fantastic upmarket bars, clubs and restaurants, they couldn’t fail to be.
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Sunday however, was something of a complete let down. St James, which as you know is a magnificent and imposing sight, was atmospherically flat. From Nine bar (as we all know to be Shearer’s) to the stands themselves, our long suffering supporters just looked thoroughly down-trodden.
One of my group, himself a Charlton supporter, remarked on the fact that he could not believe that St James as he aptly described it, ‘the Cathedral of football’, was so quiet. Another, a Carlisle lad and Arsenal supporter who had visited St James throughout the 80s, 90s etc could not believe it. Despite his having no real allegiance to our club – he was staggered by it all.
And then ironically, the away support began to sing, ‘this is a library’, of which it’s impossible to disagree.
I was far from impressed with the pre-match screeching sounds coming from that big screen – obscured from the view of many, nor efforts to create hype by waving huge touchline flags on scoring of goals – it just appeared false.
And of course, this themed shrine to the ever tacky Sports Direct just doesn’t work one iota. I cast my mind back to the days of Sir Bobby Robson, Keegan…the club really had distinct class. It generated its own special atmosphere. The supporters felt a certain hype about the place and there was certainly a feel good factor. Sadly, on evidence of Sunday, that has gone. Absolutely flattened.
I have seen sufficient in recent years to hold the firm belief that in Mike Ashley, our club will go absolutely nowhere other than tread mediocrity.
Despite claims to the contrary from within the walls of St James, I believe him to be milking the club for all that its worth, and it shows, from playing staff, to the decline of attendances, our stadium and the proud name of Newcastle United. The ‘glitz’ which ordinarily surrounded the club has gone and it’s scandalous, an absolute travesty.
I do wonder regularly why Mike Ashley chose our club. He has no affinity to the club, its supporters nor does he seemingly care one jot for the area. Otherwise, things wouldn’t have come to this. I also wonder whether Sir John Hall had any inkling that Mike Ashley was a complete footballing novice with intentions of using the club as a mere cash cow when he sold out.
The Mag (an article) reported on Sunday that the NUFC club shop (online) are selling some Rangers merchandise. What a cynical and provocative move that is. We have no allegiance to Rangers and this serves only to add fuel to the rumoured theory that Ashley intends to wind down our club to either move things in their entirety north of the border or, that we become a feeder club.
I believe that Ashley’s tenure has been a calamity. Most recently, I worry that this obsession with the Head Coach rather than an out and out Manager will never reap reward. Carver is not the man for the job, nor is Charnley the figure head with the dynamism that we crave to take the club forward.
My question is ultimately this, do you see any way out for us at Newcastle?
Or, is this long time suffering of our very faithful supporters likely to continue for the foreseeable? Mike Ashley clearly takes some shifting and I only wish that he would sell up, or perhaps a consortium can rescue the club from obscurity and restore it to its former glory.
We really do live in hope!