Any of us who have been through a long-term relationship will notice the stages: you find someone new who can do no wrong. There’s something exciting and special about them; a romance that means they enchant you and you can’t get enough of them.
You support them through thick and thin, overlooking the bad things they do and feeling pride at the good things. You inevitably have a fiery, passionate stage, where you feel deep emotional attachment, where they take you to new highs, fill your heart with joy, make you sing and dance.
(To feature like Alistair, send in your articles for our website to [email protected] – all views those of the author etc etc)< But then after a while things start to fade. You still go out with them, but the passion isn’t there anymore. You do it out of a sense of duty or habit, because it feels comfortable. You go along to dates but you don’t feel the same energy that you used to. Then eventually the conversation fades and you sit in silence, checking your phone, staring into space. Finally, you get angry with them; you start to lose patience, and the things you used to overlook now start to irritate and annoy you. You shout at them all the time. And finally you walk away. I feel like I have been through these stages with Newcastle United. The ups and downs have always been there but, like any relationship, if you work at it you can keep the fire burning. You try new things to spice it up a bit (new managers, new players, new away trips) and it keeps the interest. Sometimes you do exciting things together (cup runs, beating the big guns, high-scoring games, comebacks from 4-0 at half-time) which remind you of why it is all worthwhile and make you remember the old times again. [magadvert] But if one party stops making the effort then you’re onto a lost cause. There’s only so much you can put into a relationship, and if you’re getting nothing in return you know the writing is on the wall. I’ve tried over recent seasons. I’ve turned up, I’ve joined in with chants and songs, I’ve travelled away, I’ve roared them on, I’ve paid my hard earned cash...but these days they don’t give me anything back. I see no ambition, no effort, no loyalty, no passion, no responsibility. It’s me making all the effort and they aren’t bothered any more. Saturday’s game against Swansea showed a relationship in its death-throes. We all sat there in silence, looking the other way, checking our phones, picking our noses, watching the seagulls fly overhead, wondering what was for tea. And then we got angry. We shouted at the team, at the manager, at the owner, at each other. People vented their spleens, showed some emotion, asked for commitment, and what did they get back from their long-term partner? Indifference from the players, silence from the boardroom, and foul-mouthed bitterness from the manager. I am sure I am not alone when I say I don’t love you anymore, Newcastle United. I want to, I so dearly do, but I’m going through the motions. I stood at the back of the North East corner on Saturday and watched the crowd. There were many, many empty seats around me, but those that were filled, were filled with despondent people. [magadverttwo] Do these people feel the same, I wondered. Do they want to feel attached, but struggle to summon up the same passion and love? Do they really want to be here, or are they just going through the motions? Do they feel estranged, like a spare part, someone who is there because they have to be, not because they want to be? Perhaps I’ve fallen out of love with football, I often think. With the Premiership, with the overpaid players, with the corporate branding, with the “MAKE SOME NOISE!”, with the ‘Premier League Anthem’ and the Sky Sport Super Sunday.
But if I go to watch Blyth Spartans fighting in the FA Cup, or Gateshead trying to get out of the conference, or North Shields get to Wembley, or even listen on the radio to Bournemouth getting promoted, I’m reassured that the passion is still there and I’m reminded what’s it’s all about.
It’s about trying. It’s about being part of something. It’s about wanting to win and everyone pulling in the same direction. It’s about sharing that emotion with your fellow fans, about feeling the players want the same things as you, about knowing the chairman and the board and the management are all striving to do something together as a club. It’s about the promise of the next big win, or the next semi-final, or the next nailbiting last-gasp equaliser.
And that’s what’s missing at Newcastle United.
That promise. That connection. That feeling of togetherness and wanting the same thing.
And NUFC: it’s over to you now. Put some effort into our relationship before I walk away for good.