It emerged this week that Newcastle United do not have plans for a lap of honour, or rather a lap of ‘appreciation’ as it is now being termed. Should they or shouldn’t they?
Habits have changed over time. The terminology has changed with it. The lap of honour was traditionally for those who were victorious.
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The roots are long held and are associated with victory, whether it was Romans showcasing the spoils of war, including slave prisoners from the reaches of the expanding empire, or the sporting field to celebrate success.
Winners stay behind to enjoy the adulation that goes with success. The crowds can recognise excellence. We can thank those who represent us competitively, bringing pride to a town, a region, a country.
The lap of appreciation, rather than honour, can be seen as different. We are reminded that Kevin Keegan as manager in 1993 sent his players out for one, the tradition having continued since. Then, of course, the players had promotion to celebrate but the motivation is perceived that the lap was to show appreciation of supporters by the players.
The ‘lap’ of course comes from motor racing. There are other symbols of gratitude that can be seen in that sport. In the last race of the season, it is a traditional ‘thank you’ for the World Champion to, if feasible, yield to the number 2 driver, affording them to take the opportunity for the glory in the race.
It is a noble gesture, to offer thanks for the support.
It will also be remembered that the Newcastle team that finished 5th under Sir Bobby also undertook the lap of appreciation. John Carver worked under Sir Bobby, in case anybody missed the fact. The reception may not have been as warm as many supporters had left the stadium but it was done.
There have been other notable absences. Last season, Alan Pardew left it to the players, himself having been booed during the game after a dismal run of results.
Returning to Kevin Keegan, it is clear that he was a manager in touch with supporters. The crowd were prepared to give credit where it was due. There were also times when things may have not looked so good. After the sale of Andy Cole, Keegan was prepared to stand outside the club to talk to supporters who turned up to demonstrate unrest.
This brings us back to what can be expected on Sunday. We know that a proportion of supporters will stay behind. It is one of the protests planned for the day against the nature of Mike Ashley’s ownership of the club.
We do not know yet what the result will be; a win, loss or draw. A win may bring a surge of relief, a draw or defeat may not be good enough to survive. The performance may be good, it may be dire. Similarly, we do not know what the result will be down in Hull. There will be a range of emotions whatever the outcome.
It is right that the players should show appreciation for the support they have received, not just for the day but for the season. After all, the average wage is over £32,000 per week. They have their financial futures secured as a result of representing the third best supported club in the country.
In turn, supporters will want to show appreciation for some of the players, if not all. To select just one, Jonas may have fallen foul of club manipulations of selection policy and contract extension. However good a player he is perceived, his efforts over the years have been valued. His defeat of cancer is an inspiration to us all.
Certainly, some players may not be similarly received. It may be that they do not wish to do the opposite of a lap of honour – the walk of shame. Nevertheless, in the gladiatorial environment Premier league football, it is right that they share the emotions of the almost 1,000,000 attendees at St James’ Park over the year.
Players can move on. This summer, a number certainly will. Some will go to more successful clubs, picking up an even higher wage than the average £1.5m per year here. If relegated, supporters are not as fortunate to escape the consequences for our club.
A knowledge that they will have to face the crowd can be a powerful motivator for players, whether it is a desire to restore pride or a fear of failure.
Whether it is a lap of honour, lap of appreciation, a lap of apology, or a walk of shame, the millionaires on the pitch have a duty to show themselves after the game. We sincerely hope that we can applaud a defiant effort to avoid the drop. An effort to avoid supporters would be an act of extreme cowardice.
Mike Ashley, who has not been known to show his appreciation of the support that lines his wallet, should take his own lap too!