‘I’m here, I’m back, I’m enjoying playing football’, words spoken by the remarkable Jonas Guttierrez at full-time on Sunday, words said with a gleaming smile to a backdrop of raw relief and emotion.
Make no mistake about it, relegation would have been too much, but for once the players on the pitch turned up and earned a few quid.
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Perpetually awful Vurnon Anita made me eat my words as time and time again he tackled, harried and broke up play in midfield, breaking forward dynamically, we will on this occasion excuse the miss that could have been so costly, where has he been all season?
The day started in a tense town, as rumours of revenge with Hammers fans were rife for goings on in Germany pre-season, tense because relegation was a real possibility, tense because there was an edge in town!
More than usual pre-match beers were soaked up, this is not good I was telling myself, but it might numb the pain?
Getting into the ground I was astonished to see a TV screen with a stranger’s head on, who is he I asked myself, it can’t be, but it was! Lord Lucan himself had decided to say a few words, does he mean them, is he lying, well If he is, there are nigh on 10 million witnesses to what he said, why does it take desperate times for him to speak publicly, why does he not communicate regularly, it could change so much.
Taking my seat it was evident that the crowd was better than Derby day, why can’t we be like this week in week out, has the life been sucked out of us by those above – it looks that way. When St James Park is at its raw best there is no better place in the world.
The atmosphere was absolutely electric, there is not another club in the world who would get this level of support; not Barcelona, Real Madrid and certainly not Manchester United.
When the emotion dies down and the dust settles, Mike Ashley must be true to his word and invest. £20 million is no good, if as he says he wants to get amongst the top 4 then £60 or £70 million for starters at least is needed, but that is without selling anybody of value.
Actions speak louder than words, so really the ball is in his court now, the hatred and venom will not go away until he does something positive. My own thoughts are that the club will spend, but I have my doubts about just how much. The cynic in me suggests yesterday’s TV interview was his way of deflecting attention away from himself yesterday, unwanted abusive attention! We shall wait and see.
Back in the pub at full-time the atmosphere was vibrant, celebratory, relief and the beers flowed like the old days, fans laughed joked and mixed together. A special mention to Jane Potter and her fabulous NUFC tattoo which she was happy and proud for all to see! It is loyal fans like her, like me, like you, who deserve so much more than what is on show.
I myself also had a sense of sadness inside, looking at my match day mates, guys who I had gone through school with in some cases, knowing that next season we would be fewer, family commitments and growing old means we only get together on match days, I blame Mike Ashley for this.
So, what is needed?
Well we need players with the skills that will improve and take the team massively forward, but skills are only useful if you have the heart to wear the famous shirt, a combination of both and nobody will complain. I don’t ever want to hear the chant of ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’ ever again – spineless cowards must be cast aside forever.
We need two centre-backs, a hulk of a centre forward, a centre forward who can take the pressure off young Ayoze Perez. His sublime skills would benefit if someone like ….dare I say it …a fit Andy Carroll was up front with him.
We need a centre-half in the John Terry mode, no nonsense physical centre-half. To be honest we could go through the team saying who we need, I just hope the club does spend the money to get us to challenge.
So, it’s over now, and although the FA cup is yet to come, unlike the old days when cup final day was special, I have no interest at all. I like cricket so will watch a bit of that and no doubt the Aussies will give us a pasting in the Ashes.
But wait a minute, I am also a glory hunting red ( and white) rugby league fan, and the magic weekend is at St James Park next weekend, so I will be back one more time before next season, come on St Helens! £40 for 2 days of games is value for money.
No doubt we will all be glued to the Internet, TV newspapers etc, looking for information, who will we sign, who will be in charge, let us hope it is interesting times ahead. It is Newcastle United and nothing is ever simple.
2014/15 is gone, so roll on 2015/16. I have been carrying my bat to reach 51 not out so far, of which 45 of those years have been spent following the loons at the theatre of comedy, missing only 18 home games since 1970, and still the wait goes on. We are further away than ever from winning anything and I don’t want to die a trophy virgin. Yet each passing year brings that prospect nearer to reality.
A final mention to the person whose words I started with, Jonas Guttierrez.
He epitomises what life is all about and is the one shining light of what has been a most depressing episode in the history of Newcastle United. His smile at full-time spoke volumes about his feeling for both us, and the team, God bless you, honorary Geordie indeed.