So, it has begun.
As we approach the bleak midwinter, chilly souls are flocking away from St James Park.
Some feeling the external chill of the Tyneside winds, many more suffering from the cold numbness on the inside, brought about by the apathetic shower whose aimless meanderings they’ve sat through not-quite-ninety minutes of.
The Leicester game seemed to mark a turning point, where those with lingering hope…gave up. People who may have maintained that Steve McClaren’s coaching abilities were not reflected fairly by the performances of his recent clubs. Supporters who were confident that £50 million investment in bright young European talent would fire a renaissance in fortunes. Very few of them remained in their seats after 70 minutes last Saturday.
Of course, the impact of this won’t be immediate. Our next home game will be boosted by the third parties more interested in seeing Liverpool than boosting their local team. Students from the Home Counties settled in Jesmond and north-easterners who weren’t brought up properly, will be peppered throughout the stands, quietly wondering to what extent they may be allowed to cheer on the men in red.
Then we have back to back games in the Christmas week, which will again be swollen by people returning to the area for the holidays, or those whose work doesn’t often allow them to get to the game. The festive spirit may even detract from the growing cloud of sorrow, although Aston Villa and Everton will most likely have a hand in diminishing any ideas of jollity.
I suspect reality may bite down hard in January, in particular when we host West Ham. The way things are going, it is likely we will still be in/around the relegation zone, most probably out of the FA cup and coming off the back of two torrid games v Arsenal and Man Utd when the Hammers rock up.
It may just be that the most miserable month of the year proves too much and I can foresee a poor showing that day, seeing another example of fast-emptying stands. This time it will be right on cue to send off that season ticket non-renewal.
For many, this is a miserable thought.
The crowd at Newcastle today seems to consist of two different types of people: those who go because they simple don’t know any different and who will apparently tolerate anything; and those who go because they get a sense of social enjoyment from the day outside of the actual football.
I’m in the second group and I wonder how many people who’d also put themselves in this category, would recognise the feeling of misery when you check your watch and realise it has somehow become twenty to three and you need to think about leaving the pub. Surely this is supposed to be fun?
I realise that it’s the nature of sport that you’ll have your ups and downs but this has become an epidemic. Year on year of miserable struggle under an owner that couldn’t care, with a team of heartless non-achievers, uninspired by a string of insipid management appointees.
Along with Sunderland, we serve only to exist in the Premier League, dodging the drop every year by the skin of our teeth to keep our snouts in the trough of vast Sky money, distributed generously as it is amongst the unworthy individuals who have no inclination to try for more in our city’s name. At least Sunderland get the consolation of beating us unacceptably regularly, as a distraction from enduring this.
For those considering the season ticket decision (most people surely) I would advise first cancelling your Sky Sports subscription. This will most likely hit the pigs at the trough harder and, if you haven’t noticed, it’s actually becoming shiter by the year anyway, with zero concession to this in its inflated subscription rates. The worst part of this capitalist nightmare for me is that it actually extinguishes that last bastion of the miserable, hope.
What exactly can we hope for to get out of this? The crazy money Mike Ashley has over the club is insurmountable, but we will never show ambition to compete under the current regime.
This may not resonate with everyone, but I honestly can’t reasonably hope for some sheikh with copious amounts of cash to plough billions into a Geordie Renaissance. This is not just because it’s not bloody likely, but is this not a thoroughly disgusting concept?
The world is a miserable place for so many for reasons far beyond football. Hand on heart I would rather Shiekh Ben Efakhta took his billions to Africa and saved a few thousands children’s lives, or looked at rehousing the orphaned children from atrocities in the Gaza Strip or Syria, that were quickly forgotten about when focus shifted to Sepp Blatter and his particular portion of the trough.
If he desperately wants to invest in England, give it to the Bobby Robson foundation, Mind, or one of the countless good causes fighting to give struggling people a chance in life. Anything but cranking up the stratospheric levels of greed that form the life blood of the Premier League.
It was surely never meant to be this serious. Many have realised and sought out a more soulful source of football in the local leagues. I particularly enjoyed South Shields recent crowd of 1,400+ serving to prove that you can’t beat being in between two big clubs taking the p*** out of their respective fans, for a spot of gate-boosting opportunism.
This isn’t to say that anyone should feel any guilt about going to support Newcastle.
Round here it’s in the blood, it is pan-generational and it’s what we’ve always done, always will do.
I just feel the next time I see Raheem Sterling waltzing into a ground in his enormous solid gold diamond-encrusted beats by Dre headphones, I’ll feel another little pang of cold numbness in the centre of the soul.
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
(To contribute like longstanding columnist Jamie, send in your original articles for our website to [email protected] and share them with the world)