Newcastle fansare some of the league’s most fervent masochists – but sometimes it’s worth the pain, just as it was on Sunday afternoon.
Regular Gallowgate attendees are renowned as gluttons for protracted punishment. The club’s fortunes have been bent to the will of an unscrupulous, domineering owner for eight long years, and the fans seem powerless to resist, bound to the club by the heartstrings. Despite a less than stellar start to the season, attendances in the league haven’t dipped below the 47,000 mark.
Even whippings against Leicester and Palace didn’t deter the paying customers, who keep coming back for more. Over 51,000 packed into St. James’ Park yesterday, expecting to get their bottoms well and truly spanked by Jurgen Klopp’s rampant Reds.
Why do Newcastle fans do it?
Odd as it sounds, there’s a sick sense of satisfaction about a Newcastle United defeat these days. Every passing loss validates widely held opinions regarding an inept owner, and out of depth manager and a squad lacking in ability and heart. Conversely, does victory justify Mike Ashley’s methods, appointments, transfer dealings? It’s not easy being a United fan, that’s for sure. No wonder we’re a little twisted.
But it’s not just about self-inflicted schadenfreude. On rare occasions, the players will put in a shift worthy of the shirt – particularly against the big boys.
Since penetrating Norwich’s defence half a dozen times and dominating Stoke without reward, United have been the willing, submissive party, but that wasn’t the case against Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea, even Man City for forty-five minutes. The workrate is at its highest against the top sides, and in two of those four games, the pay-off came in the form of points.
The Liverpool victory followed that trend. Some of the most maligned players of recent weeks, not least captain Coloccini, were superb on Sunday afternoon. In fact, there could be no questions about the attitude of any of the starting eleven, even your Sissokos and Cissés.
Liverpool simply couldn’t find their rhythm in a rather dire first half, and were only marginally more dangerous after the break. They were sub-par, sure, but some credit for that has to go to United.
Performance isn’t just about confidence, no matter what Steve Black might have you believe. It’s about commitment, and that has been sorely lacking, no more so than when the chips are down. In fifteen games, United have only ever come from behind once to take something from the game – the 2-2 draw against Southampton on opening day.
A committed performance from the outset kept Liverpool from gaining that early mental advantage. The confidence to win, and to shut out an in-form frontline for the final twenty minutes, came as a result. It wasn’t pretty, but it was gutsy, and that’s all the fans have been asking for of late.
Now, United need to keep it up. In the grand scheme, it’s just a win, one of three in the league all season, and we’re still not free of the bottom three. All that unexpected euphoria will be for nothing should the performances dip again, if not at a virile young Spurs side, then certainly when we invite the impotent Aston Villa into our bedchamber in a fortnight’s time.
Becoming a pawn in Mike Ashley’s business bondage has pushed us towards masochism, but like all football fans, we’re sadists at heart. There’s plenty of gratification to be found in inflicting further pain upon the Villans, the club that consigned us to the Championship six years ago.
One good performance from us could ultimately do much the same for them, but coming out on top is far from guaranteed.
When the next matchday rolls around, I won’t actually be decked out head to toe in rubber. It’s just a metaphor. A Newcastle shirt serves much the same purpose.
As far as football goes, it’s about as kinky as it gets.
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