I liked History at school. I wasn’t any good at it, because I wasn’t interested in all the ‘compare source A with source B and source C’ stuff, but the bare bones about what the peasant folk did for toilets in the middle ages, or how the Romans widened the A1 going past the Metrocentre, well; I loved all that. But as I’ve got older, I’ve realised that the ‘compare source A with source B and source C’ stuff is really important.
History is written by the winners, and in today’s world, that means those who can spin their story. And that often means those with the fattest wallets; those who can control the media.
Recently, I’ve been trying to think of the thousands of personal stories to tell about Newcastle United. We all have them.
Our first match (Wrexham at home, 1979. 1-0. Alan Shoulder penalty).
Our favourite goal (Kevin Keegan v QPR, 1982. Not the best goal, but as a symbol of hope for a kid about to start his last year at primary school, pretty significant).
Taking the kids for the first time (v Swansea a couple of years ago. Lost 1-2. At least they had the feeling of being ahead for a few minutes).
I remember watching us on the big screen in West Denton Social Club years ago. An away match at Leeds. The old guy on the door told me and my inebriated mate about his dad, who had played for Newcastle. Newcastle West End! Now that, boys and girls, would have been a great history lesson, had we not been in there all afternoon before the match.
But in years to come, who will tell these stories? With the threat of relegation hanging over us like a medieval peasant squatting over a Championship hole in the ground, does it even matter?
Well, I think it does.
Over the years, countless stories have been born and retold around the somewhat sloping pitch. Wonder goals; near misses; days with dads and grandads, mams and sisters that are cherished, no matter what the outcome. All those old photographs of folk in suits and caps, each with a story about the match and the day. “Couldn’t see a thing when Jackie scored, mind, and there was wee down the back of my trousers, but what a day!”
In the Edwardian era, when losing at the FA Cup final became a bit of a habit but a great day out, groups of fans would even sail to London for the match.
There must have been some great stories about those trips. Today, they would be instantly chronicled through social media. ‘Just been to the Crystal Palace. Great day out. We should have won. We are the best team King Edward has ever seen not win the FA Cup. FML!’
An emoji for our current plight might look a bit like a passport photograph. Expressionless; hoping that the person looking at it is not going to cavity search our chances of staying up. In years to come, our story of this season is going to be documented by everyone who has seen it. It can’t be glossed over by an update, or ‘judged after twenty matches.’ It will be permanent. Our history has never been as shared as it is now.
There is so much at stake in our survival: it amounts to over a million pounds a year for each year of the next century. There is the not inconsiderable question of our pride. There are our footballing hopes for years to come.
What will fans in a hundred years look at as evidence of this season?
The league tables? They don’t tell the personal story; just the cold facts of ineptitude.
The club weekly updates? Well, they’re part of the story. But only part of it.
Our status updates and tweets? They’re a huge part of the story, too.
Compare source A with source B and source C. Newcastle United v Norwich City. The history of the club depends on it.