Wow, Christmas already. Newcastle United are pretty much at the halfway point in the season, and all is going according to plan as we sit top of the league ahead of welcoming Sheffield Wednesday to St James.
After the squalor of recent times in the Prem, I think it’s safe to say that most fans are once again enjoying the Championship experience.
The feeling can often be mutual too, with opposing supporters widely enjoying their visits to the city, or appreciating the capacity crowds and big match atmosphere created on our travels.
Having said, there’s been a fair bit of shade thrown our way from our second-tier peers as well, with largely consistent gripes from certain areas that tend to address the respective values of our squad versus theirs. These are often rebuked by folk citing our £30m transfer profit in the summer, but still you get a bit of bitterness that we have a habit of fetching £12 million players off the bench and suchlike.
I’ve already written a bit generally apologising for this and reassuring all concerned we’d rather be in the Premier League. The gross mismanagement that has put us in this position bothers us a lot more than anyone operating under the impression that a 2-1 defeat isn’t enough of a margin to count against a side whose shin pads cost more than their entire squad, main stand, entire catering profits, swear jar contents, shares in Microsoft and other extensive dramatic exaggerations. I’ll not get into that again.
You see right now, the season of goodwill, is the exact perfect time to illustrate exactly why Newcastle United have an expensive bench, a famous manager and a perceived advantage over pretty much this entire division. For exhibit A in this study, I give you the official Newcastle United club shop.
Enter the superstore at the Strawberry corner of the ground in any given December and you’ll invariably find it rammed out with Geordies of all shapes, sizes, persuasions and flavours. Exuberant young charvas keeping the horrendous leisurewear industry afloat intersect with middle aged ladies looking for stocking fillers for the young and toon-obsessed. Various tat such as pint glasses and watches make for easy gifts for difficult to buy for dads and various teddies, toys and babygrows are available for the tiny toon in your life.
I wonder how much this large haul of profit goes towards supporting the whole operation, and this is just a small slice of it. The people buying NUFC embossed winkle pickers or tea cosies with Dwight Gayle’s face on are a small example of the amount put into this organisation by the people. I’m sure the line of 51k average attendance is wearing thin in some quarters but as well as being a fair old revenue in itself, that presents a large target base for advertisers.
The corporate side of things has been appallingly mismanaged but I bet it’s still a fair old trade by most standards, underpinned by the fact that any business with a foothold in the club will only increase its appeal across the North East, again due to the massive emotional involvement of the people.
I realise that football is a huge money game and some elements of this pale to comparison next to TV contracts etc (although I look forward to being told this in the comments section by some goldfish-brained c***womble who hasn’t torn himself away from x-rated Google searches long enough to read this far) but this is what sets us apart.
The ready made audience and the aura it carries was enough to attract Rafa Benitez to a project that has massive potential and the rest is history in the writing.
As a region of people we simply crave the pride of positive representation from the organisation that is symbolic of our area. This craving has regularly been turned against us by lazy journalists as evidence of unrealistic expectations. I really don’t care if the poor research skills and sobriety levels of Brexit Brian Pittlecrotch of the Southern Sun choose to throw this our way. It’s clear enough for Rafa to see through and that is infinitely more important.
Supporters of this club fall into different levels of enthusiasm. Some are ecstatic and optimistic with our current situation, others equally as ecstatic at present but wary of the regime potentially cocking this all up by reverting to type.
There are fans who still won’t set foot in the ground under Ashley and there are some who have never questioned his stewardship.
All want success for this club and want to believe it is on the right track. The club has, for the first time in years, backed a manager who has harnessed this, and it will propel us further than any multi-million pound substitutes bench can ever really convey.
Merry Christmas to all and here’s hoping this is the year our dreams come true. Enjoy your club shop swag.
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf