There’s a massive game coming up on Monday against Aston Villa and no mistake.
With other promotion contenders gaining momentum, it’s vital that United take full advantage of two winnable home games in a week to make inroads towards the 24 extra points we need to make sure that the endeavours of Huddersfield, Reading et al are irrelevant as we look after our own destiny. The game is huge in the context of a season entering the business end, no more.
At this point I can hear a chorus of dissenting voices all over the internet spluttering…
“But it’s Villa! Our nemesis of recent years, the bedsheet brigade! The dwellers of a half closed ground who respond to any criticism by incessantly banging on about their European Cup win. Oh yes, got to put one over the Villa.”
Well, I might be in the minority here but I think this is boring and I’m sick of it.
Don’t get me wrong, when a game with any given opponent is imminent it is natural for banter and bickering to begin, reaching a crescendo on the match day and dying off as the next fixture looms. But this is not the case with Monday’s opponent, is it? Over the course of this season and many preceding it, there has been a consistent niggle with the Villains, and it’s at the point where no one is coming out of it covered in any glory.
Of course, it’s obvious where all of this stems from. Other than the erstwhile twice a season banter and the fact that sharing a league with them meant having to visit Birmingham, I don’t remember any specific problem between Newcastle and Villa prior to the events of 24th May 2009. Let’s have a bit more of a look at that day eh?
For anyone too young to properly remember, or who has been through extensive therapy to forget, this was the day of Newcastle’s previous relegation to the Championship, going out with a whimper at Villa Park as Damien Duff’s own goal never looked like being cancelled out to earn the draw that would have saved us. Villa fans were inexplicably cock-a-hoop to see us fail, and from there the grudge was born.
I wonder how we would have behaved had the boot been on the other foot. Schadenfreude in football is a funny thing, to glee in the misfortune of others in a way that is underpinned by the gratitude that it isn’t happening to you. To see such a prominent and long-standing member of the top flight crash out is a notable occurrence, and the attitude of the Villa fans that day may have been reflective of the reception we (or they) would have got most places.
The element that stuck in the craw of many was the apparent pre-emptive factor of the bedsheets being in place, with two prominent banners saying “Sob on the Tyne” and “Who’s your next messiah, Ant or Dec?” The fact that the Holte End collective had gone to all this bother to wallow in our misfortune suggested something lying deeper among the Villa fans and we hated them for it.
Except, a bit of research tells you a deeper story. Check the internet and you’ll have it confirmed that both of those banners were actually produced, completely independently (of other Villa supporters), by the same bloke.
It was not the actions of a supporters group or any collective, he just chose to do it himself. Now ask yourself what sort of person would spend a significant amount of their own time preparing a message of gloating towards a rival with whom there is no bad blood?
A bit of a cock wallop maybe?
A bit of a saddo who’s not very good at being funny, given that Ant and Dec come as a unit and sob doesn’t even rhyme with fog.
The fact there were two sheets and they were massive made it look like the whole Holte end had put in, whereas all that had happened was that one person had severely neglected his World of Warcraft profile for a week. Pity, not hate.
Of course, we bounced straight back to the Premier League, and a mere 15 months after that infamous day, the football gods delivered Villa as our first home game. We subjected them to a six-nil howking and the Aston Villa fans in attendance got a rough ride on their day out, as any pockets of brummies wandering the usually friendly city were left in no doubt what we thought of their behaviour when last we met.
Maybe, on reflection, that should have been it. They got a bit chopsy then we gave them it back when the boot was on the other foot. There would be an extra bit of needle every time we played them, as some wounds never heal, but the extent this has grown to is now out of hand.
Articles have appeared on this very website and indeed anywhere that NUFC fans are prominent talking about Villa when they are irrelevant to us. If they were in Brighton’s position, fine, but they are wallowing in the lower reaches of the league.
Look up the #avfc hashtag on Twitter and there will be a plethora of Newcastle fans putting the boot in at every one of their regular setbacks. The thing with this is that the 2009 relegation was unpleasant because Villa fans seemed to display a lack of class.
This was of course repeated when things turned against us there last year, with their “still sob on the Tyne” banner, which was, of course, the same bloke and didn’t even make sense as a sentence.
I’d argue that the trolling of another club that bears no relevance to ourselves has spiralled into a similar undignified trend.
Yes, many Villa fans are arseholes, absolute 24 carat prize ones in some cases, and should have their vote and right to reproduce removed before they contribute to us living in a Mad Max society. However, so are plenty of Newcastle fans, whose refusal to be disagreed with (the Mitrovic debate) is equaled, only by their opinion on the hierarchy among fans (of which they are top) in clicking the switch to launch broadsides on fellow mags in a personal categorisation of who is the best human being that is a trademark of social media.
In fact, give this a try. Put any major football club’s hashtag in a tweet and write a factual, non-provocative message about them e.g. Reading don’t always fill their ground, or Derby’s stadium is soulless and inaccessible. You’ll be hit back swiftly with at least one response of unnecessary vitriol and zero wit because, unfortunately, some people are just w*nkers. This is football, this is the internet and this is life.
I will always have a dislike of Aston Villa after our relegations but life is too short to dwell on it.
Let’s give them both barrels for a week, beat them, then think about Bristol City and ensuring that Villa are no longer even a concern twice a season for some time yet.
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles to [email protected])