It might sound a bit obvious…but I want Newcastle United to win this division.
For a while, I convinced my slightly worn out head that I would be happy if we just go up, job done, with no comment or curse from Football Focus next year. A bit like when you get your haircut as a kid and you want people to notice that it doesn’t look like your mam sheared it, but also to not notice it enough to have everybody giving it a slap.
I wanted the momentum of promotion without the added pressure.
Of course, I was kidding myself, and very probably trying on a defence mechanism in case we don’t win the Championship. At work and with friends, all of the talk is that we should be at the top of the table. A few pints ends up with ‘should win’, and often in a tone that is accompanied with a less than confident shrug, or even a shaking of a head. But ‘should win’ is a different type of pressure to ‘could win’. And I liked the inference that ‘could’ means it doesn’t matter if we don’t.
After all, we’ve all seen Newcastle United win the second tier trophy before, haven’t we? Well, no. And it didn’t really occur to me until I had a chat with one of the kids at school (work!).
She goes to as many away matches with her dad as she can and it was on one of these trips, that she apparently had the conversation that reloaded my hopes of a double page Newcastle United poster spread in my own youngest’s football magazine.
The conversation, it seems, went along the lines of her dad feeling much as I had felt: let’s just get promoted in whatever position, hopefully buy some players (a small issue in itself), and look forward to finishing 14th next season.
However, for the young lady in question, there was a bigger dream. She can’t really remember the domination of Chris Hughton’s ownership of the Championship and the confident run of sometimes quite ruthless victories. She can’t really remember what it felt like to know you were better than the rest of the division, rather than the suspicion of it that she sees now. She can’t remember the trophy.
There is a generation of Newcastle fans who perhaps need the lovely, if naive belief, of optimism, without the pressure of ‘should’, and without the incredulity of ‘didn’t’. They have years to acquire that and it doesn’t do anything for your blood pressure.
While our team haven’t always been convincing, the statistics are impressive when compared with the rest of the division; albeit, it’s not much of a division. This got me thinking about the last time we were promoted without finishing on the top of the second class tree, back in 1984.
I can’t help but look back on that season with grey and black pin-striped spectacles, and naïve optimism. At the heady age of 11, I stared in joyous disbelief at a cinematic Newcastle team starring Kevin Keegan, Chris Waddle and Peter Beardsley, with a supporting cast that would make any award winner sob. We scored a million goals and it was always sunny, and no animals were hurt during the making of this production. Well, apart from the ones in my kebab after the match.
Looking at the statistics, we were beaten eight times. That’s a bit like now. We were nowhere near winning the main prize but given the straight to video rubbish of only a few seasons before this, I remember optimism and pride in the achievements, and a very noisy ground. I pause before I use the word ‘stadium’, when you could get wet if someone washed a car behind what was left of the Leazes end.
I want these young fans to have that feeling. It was this realisation that got me excited about winning promotion convincingly again.
It isn’t just ‘should’ because we’ve got a better squad than the others; it’s ‘should’ because maybe we need these kids to be excited as well as expectant. They need to be able to look back on this season with dark blue with an orange stripe tinted spectacles.
If you can’t when you’re a young ‘un, when can you?
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