I have to admit, I’m feeling pretty positive right now about Newcastle United.
No doubt some Newcastle fans will be all over this perceived weakness as the NUFC Armageddon is always coming in the minds of many, but as it stands, all is well and, in the words of a great Briton, worrying means you suffer twice. So I’m going to enjoy my summer thanks very much.
A couple of weeks back, it just felt nice that Newcastle had sealed promotion, albeit in a likely runners-up spot. When the incredible ending to the final game of the season gave us the title it was euphoric, although a bit tainted with trepidation about Rafa’s alleged meeting with Ashley.
Incredibly, this meeting happened almost immediately, with Rafa emerging happy and even the owner making an actual statement that, by his standards, has to be viewed as a positive. Genuine hope abounds that we will soon be assembling a Premier League squad. Then, on top of this, the new kit came out and I really like it.
Now, opinion pieces about kits are not the most interesting, but bear with me please, as I believe there is a valuable lesson here on a wider scale, as some of the response to this kit release has been an excellent metaphor for the general approach of NUFC fans.
The new shirt is a classic set of stripes, with no unnecessary dressage in the forms of excess black/white shoulders, the welcome return of red numbers and, crucially, the eradication of the despised Wonga sponsor that has surely hampered sales in the past four years. In a more romantic moment, you could view it as a metaphor for a brave new era for the club. If you were a bit of a big soft so and so of course.
Wonga has been pushed out by FUN88, which are not the blokes Uma Thurman fights in the first Kill Bill film as I originally thought, but a Chinese gambling firm, who are apparently coughing up a sight more moolah, spondulix, wedge or whatever you want to call it than the last lot. People don’t seem totally happy though.
I may be making the mistake of listening to social media masses here…but I’ve seen a few comments where people are unsure about the nature of the new company, with a common line being trotted out that the ideal would be the return of Newcastle Brown Ale to the shirt.
I’m not going to resorting to naming and shaming of those who have said this, but instead would suggest they go and knock on the door of the Newcastle Brewery and pitch their idea. They may hit one major problem.
Maybe we’re a bit spoilt by the fact that the brewery was such an identifiable local symbol that looked so good on shirts. The local connection was even continued by Northern Rock and now people are feeling a bit aggrieved that we’ve gone to some unknown Asian company with one of those slightly daft sounding names, that looks like it should be flashing in neon down a Bangkok backstreet.
You’ve got to understand though, in the era of Mansour and Abramovich that this is the way things are. The brewery is gone, Brown Ale is brewed Christ knows where, and even if it was still over the road it wouldn’t have the clout to compete with the international big businesses that adorn most top flight kits these days.
And if you’re questioning the addiction factor of gambling sites, then suggesting booze as an alternative, you need to just turn your right to vote in now.
The thing is, this is progress in the modern era, and you physically can’t live anytime else. The reason I consider it relevant is that I worry this kind of short-sighted approach may be applied to events on the field next season.
Tellingly, Rafa has referred on a few occasions post-promotion of the need for everyone to be together, to understand the ambitions of the club in moving forward. Of course, this was directed largely at Ashley, but there’s a message to the fans in there too.
Next year, we are going to have to find our feet back in the Premier League. It is likely that several new signings will need to settle, which could affect our start. It is definite that Rafa will not change his style. This will bring about the occasional home defeat where teams out-counter attack us or the odd disappointing 0-0 away from home, where we contain the opposition but don’t manage to convert that one crucial chance. This may be at a ground where people will think we could win if we’d “gone for it” and reactions could be a bit negative.
The thing is, this is not Kevin Keegan’s 90s team of Brown Ale wearing cavaliers, where everyone steams forward and Darren Peacock does the defending on his own. This is a different manager with a different style but it’s a similar revolutionary process for the club. There were some moments last season where the refusal to play two up front, the choice of centre-halves, or a run of less than stellar performances would draw unsavoury attention from within our ranks. Our finishing position was 1st. It all didn’t matter.
Next year, I expect a similar scenario, only success would be finishing 9th or 10th, which is harder to get excited about. The difference between this and previous underwhelming finishes will be that it builds towards a plan for next year, and the next, and so on. This requires patience and it’s not something we’re all fully furnished with.
Newcastle fans are entitled to a variety of opinions. Some may think the club under Ashley is on track, some are certain that it is still doomed. I’m more middling, very suspicious of the owner and certain the club will move forward the day he leaves, but optimistically content with the current state of affairs.
Wherever you sit on that scale, you need your head looked at if you think we’d be any better off without Rafa.
I cringe at the thought of where we could be without his intervention in the past 14 months and genuinely believe there may be great days ahead.
If you believe we’d be better off with Ashley’s next yes man because he’ll play Mitrovic every week, then I understand Steve McClaren is now available again to satisfy your insane desire.
Please everyone, it’s alright to enjoy it again.
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])