At a time when the Toon are riding high and exceeding the expectations of many and in particular most of the southern ‘hacks’ it is regrettable that the relationship between the club and Civic Centre is lukewarm at the very best.
It does not help that we have a Council Leadership that does not share my own passion (as well as a massive NUFC fan I’m also a Labour Councillor for Benwell-Scotswood ward) for football and my devotion to the local team, along with a ruling Cabinet most of whom would probably struggle to understand offside in its previous simple form let alone explain the ‘first or second phase’ ruling.
Indeed when I floated the idea of an official recognition by the Council of Alan Pardew’s wonderful achievement as Premiership Manager of the Year, my request fell on deaf ears, as most did not know what I was talking about and my proposal has never seen the light of day.
Of course Mike Ashley has not always helped this cause with some of his antics and insensitive treatment of the fans and the club’s PR still has some way to go despite improvements in recent months. My own letter of support to Derek Llambias some months ago at a time when he was in the firing line is still awaiting a response and we all know about the fiasco over the renaming of the ground which was so contentious that it even evoked an indignant response from the Leader of the Council, not renowned for his passion for the game. However, his remark about upsetting the fans ‘standing on the terraces’ did display a somewhat outdated if romantic knowledge of the football world.
My hope is that the relationship will begin to thaw in the months ahead as the club and the team play such a vital role in the life of the city. A successful Newcastle United is great for the morale of everyone in the city and brings real benefits to the local economy. It also raises our profile around the world as shown by the fact that the simple mention of Alan Shearer whilst holidaying in Greece earned me a hug from a local football fan there and a free pint of welcome chilled beer!!
I had thought about starting this process of reconciliation by inviting Mike, Derek and their entourage to join me for Council Tea but in the present climate of financial austerity I am not sure that a choice between a veggie lasagne or mince pie would necessarily be to their taste.
In the next few years it might well be my turn to have the honour of being nominated as Lord Mayor for our wonderful city of Newcastle. If so am I slipping into the world of fantasy to dream of welcoming Mike, Alan and the team to the Mansion House complete with the Premiership trophy?
If that happens I might even wear my Sports Direct replica shirt at that event to really seal the awaited reconciliation that is long overdue.
Here’s hoping for another great season.
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