What Twenty Thousand Geordies Have Realised
The first Newcastle match I ever saw was our undignified exit from the League Cup away to Bristol Rovers in the second round.
I was standing with my friends, all of whom supported Rovers, next to the primitive Eastville tunnel which offered no protection to players from fans.
Wyn The Leap, my hero, actually smiled at me and – I can still hear him saying it – said ‘Sorry lad.’
I wonder what John Irving, the Newcastle finance director, and these days substantially more than that, apparently, in the absence of Derek Llambias, would have said if I could have got close enough to him to pat him on the back after the thoroughly deserved Newcastle FA Cup 3rd round defeat by Cardiff City in this year’s FA Cup?
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I imagine he would have shrugged his shoulders and said something like: “Well, the cups are not a priority.”
After all, it’s exactly what he did say in a forum with fans a few months ago.
Those fans still cutting Mike Ashley some slack after a very encouraging run of games, and an admirable eighth position in the Premier League, should reflect on what concentrating on the league actually means.
It is obvious that it means that we go out of the FA Cup season after season at the first hurdle.
It also means that, season after season, we will be prone to collapses in form mid-season as injuries and suspensions kick in.
Not doing well in the cups minimises this ever-present risk.
And finally it means that, season after season, we will be asked to cheer a team that has no chance of winning the only competition the club wants to do well in. That’s because the big bucks are forthcoming from television – provided our team stays in the top division.
We have to stay up, but that’s all. We won’t compete with Manchester City, or even Liverpool, because we can’t. So we are happy to be tenth, eighth, or even fifth.
When Wyn Davies sheepishly apologised for doing badly against Bristol Rovers, it was a genuine upset. Our club, like every other club, had a fairly small squad. We weren’t going to win the league, but we might occasionally do well in a cup. For Wyn, losing to Rovers was a shock and a blow and a miserable experience.
But for John Irving it’s the price of Mike Ashley’s template for our club.
We lost at home to a Welsh club and even the BBC didn’t think it was surprising. It wasn’t surprising.
It’s what Mike would have wanted.
Twenty thousand missing Geordie fans have realised it.
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