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Newcastle United – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and…Acceptance?

8 years ago

You may remember [intlink id=”38493″ type=”post”]my last outing was a mid-season assessment [/intlink]which ended up addressing the existential conundrum we all face as Newcastle fans; why do we support this club?

As a middle aged man maybe I should be facing my midlife crisis by buying a Harley Davidson and getting a tattoo of Che Guevara on my back?

Maybe a new cologne would make my paunch seem less of a turn off and make me more attractive to the younger ladies in the office? Instead, I find myself embroiled in the world of football politics. It is not really by choice. It saddens me that I can’t say I am just a football fan, who supports and loves Newcastle United. But I am not.

After 27 years of match going, I no longer attend NUFC games, nor do I love the club. There is nothing really left to love. It is soulless – a corporate shell – happy to make up the numbers as an also ran in the most over-hyped league in the world.

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The Ashley years have been an orgy of  corruption and decadence which are reminiscent of the decline of the Roman Empire; when they reappointed JFK last year I was reminded of when Caligula made Incitatus – his favourite horse – a senator! I have witnessed with increasing dismay at how fans have been systematically stripped of their pride and dignity by a long trail of crimes committed by others, on and off the pitch.

However, I am not here to depress you further, rather to offer a smidgen of hope.

Recently, a friend  talked me through the five stages of grief; they are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. She gave me an explanation of each and I did recognise that we as Newcastle fans have been progressing through these stages at different times over the last 7 years. But when she argued that I had reached the last stage, I knew that she was wrong and it was just another bullshit analogy to explain the unacceptable, not the inevitable.

This is not the slow death of a club we are dealing with – it is the slow process of a rebirth. I may have given up giving Ashley my money but I haven’t given up on my club. I am still in love with the idea of what Newcastle United – UNITED – can be. I don’t want it to be run by a more ambitious corporate megalomaniac, where the price of real success is further alienation and disconnection. I want it to have a special connection to my roots, my community, my life…a unique shining beacon upon the hill, for the city and the region.

I go to meetings. I talk to people in my job. I’ve picked up more than a hint (off some, not all) of a smug superiority by those who say they boycott matches, yet choose to do little else but sneer at season ticket holders from behind a keyboard. I attended the march. I’ve also stood outside St James’s this season giving out leaflets and did my bit. I’ve witnessed the blank looks of the Stepford Wives and the Randle McMurphys (after his electro shock therapy). I have also seen the pained expression of the conscious, trudging up the hill as if they were going to meet their end and gain saintly martyrdom – I remember wondering whether this self-flagellation extended to wearing hessian underpants and thrashing themselves with birch once they  returned home from another 0-3 defeat.

But I do not mean to mock. Nor do I want to claim to be on a higher plain of consciousness. How can I be? I am after all, from North Shields. I recently watched the mighty Robins regain their rightful place in the Northern League  after nearly quarter of a century of struggle – brought about by mismanagement and betrayal from those few entrusted to look after history, tradition and people’s hopes and dreams. I talked to five lads in Chirton club who genuinely were overcome with emotion at their resurrection when in the past, a pre-match duty was to scrape dog turds off the pitch.

An absentee for many of those years of struggle, I guiltily sipped from the trophy and shook Malcolm MacDonald’s hand (The Club’s Life President). Despite my own  feelings of being a fraudulent interloper ( I was also a bit jealous) I got their enormous emotional attachment to the club, their sense of achievement, the ambition, the anticipation of the future. The very essence of  the game of football.

I’m sure these feelings are shared at Gateshead at the moment and the grassroots game generally seems to be blossoming again on Tyneside, whilst our major team withers on the vine. Are we reaping the grapes of wrath at NUFC?

Well, maybe… but only if the majority continue to believe they can do nothing. This season, small symbolic gestures have proven to have had a much greater impact than first imagined. The march, the bans, the continued undercurrent of discontent has provoked reactions from those that many thought were rhino skinned against criticism. They can be hurt. From this state of flux, most importantly, the NUST seems to have been rejuvenated and this is in the long-term interests of all Newcastle fans.

The bullshit club PR and accountancy speak also shows that this regime is terrified that the charade of full stadium=full support will be blown apart. And this is where the opportunity arises for fans to fire a final warning shot across the bows  of the regime.

The final home game against Cardiff City is a total non-event. It is offensive to dead rubber to use the phrase or to call it a ‘game’.  NUFC players mentally left the building in January and the manager has been drowning in his own regurgitated bile for longer. The owner’s interest will only be piqued by the end of season divvying out of the financial rewards for mediocrity.

Where does that leave the fans? I haven’t heard a good reason for attending the last game; if you’ve got any, maybe you could list them below?

I can see a whole heap of reasons why our 19th home game should be remembered for a proactive stand against decline and be a launchpad for a summer of uniting and organising. Fight the Apathy. Stay away or stand outside on Saturday 3rd May. I’m going to say it now….



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