Diary Of A Sack Pardew Volunteer
Wednesday came and, with it, another chunk of SackPardew.com propaganda, another round of media interviews and another burst of fan support.
It became increasingly harder to not attend with the worry that I’d miss something historical and, maybe, the end of the man slowly eroding the passion I have for my club. By Thursday my tickets were ordered, train was booked and an offer of support made to SackPardew.com.
The day started at 9 where I met some of the organisers in a Newcastle pub. The usual awkward glances to find someone you’d never met weren’t necessary as there were around a pile of boxes with a total of 30,000+ ‘SackPardew’ A4 flyers – of which 20,000 had been donated by a local printing company – surrounded by a sizable group of volunteers. I spoke to one volunteer who had driven 400 miles that morning to help out, putting my journey to shame.
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At 11am I went to my allocated pub, one of 15 city centre locations that had agreed to host the distribution of flyers/banners. The intention was to stick up a banner, put the flyers on the table and field any questions from members of public. It was made clear to us that we were not to force this upon anyone and it became clear we didn’t have to – the only opposition to the campaign being, “Pardew needs to go, yes, but Ashley is the main problem.”
Pardew is a symptom and, short of drumming up a few hundred million pounds, one that needs removed. After receiving some messages from volunteers at other locations requesting help, we left our fairly quiet location to move elsewhere. Walking down the street it was clear that this campaign had caught the imagination of the public. Thousands of people wandered through the streets firmly gripping their Sack Pardew flyer and TV crews from far and wide interviewed both the volunteers and the public.
I even caught a glimpse of the ‘Sackmobile’, a van emblazoned with SackPardew.com branding which was greeted by cheers and applause. It was clear that today was hardly a protest, more a celebration of the inevitable.
After guiding myself through various TV interviewers and interviewees, I took in the display at ‘HQ’ (Bar Loco). Huge “HOPE” (maverick figure Hatem Ben Arfa as Che Guevara) and “HOPELESS” (Alan Pardew as Pinocchio) as well as many “SackPardew.com” banners decorated the outside of the building. It was here the message started spreading that the stewards had been ordered to confiscate any banners or flyers with the SackPardew logo and the information that there were an extra 150 stewards manning the entrances. With this in mind we hid our gear and approached the stadium.
It was clear that a large effort had been made by the club to try and stifle the protests. Large black binbags, full of our flyers, sat beside the turnstiles. “It’s private property, he can do what he wants,” was the excuse repeatedly provided. Banners were also confiscated. The steward on my turnstile repeated the excuse but seemed more apologetic. I asked him not to search my bag and he obliged. After a brief battle with the turnstile our banners and flyers were in.
Upon taking our seats I took in the view. Stewards were busy making sure no one was displaying their flyers or banners that they had smuggled in. While I expected an atmosphere similar to that of the Cardiff game, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The intensity of the support before the game, was in no way reflected inside the stadium allowing Alan Pardew to take his place at the touchline, something he’d been fearing by all accounts, without much hassle at all. As the fifth minute approached we were concerned that the steward’s actions would have a negative impact on the protest. Nevertheless, on the fifth minute, we proudly stood up. While not significant, there was noticeable involvement. However, it was clear what some fans thought of it all:
“It won’t make a difference!”
“Who’s going to do any better?”
“It’s distracting the players!”
“You’re a waste of space!”
We sat down again, disappointed but not undeterred. Near half-time I spotted a couple of the other volunteers pacing around at one of the entrances, both with large banners under their arms. Two of us went down to meet them. They told us of the abuse they’d been receiving while walking around trying to find somewhere to hang the banners (“HOPE” and “HOPELESS”).
The volunteer with the “HOPE” banner had been receiving a lot of abuse from Newcastle fans simply for holding an unfurled banner and was having no luck in navigating past the numerous security guards – efforts appear to have been made to avoid a repeat of last time where it was hung from the corporate boxes. The other volunteer with the “HOPELESS” banner was facing a struggle with the stewards who were keen to confiscate. The reason given was, “fans aren’t coming to the game because of the banner” – a banner which has never been unfurled at the stadium. All of our banners and flyers had previously been deemed as appropriate and should not be refused entry – there had been a definite U-turn from above.
As Newcastle went behind there was a bubbling of anti-Pardew sentiment. I’d held on to the hope that the crowd were just supporting the team and would start to display their anger when we went behind (an unfortunately realistic expectation in the Pardew era). At 2-0 there was a definitely surge. Flyers and banners were displayed again as Diame scored from a completely unchallenged attempt at goal from distance. The anti-Pardew chants started and the protest, belatedly, appeared to be kicking off. With Pardew’s shocking record in coming from behind I thought that this may signal the end of his time at Newcastle United. However, only 5 minutes after Hull’s second goal, Cissé came off the bench to make it 2-1. This is where I heard something completely shocking:
“Where are your banners now!?”
This is a reaction to making it only a 1 goal margin of defeat. At home and, no disrespect intended, to Hull. Considering it was the same match-goers from above, it’s safe to say it wasn’t merely irony but a confirmation of the acceptance of mediocrity from a large proportion of the 49,000+ fans in the stadium. The result became irrelevant as it seemed we were fighting against something much more serious than just Pardew. We were fighting our own fans.
The equaliser went in to a big cheer and we, soon after, exited. This is where we took one last chance to hang the “HOPE” banner over the exit. After a few minutes we were confronted by a team of stewards aggressively asking us to move. One steward even, in close proximity to children, swore at us (“I don’t give a shit what you think”), causing a scuffle. The aggression displayed by the stewards confirmed that these were no more than Ashley’s mercenaries trying to beat down the voice of the only Newcastle fans prepared to make a stand. Once escorted out we also witnessed the last symbol of hope for our club, Hatem Ben Arfa, being similarly hurried from the back entrance without a chance to even tie his shoelaces. The whole scene reflected my disillusionment with Newcastle United, my hopes and dreams for the club being escorted out while more horrific advertising is crammed in on a seemingly daily basis.
Whatever your thoughts are about the effectiveness in the ground, what can’t be underestimated is the impact this has had on the club. The sheer scale of the support and media attention has been staggering. The SackPardew team, I have learned firsthand, are a group of extremely organised and talented individuals whose passion for the team is special. They have been proactive and the club has been reactive – something which I expect to continue until there is change.
Is this the end of Ashley? No.
Is this the end of Pardew? No.
Is this the start of a revolt? Maybe.
(This was written by one of the people supporting the SackPardew.com campaign website, details below of how to find out more)
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