Newcastle United is now a social club, it isn’t a football club.
When I say social club I don’t mean cheap beer and bingo, unfortunately…
That would be a welcome relief for those of us still going every match at St. James’ Park.
I have to admit that I can’t take credit for the social club reference, it was my mate Dave.
We were talking the other day about the soulless experience of supporting Newcastle United these days and he came up with the term to explain why, at least at the minute, we still get fifty thousand people turning up every other match for no sensible reason (that is ignoring the 47,000 against Stoke and it will be interesting to see what gaps, if any, there are against Villa).
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What Dave was referring to specifically with his social club terminology, is that the vast majority of us aren’t really there any more for the football. Instead it is the ‘social’ side that has kept most of us onboard.
Meeting up with your mates is the central reason for still going to matches, well what else is there? A few pints before and after the game is the highlight of many people’s social life, it is the only time for many when they see that particular circle of friends.
I couldn’t believe how many fans I have spoken to over the last 18 months or so, who have said that they and their circle of match going friends have had a proper conversation as to whether they should or shouldn’t keep going.
A majority have kept going but those who have are quite happy to admit that while they talked of still meeting up and watching the games on foreign satellite in the pub instead, they know deep down that that would be the beginning of the end for them.
Sooner or later one or more of their partners would be asking why they still had to do this every match now they no longer had a season ticket…especially when all they do is moan about how crap the football is! Eventually one or more would start to miss the odd one and then somebody else would take up golf and so on, sooner or later they wouldn’t even be watching on TV and they would lose touch with good friends.
It is the season ticket that binds them together and is what Mike Ashley has ruthlessly exploited.
Ironically, if John Hall had got his way and moved us out to Newburn or some other industrial estate, that would have seen the social side of Newcastle United match-going already fatally damaged.
St. James’ Park’s unique City centre location for such a big club is something that makes our club very special, all of those pubs, clubs, coffee shops, restaurants only a few minutes walk away, no wonder so many away fans (mentally) book up for Newcastle as soon as the fixtures are out.
We love our football but at least as much, we love a laugh and meeting up with friends and family.
Again, it is ironic that that sense of community and friendship that makes Newcastle fans extra special, at least in my eyes, is also the very thing that has kept the leech that is Mike Ashley so deeply attached to our club, sucking the very lifeblood out of it.
Everybody though has their own personal breaking point and thousands have walked away already, that could become a flood as the mood both inside and outside of St. James’ Park is poisonous.
The real social clubs that were the hub of much of Tyneside life have now seen better days, a minority still survive but the trickle of closure became a flood as people died or changed their habits.
You would have to be blind not to see those similarities with our football club.
If you die then there is no way back but sadly also for those who change their habits and stop going, I also fear there could be no way back for so many of them.
The Social Club is still open but for far too many ‘Time’ will be called in the near future, potentially never to return.