Saturday afternoon, 19th September 2015, I find myself travelling back from Scotland, down the A68, through Jedburgh.
The car digital radio is completely useless as you come over the top at Carter bar, so I end up listening to a wonky 5 live signal on good old fashioned AM.
The long drive allowed me to take in the Murray brothers in a classic five set tennis match against Australia, Newcastle United at home to Watford and then South Africa taking on Japan in the rugby.
Two of these were truly wonderful sporting events. Drama filled games which had me shouting at the top of my voice, totally enthralled by what was taking place.
The other was at St James Park.
The afternoon was full of sportsmen at the top of their profession, prepared to push themselves to the very limit of their ability in order to achieve their goal
Then there were those who wore black and white at St James Park.
Desire, guts, team work and skill. When you have these attributes, you can achieve the impossible, so why is it that those at Newcastle are so totally bereft of any of them.
I have said it before and will say it again. I do not expect my football club to win trophies. It would be nice of course, but I do not expect it. What I do expect is that the management and the players who represent the club are committed to the cause and are prepared to give their all for the shirt.
But yet again we find ourselves with a bunch of players who are clearly not in that bracket.
So why is this. The bloke at the top has to be a major reason, as do the various management set ups since 2004. Our scouting system and buying policy have a lot to answer for, but as others have said on these pages, in the end surely the buck must stop with the players.
Signing after signing has simply not been good enough, flattering to deceive before eventually moving on for a damn sight less than what they were signed for. I know there has been the odd exception but there have been so many who have failed miserably.
Let’s say you are offered a job at Nissan. You have the choice of a move to Tokyo or Sunderland. Now there is a difficult call to make. We have to understand that footballers are no different to us. They will choose the most attractive option available to them and whether we like it or not, top class foreign players don’t want to come to the North East . They want the bright lights of London or a big club in the north west. We are way down their wish list.
My worry for the future is that this can only get worse. We used to be a ‘second tier’ club who could attract players who could not get a move to a ‘big four’ club, but the new money in the game means that teams such as Palace and West Ham can now offer similar deals to what we can, if not better. These days Everton can turn down 30 million pound bids for a young centre half.
What this means is that desperate clubs like ourselves and the mackems will offer way over the top to players who don’t really want to come. They sign for the crazy contract on offer. I mean what will tuxedo boy Louis Theroux have been offered. His eyes will have fallen out of his head.
The trouble is they quickly lose the desire to impress and the will to push themselves to the limit. Whether that is down to management, coaching, desire or whatever, it happens time after time.
The only piece of driftwood we have clung to over the years is that we were this big club who had the 2nd or 3rd best attendances in the country, which should help to attract talent. Well in a couple of years a lot of clubs are going to go past us and we will be down to being the eighth best supported club (providing 50,000 still want to turn up). So even attendances won’t help us.
My crystal balls tell me that over the next few years our level in the game will remain as a middling premiership team, making up the numbers. Someone like WBA or Stoke . And that’s if we are lucky.
The painful truth is, we haven’t even been that good for 9 of the last 10 seasons. Our dip in performance has lasted a bloody decade.
God I’m really down at the minute. The wheels have fallen off my bogey.
Then again, who needs football when you had a few bits of wood, some nails and four pram wheels.
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