The dead cat, a rotten fish and Newcastle United
Leading up to Sunday’s Liverpool game, I had planned to write about a rotten fish. With the surprising result, it made me think more of a dead cat. And I hope trapped between these two metaphors is a grain of truth as to the state of Newcastle United and where we will be for next season.
I’ve got to confess, I couldn’t face watching the match live. If I was going to spend an hour being tortured then I figured I might as well get something out of it, so I went for a run. And when I came back, I didn’t dare flick to Fox Sports.
I checked the old way – teletext (or as the Dutch call it, teletekst). When I saw we were leading 1-0 after 75 minutes, I assumed the app was bust, refreshed it then put down my phone, closed my eyes and took some deep breaths. Fearing the worst, I only checked into twitter at what I figured would be full-time, only to be greeted with all the Newcastle accounts going wild for Wijnaldum’s second.
The experience was almost indescribable and certainly unbelievable. We put two past an in-form Liverpool that always seem to have the rub of the green at St. James’ and that have shredded us a number of times in recent memory.
True elation of the sort I’ve barely felt this season, and that’s been in scant supply since the promotion season 2009-2010. I even forced a visiting friend to watch the match ‘as live’ that evening as I tried to work out what had finally gone right.
We played a smart game, using our midfield to harry Liverpool and keep them on the back foot. We came forward fast and hard in the counter and played a great physical game that’s been sadly lacking in recent years.
But as the elation died down, a weird feeling bubbled up in me; good teams always get some wacky results against basement clubs in a season, and being a champion means limiting your losses. And that’s what the game was, a real upset against an in-form contender from a club that almost everyone’s written off.
That’s a long way from turning the long-awaited corner and having a team that turns up week-in, week-out to graft and grind out the results. I am worried that this is a ‘dead-cat bounce’: a solitary upturn from a club that’s plummeting rapidly into the lower reaches of the Championship and then to League 1.
I really want our summer buys to make it good, for De Jong to make the transition, for Anita to click and Dummett to settle down as a Premier League player. But I really fear that the club’s beyond help: Anthony Bell nailed it for me last week when he argued that we need the fall down the leagues to purge the club and allow a healthy recovery as a club for the fans.
That brings me to the rotten fish: the old wisdom is that a fish rots from the head down, and when something stinks like a rotten fish, you’ve got to look to the leaders. Our season certainly stinks but for me that can’t be the fault of the players.
It’s the fault of these owners who’ve squeezed and sucked everything out of the club, leaving it a shoddy advertising vehicle for their main business interests. Their original business model was to buy cheap and sell high, something at least with a modicum of sense, offering new players a stage to sell themselves on the road to the big time.
Although we fans hated that business model, it’s so much better than the current offer; simply generating airtime to advertise his main business, and then throwing cash blindly when relegation threatens. There’s no guiding structure left in the football activities, leaving the club to rot away from the inside.
The club desperately needs leadership, but for me it’s not just the usual clarion calls for Colo to go, Gini to step up or McClaren to get a grip.
If we’re going to have a fighting chance of survival this season, the owners need to show their mettle, sort themselves out and get the NUFC business giving us week-in, week-out last Sunday’s feeling of heart-stopping joy.
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