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Finding an identity amongst the modern day Newcastle fans

6 years ago

Modern Bloody Football – Part 7

So our defence is an abomination then.  If we jump in a time machine and trundle back to summer 2015 (or 2014, or the one before that one, and on, and on) it was pretty clear that we had been consistently one of the worst defences in the country for a few years.  So, yet another two transfer windows later, what have we done about that again…

Modern Football Fans

This is a topic that could see me lauded or lynched, but hey, I’m comfortable with my opinions and don’t mind a bit of debate so here goes.

How do you define a “modern football fan”?

Well, bit of a tricky one really but I guess it’s someone who is led by the media, the internet, someone who maybe hasn’t stood on the terraces or been soaked to the skin watching an away game 200 miles from home.  Or maybe it’s someone who has experienced all that and is disenfranchised with what modern football has to offer.

I don’t really think it is about age, as older fans can still choose to change their supporting methods to suit the modern way football has gone too.  Is the modern fan one who is spoiled with the exposure to live games?  Are they in a world where it is easy to follow (I hesitate to say support) a team from miles away?  The Man Utd fan in Thailand or the Barca fan born and bred in Croydon!!  Are modern fans made lazy, like other aspects of modern life, like not having to remember any phone numbers (mobiles are great for that), being able to spel (did that on purpose but the computer has drawn a red line under it) or eating a ready meal or take-away.  I guess I will leave it up to you all to decide on your own perspective of what constitutes a modern fan as it may well be different to mine.

I think it is fair to say that my life seems to have whizzed by when I think about it in football terms.  My first experiences of following NUFC were watching a struggling second division club.  By my teenage years (mid-80s) we had managed to return to the top flight but by my late teens we had fallen back into the second tier.

In my mid-twenties Keegan returned and the revolution began.  It’s hard to believe that was 20 odd years ago.  It seems incredible that people who were my current age (45) back then will now be drawing their pension.

It’s even more incredible to think in another 20 years or so I will be drawing my pension and wonder where on earth NUFC will be by then.  No doubt the 45 year olds back in the mid-90s must have thought all their dreams were coming true with the brand of football we were being exposed to…hindsight says it was all but a brief interlude to the norm.

More incredible thoughts are that a whole generation of Newcastle fans who are entering their 20s probably hadn’t even been conceived when Newcastle United were strutting their stuff around England and Europe winning friends in every quarter.  Equally they haven’t suffered exile to the second tier for several seasons in a row.

So any 20ish year olds out there wondering what the next 20 years will bring need to be warned (sorry to be the harbinger of doom) that it’s unlikely that anything will change by the time you hit your 40s.  For the purpose of arguing the toss about the state of NUFC at any given time and deciding on how you should accordingly support this club, I think it is important to bear that in mind.

My dad would rave about the cup winning teams of the 50s, the Fairs Cup Winners and Supermac.  I can reminisce about Keegan, Waddle and Beardsley in the 80s, the Entertainers of the 90s and early noughties but largely in between there hasn’t been much, if anything, to shout about.

The modern fan is saturated with live games to watch.  You could pretty much watch at least one every day if you wanted to.  In fact you don’t even have to get out of bed to watch a match these days with dodgy internet streams.  Back in the day, a live match on the 3 then 4 terrestrial channels (that’s a grand total of 3 to 4 channels, not just 4 sports channels) that were available was a treat not the norm.  The opportunity to watch NUFC live on TV was an even bigger rarity, unlike the modern mantra of the SKY/BT executive who wants to televise our misery to the nation on a minimum of a monthly basis.

Then you have the internet and social media to share all our thoughts on the current state of football.  A luddite like myself can get bogged down with the vast array of platforms that people can post their “informed” opinions on.  I was much more comfortable when it was just The Chronicle/Pink and The Sunday Sun to worry about.  Then there was the debate among friends in the pub before and after and even at work, you know when people used to talk to each other using their voices and not their fingers on a keyboard.  Now we’re sharing opinions with people who are in a completely different country, never mind county, who seem better informed about the state of things in NE1 than me in NE28.

Even The Mag website gets me annoyed, largely because I don’t care what Harry saggy face, Owen, Merson, Lawrenson, Souness and the rest are saying from a professional (coughs ironically) perspective.

The media and expert (more coughing) pundits offer conflicting propaganda suggesting that NUFC spending shit loads of money in January will see us ok.  Ask QPR how spending lots made a difference to Premier League survival.  And ask these experts their view on why we did not address the defensive chasm we have been left with.  You could probably also point to Leicester as to what can be achieved with team spirit rather than financial clout.

Even more so, I really don’t care what other fans think of our club, what Palace fans are saying about Pardew, what Mackems are thinking (usually about the size of the chip on their shoulder).  F*** the lot of them I say.  I only care about us!!!  I want to read about what our fans think about the match, about the tactics, about that funny incident that happened at Trowell services en route to an away game, about how your mate fell asleep on the metro and woke up in South Hylton with his black and white scarf still intact.

In some respects (sharp intake of breath) we are becoming too focused on what is going on down the road.  I have always felt the best way to treat a Mackem is to ignore him as much as possible as it winds them up more than taking the pi**, which just ends up biting you on the arse.  They have always been more interested in us than we have of them but it feels like the tide is shifting somewhat and I’m not really comfortable with that.  Please stop talking about them or caring what they think.  We are not really in a position to have a pop at Mackems, or Villa for that matter, when our own house is in such a mess.

I think the modern fan (yes I’m generalising), certainly the ones I see commenting on web pages, has either nothing better to do than cause mischief, doesn’t go to the match and relies on SKY sports news to give them their opinions based on largely speculation, while in many respects completely losing sight of what football is really all about…in my opinion obviously.

Before all these modern fan luxuries, the only way to watch NUFC was usually to actually go to the game.  The thing is, regardless of the dross on display it could still be an enjoyable experience; the singing, the banter, the pogo and resulting injuries from an encounter with a concrete barrier etc. It was all part of the match day experience and that was all before I was old enough to chuck in the pub too.

Even away games were better when you could just decide on the day sometimes to have a trip without the hassle of sorting tickets, just turn up and pay at the turnstile, nowt’s a bother man.

Will the modern fan consider watching NUFC if they are not in the Premier League?  Well that’s one I’m not sure I can answer.  If I believed the internet I’d think the life of a football fan is not worth living if their team is not in the top flight.  Hmmm, I wonder what the fans of the other 72 (yes that’s right) league clubs think about that?  At best it would be naïve, at worst it would be arrogance of the highest order.

Would I still go to the match if we weren’t in the Premier League, well yes I would.  The reason being is this is part of my community, the club will always be there, just like it is in Nottingham, Portsmouth, Rochdale or numerous other places in the country.  Will Ashley still be there?  That is the million dollar question but if he is not then there is also no guarantee a new owner would do any better.  I’d at least hope they would try to be better and they surely couldn’t be any worse, could they?

Many modern fan opinions suggest a directive approach to telling others how to support their club without actually doing anything meaningful themselves to drive through a change.  I don’t see many putting themselves down as a figurehead or coordinating anything tangible.  The MAOC seems to be the only one that has tried to make an effort with varying degrees of success (the Spurs boycott probably the most effective) but when you compare that to the publicity of say the Liverpool fans walk out and the coverage that got in such a short space of time, then the comparisons are worlds apart.  We get called deluded/unrealistic for protests but they are heroes depending on how the media wish to portray us.

As someone else already pointed out, the issue with Liverpool was not just about the influence of the fans, but more that one set of owners were prepared to listen to their customers whereas the other just won’t.

Anyway, where was I…oh yes, the modern keyboard warrior type fan will use phrases such as “happy clappers” and “Ashley apologists” to insult their own, if indeed they are related by community or just a Mackem in some Russian outpost.  They tell fans what to do when the reality is fans will decide for themselves whether they will stay or go, that’s down to individuals.  Sometimes I think the more you tell someone not to do something then the more likely they are to continue.  “Hands up if you’re planning on a sesh next weekend?  Well you shouldn’t cos it’s bad for you.”

Did you take any notice of that? Thought not.  Like telling a smoker to stop as they’re likely to get cancer or an alcoholic they will get liver disease.  Unless they really want to change then they aren’t going to.  By all means offer a range of opinions, choices and consequences but leave the decision to the individual without the abuse.

Do some of our modern fans hate their peers, the fan that chooses to still go, the fan that chooses to boycott.  Do the older fans hate the younger generation or do they reflect on how pi**ed up and lairy they were as a younger member of the supporter’s club?  Do the younger fans think they know better than older fans who have seen it all before?  I think a lot of these questions boil down to respect for each other.  I don’t see much of that, certainly on the internet anyway.

However, society seems to be going that way.  As a kid I was scared to death of the police and even my teachers.  I wouldn’t want to be either of those professions these days for the amount of abuse they get with little authority to back them up.  And as for being cheeky to your elders you’d be looking at a clip round the ear back then, whereas these days your elders would end up in bother for daring to chastise a cheeky young rapscallion.

We’ve been here before kids with Westwood the pirate and I used to have a “Love Is…” (remember that) t-shirt with McKeag and John Hall having a cuddle on it.  McKeag was the tw*t that allowed Beardsley to leave (among other dubious decisions) although I could fully understand why he wouldn’t want to stay.  We had Dougie and Freddie calling the fairer sex, mocking fans for buying overpriced shirts and being disrespectful to club legends but they bounced back from that.  I’d be amazed if any future owner (not that I’m condoning Ashley in any way) did not become equally disliked.

So yes, to the modern fan being in the Premier League is nice (not based on recent seasons you understand) but it isn’t essential if you aren’t going to try and compete.  We aren’t going to win anything and despite the excessive media hype the TV billions seems irrelevant.  Yes our situation is dire but if the worst happens will I enjoy Leeds, Derby and Forest away more than Bournemouth, Swansea and Watford?  Probably.

For another example, I would also like to point north of the border to Celtic.  This is a club that is basically winning matches because the competition is so poor.  Imagine that eh, winning trophies literally just for turning up, sounds great.  But if you look at the state of Scottish Football and look at the crowds at Celtic Park then it would suggest that winning is not the be all and end all.  Celtic are frequently not filled to capacity, and as seems to be the modern way, post attendances on tickets sold.  When I tried to have a quick trawl through their attendances I found some of their supporters questioning the figures.  Indeed some were reporting crowds of only around 25 thousand for some home games.

At the time of writing I also noted that Paris St Germain were an incredible 24 points clear in their league with a goal difference of +54.  Is this a sustainable league given the situation in Scotland?  Will English football get to a similar point where it is so uncompetitive that people will just give up on the sport completely?  Will (spoilt) Man United fans start to drift away if they are so disillusioned with the football on offer?  Will (the new) Man City self-implode at some point (although I’ve been wishing that on Chelsea since Abramovich took over)?

Will the modern NUFC fan follow the club to see us win a trophy?  Unlikely.  Maybe the best we can hope for is a place in Europe which would be nice and possibly more realistic if we ever decide to try as a club again.

So while it looks increasingly likely we could get relegated, it is unlikely there will be a mass exodus of fans.  As an example, after relegation in 1989 (which saw average attendances of around 23k) a boycott was encouraged.  That first home game pulled in a 25k crowd and the season average was 22k).  Sounds poor but at that time most clubs would snap your hand off for an attendance like that.  The exponential rise in attendances since, would leave me surprised if we dipped below the 40k mark too often unless we continued to be spanked every week.

Actually the football might be more entertaining and after all, that’s what football is about isn’t it?  Yes there hasn’t been much of that in these parts recently but I’d rather be watching entertaining football in the Championship than a Tony Pulis side strangling the life out of the game to try and survive outside of the bottom three, just to earn money that they will do exactly what with?  Despite the riches on offer, 3 teams will still go down and 3 will come back up.  Surely the modern NUFC model of writing the season off by October is just tedious for everyone, isn’t it?  Do we really get enjoyment from securing safety on the last day?  Is that really success?

Nobody is better than anyone else for going or not going to the match and the whinging about who is the better fan for the stance they take is just a bit embarrassing.  Back in the day the only animosity between fans seemed to be who could out-sing the other between “The Corner” and “The Scoreboard”.

Are modern fans any different to those from days of yore?  We seem to be exposed to the same issues regardless of which era we are from.  To coin a well worn phrase in relation to a day/weekend out at the match, “we had a great time, apart from the 90 minutes of football.”

Is it that there will always be a minority who will complain while the majority will still believe in the club regardless, because they understand we will probably always underachieve?

Some fans go for social reasons (I guess I’m in that bracket) as they may not get out much with their mates.  Others do it to introduce their kids and have some family time (that will be my next reason in years to come).  For those fans it’s never going to be about the prospect of winning something.  Some will spit the dummy and there will be those who find something better to do with their Saturday afternoons (historically speaking).  While there will always be those who dip in and out of traipsing along to St James’ Park.

Whichever one you belong to is fine with me.

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