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Welcome back to old school football

6 years ago

Back in April 2014 I wrote in the last ever paper version of The Mag:

“Obviously they think a team without goalscorers is healthy…”

…and with each passing transfer window since, I have questioned why we continue to neglect that area as well as the blatantly terrible defence.

Now I’m not a professional in the football world, merely a fan, but I can see that has been a problem for at least 3 years, so why couldn’t those being paid handsomely by the club not see it?

This obsession with accumulating as many average midfielders as possible has been plain insanity.

One post-Villa text from the lads summed things up,

“…if we can only manage 1 goal and 2 points against them after 2 games we deserve to go down (sorry, we don’t, but Ashley and Charnley etc deserve it) Mitro had 3 good chances to score and couldn’t even hit the target.  Lack of a proven striker has lost us quite a few points. £80 million spent on players this season and I think only £30 ish million of those started the game – £50 million ish wasted by the incompetent board.”

I’d probably add that a few more draws instead of numerous defeats might have helped too but clean sheets were at a premium.

In August 2015 I wrote on The Mag:

“Will I be apologising to Colo come May or will he be apologising to us…again!”

As I questioned the decision to give him another contract.  Over to you Fabricio….

October 2015 it was:

“We’re already hoping and praying again that there will be 3 worse teams than us.”


I guess the point I’m making is that if we’re honest, it wasn’t an unexpected outcome was it.  Life goes on but being a fan of Newcastle United rarely changes, other than a couple of blips where our hopes get raised – only to be brought crashing back down to earth again.

Back in August 1988 after Newcastle had had a bit of a spending spree, my Saturday afternoon Under 18s team manager in Winlaton warned us all that he didn’t want any of us nicking off to watch the Toon if they were at the top of the league…by May 1989 NUFC were relegated.

May 2015 we had Mike Ashley telling us we were stuck with him until we won a trophy or qualified for the Champions League…By May 2016 we got relegated.

It was one of the weirdest relegation finales I think I’m likely to witness, the mood and atmosphere before, during and after that Spurs game was like we’d won something, and unbelievably, Rafa has since decided to stay and things look possibly positive again.

Modern Bloody Football: The Conclusion

Goodbye and good riddance to the Premier League for a while, the bastion of Modern Bloody Football.  Hello The Championship and welcome back to old school football.

We might actually have something a bit more tangible to aim for as a club now.  Although Norwich currently look the best equipped (playing staff wise) to bounce straight back up, I’m intrigued to see what Rafa does with our lot.  No doubt we have a fantastic manager, but he himself has alluded that without hard work, that does not guarantee the end result we all hope for.  We’ll be an even bigger target for every Championship side now.

For all the insistence that staying up this season gives you more money than Lee Charnley and Graham Carr could possibly waste, one thing is for sure.  Three teams will still get relegated and 3 will be promoted next season, regardless of how much money they have.  And as Leicester and ourselves have so convincingly proved, that even though it generally helps, spending lots of money is not always the answer.

I would imagine the upturn in available finance will just mean clubs paying £40 million for a Berahino instead of £20 million, a relative financial shift but the pecking order won’t alter much.  I wonder how much an Alan Shearer would go for now?  The £15 million we paid for him looks incredible in hindsight, when you consider what that gets you in the Modern Bloody game.

During this season I’ve looked at various aspects of Modern Bloody Football, from manipulation of statistics to the transfer window, from relegation to the fans – and tried to look at how football in general isn’t the same as how I remember when I actually enjoyed going to the match, even when we were just as sh*t as we are now.

Modern Bloody Football, a game for the incapacitated, incarcerated, incommunicado, those in a foreign country or just too lazy to get off their big fat arse.  So basically for those who covet SKY for their football needs, can’t see past the Premier League and don’t have a mind of their own.

Modern Bloody Football, just a symptom of modern bloody life.  It’s not as simple as it was in the old days.  Online banking, comparison sites for everything you might need to compare, computer glitches and batteries dying mid-search just add to modern bloody stress stress stress!!!

What’s wrong with good old British Gas for your gas and Northern Electric for your electric, BT for your phone and BBC, ITV and then Channel 4 for your tele bashing…simples!!!

My wife says I spend too much time on my laptop and I totally agree.  Having said that, she’s the one telling me I need to get a smart phone which I’ve so far resisted, for fear of wasting even more of my life away staring at technology.  I had much more time before the advent of the internet and 1000 TV channels, to just enjoy the simple things in life (in no particular order) like beer, girls, music and football.

I sound like my dad reminiscing about life before the televisual box when (apparently) he used to take me mam to the cinema, have a fish and chip supper and get home on the bus and still have change from a penny.  The times may have significantly moved on but the things we long for change too.  Depending on which generation you are from will tend to define what you miss.

I wouldn’t be surprised if in 20 years time the kids of today are wishing for a simpler time when iphones and tablets were all the rage.

I was at a training course in Leeds back in March and one of the hosts was talking about his 9 year old asking, “Daddy, did they have google when you were young?”

In another 20 years time I wonder if kids will be asking their parents if they had teleporters in the 2010s (or whatever we are calling this decade).

A childhood not occupied by smart phones, laptops, 1000 TV channels, X-box PS4 and other games consoles, meant hours of tree climbing, den building, BMX biking and of course playing football until it was too dark to see.  Then you just hunted for the nearest street light to play next to (the pub car park was usually a good spot) until your parents shouted for you to come in cos it was school the next day.  Usually a shout or even 3 shouts later wasn’t enough, so they’d have to come and physically drag you back inside.

So what does modern bloody football offer fans these days?  Well, not so long ago I heard a debate about the Chelsea model (sack managers and win trophies year on year) versus the Arsenal model (stick with Wenger, win not much but guarantee Champions League qualification again).

A Chelsea fan made the point that despite Arsenal’s stability they did not have the (recent) “memories” of Chelsea fans.  He argues football was all about making memories and Arsenal currently don’t do that as well as Chelsea, as who remembers that Arsenal got to the last 16 of the Champions League when Chelsea have actually won it and occasionally win the Premier League too.

Objectively, from a Newcastle fan’s perspective, if it wasn’t for Abramovich they probably wouldn’t have 90% of the memories they do.  If you’d told a Chelsea fan back in the 80s that they’d have the recent history they have enjoyed, they’d probably have asked for a pint of whatever it was you’d been drinking.

And as for my memories of football, I mostly want to forget what is going on due to the nature of the mental way our club exists.  The Mackems have recent memories of being unbeaten in Derbies, we have recent(ish) memories of playing reasonably frequently in Europe but nothing to remember a trophy by.  It’s all relative I guess.

Having said all that I wonder if in years to come that West Brom fans will be reminiscing about the time they avoided relegation by 6 points, or if Stoke fans will be lauding Mark Hughes’ achievement of finishing 9th.

We got what we deserved when you look at the bottom four teams’ stats when playing each other:-

SAFC Pts 11, F13, A7, GD +6

NCFC Pts 9, F10, A14, GD -4

NUFC Pts 6, F10, A10,  GD 0

AVFC Pts 6, F6, A8, GD -2

Yes it’s enjoyable doing the double over Spurs, being undefeated against Liverpool and Man Utd, taking our first point off Man City for god knows how long and almost beating Chelsea yet again – but they aren’t the results that hurt you in the long run.

So could Modern Bloody Football be improved?

Well, apart from cheaper ticket pricing, a choice to once again stand (safely) or sit, more predictable fixtures (instead of last minute television rescheduling) and less moaning from managers and players about fixture congestion and having to play more than 20 games a season, I’ll chuck this thought out there.

What if the vast majority of the obscene amounts of TV money was shared equally among the 92 league clubs and additional nominal payments (a token gesture for the inconvenience if you like) only made to clubs involved in live matches.

Would this actually make football more sustainable, competitive and exciting for everyone in the country and not just those at the top table?  In fact, if anything, give the most to the worst – or would cynically Mike Ashley demand his team goes out to lose even more frequently.  Or would it just encourage more owners to be more irresponsible than they already are?

Give Chelsea and Colchester the same annual TV payment and then let’s see who can generate the most influence from their own doings to attract the best players.  Will too much money eventually ruin the beautiful game?  For those outside the Premier League it seems more than likely.

We seem to have lost sight of the fact that football is supposed to be about entertainment and community, bringing like-minded folk together to cheer on a representative of their area.  It most certainly isn’t about who can make the most money.  It’s definitely not about watching turgid football year after year and feeling some sort of gratitude that we finished outside the bottom 3, despite what the Mackems would have you believe.

It shouldn’t matter what division you’re in.  It’s not just about the Champions League and the Premier League (yes ok, it would be nice) but many people seem to be easily led to believe this is the case.  Ask fans of Leeds, Sheff Wed, Charlton, Portsmouth, Gateshead, North Shields et al what they think about life outside of the so called “elite”.

The problem for me is that football has become so much commercially focused the eye has been taken off the entertainment and community aspect.  It’s most definitely about entertainment and being part of a group of like-minded souls.

There’s nothing better than that feeling of belonging when Newcastle actually turn up and do the masses that follow them proud.

It brings complete strangers together, even if it’s just to give the sweaty bloke in the seat next to you a big old kiss and cuddle when the ball has been thrashed into the opposition’s net.  If that can result in winning things then great but it’s not the be all and end all, especially if you follow NUFC.

I even heard a rumour that if enough overseas owners could be brought into the Premier League they would potentially vote to scrap relegation.  Is this really what football could become?  Just what would clubs outside of the Premier League have to aspire to if that was the case?  Super Sunday won’t be so super watching West Brom v Stoke every season, will it?  They’ll have to start renaming slots as Sh*tty Sunday, Monotonous Monday Night Football, Tedious Tuesday, Woeful Wednesday etc etc etc

In my opinion this will eventually be the death of football as I have known it for the past 35-40 years.  What will football look like in 25-35 years time?  Well I’ll be drawing my pension (if pensions still exist by then) and NUFC will still be at the drawing board…probably.

What Else then?

Here are just a few other suggestions:-

  1. Let players get excited when scoring a goal. Is taking your top off or jumping into the crowd really worth a yellow card?  It’s no worse than time wasters taking an age to leave the pitch when substituted.  Just stop the clock, job done.
  2. If the officials mistake a terrible foul for a bog standard one (given they only get one look at it at full speed) then do something about it retrospectively regardless. Humans make mistakes.  It’s not re-refereeing the game, it’s just the right thing to do.
  3. Similarly if players roll around trying to get opponents sent off for a flick on the nose (are you listening Mitro!!) then ban them too. Or better still stick them in a boxing ring with my mother to toughen them up.
  4. Give penalties for blatant shirt/arm pulling in the box. It’s a foul anywhere else on the pitch so it should be a penalty, it really is that simple.
  5. Instead of pundits debating other teams’ issues, get some fans involved who actually go to the games and can give a real perspective, instead of those bitter, biased, uninformed ex-pros with a grudge.
  6. Instead of reducing the number of teams in divisions outside the top one (as they are currently proposing), how about increasing the Premier League to 22 and have a couple of extra midweek games instead of the time wasting and meaningless international breaks. Stop complaining about fixture congestion, it’s just a symptom of success.  After all, these international breaks haven’t exactly turned England into perennial champions have they!!!
  7. Go back to shirts numbered one to eleven. Give players some responsibility to earn the right to wear the Number 9 shirt and fight to keep hold of it.  Surely better than aspiring to be number 45 for a whole season?
  8. Get these finals back to 3pm kick offs. What must Man Utd (I know it’s only a few of them), Hull and Sheff Wed fans think of 5pm starts and the chance of getting home sometime the same day.
  9. Insert your own gripe…

Future Hope For NUFC?

Let’s hope that the media will leave us alone for a bit (unlikely now Rafa is staying) and go and patronise a different set of fans for a change.  However, if the treatment of Leeds by the TV companies this season is anything to go by then I don’t hold out much hope…and we’re not a big club either apparently!!

I found it amazing that Martinez was hounded out at Everton for finishing 11th yet nobody is calling their fans even remotely unreasonable.  If that had been us we’d be called ungrateful deluded fools, you know, like when we dared voice our concern at flirting with relegation.

And as for LVG only missing fourth on goal difference, winning the FA Cup and virtually being sacked by the post-match interview, just incredible and makes me want Mourinho to win nothing even more.  This was compounded further when I heard Alan Brazil stating he did not know why there was such a fuss that Jose poked someone in the eye, “it’s not like he punched him.”  So using Alan’s logic, he’d be happy to risk losing an eye then, rather than have bruised kidneys or a missing tooth?  To use another of his quotes to describe his own perspective, “Numpty!!”

Let’s hope we have a few more Saturday 3pm kick offs.  Let’s hope that for once we are proactive, sort our manager (blimey we have) and team out well before the first friendly, instead of fannying about at the end of the transfer window.

Let’s hope we can sign some players we actually know, rather than assume must be good because they have a foreign name (taking Graham Carr’s passport off him would be a good start).  You know, somebody who has played in the top tiers of English football and understands what is required.  Let’s hope Rafa finds a role for Lee Charnley scrubbing the nettys.

Let’s get a siege mentality back at the club.  Inevitably things will not always go to plan, even with Rafa in charge – but let’s close ranks behind him to see us through the difficult times and take no sh*t from those who seem to revel in NUFC misfortune.  They’re just bricking it in case someone finally gets us going again.

Let’s hope that for a change we can enjoy a season of football watching a committed team playing with passion and desire.  If Rafa’s transformation of a bunch of underperforming losers is anything to go by, I might begin thinking anything is possible.

Words like ‘demand’ and ‘expectation’ put together with ‘success’ have never really been part of the Geordie dictionary, despite what lazy journos, pundits and rival fans have decided to stereotype us with.  That’s why I find it a bit staggering that some of those types close to NUFC are suggesting we’ll be looking to win trophies soon despite almost 50 years without one.   Hold on lads, one step at a time eh.

I’ve also just realised I’ve used the word “hope” 7 times in the last couple of paragraphs when most of us thought it had been knocked out of that same dictionary in recent years.  I just might start enjoying this Modern Bloody Football lark again!!

Enjoy the Summer, the rumour is it’s on a Wednesday this year so don’t forget to book the day off work.



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