The internet has had a gigantic impact on football supporter culture, including at Newcastle United.
One recent trend, which has become mainstream since the increasing popularity in fan message boards in particular, is a short-term perspective of any team’s results.
Depending on that day’s performance, fan moods on the web can vary wildly without any relation to the club’s general health or league position – but that’s the way football fans have generally been since the Stone Age, whether on the terraces, in cyberspace or at the family cave.
What’s unique about the past decade, however, is that views can be aired and then change from ‘sack the board’ to ‘we’re invincible’ with a single goal, before the match has even finished.
This is particularly clear if you’ve ever read the BBC website’s commentary videprinter, where soundbites from ‘ Dave in Bridlington’ are given free exposure. It struck me as particularly revealing when Manchester United drones could have the gall to criticise Alex Ferguson on days when they still sat comfortably at the top of the league, simply because their opponents had taken an early lead.
At Newcastle United, we’ve all been indoctrinated in enough agony to be able to see the bigger picture but even forums like The Mag, for instance, can resemble an obsession with the last game, the latest goal, or even the most immediate moment.
The internet seems to be the conduit for this change, not least within the national media’s token embrace of ‘the voice of the people’ on their web publications.
Sticking with The Mag for a moment, which has always been a platform for fans to voice themselves, club news and opinion could be received in a different time span before the paper magazine shifted to an online presence. With a monthly print edition, each match report or article is given a context of the surrounding fixtures. So, a result like the Blackburn defeat could at least be judged within the overall trend for that month and the preceding win streak.
There would be no need as a writer for the paper magazine to analyse each individual player’s performance because the information would be redundant by a couple of matches before it could even be read in print. The Blackburn match would look increasingly like a rare blip and therefore put down to a one-off bad day for Rafa.
There is always a chance that the barrage of online opinions, if you choose to read them, could distort your view, even if it is just to say that striker X can’t link up with midfielder Y because of a bad 45 minutes.
As an exiled Mag, with little opportunity to see the games live, I have to rely on the word of fellow fans to get an idea of how the team is playing beyond the scoreline. It becomes very difficult to have that sense when general opinion can change after every goal.
On the whole, it is only a trivial but interesting issue (at least to me). My advice though, from Jeff Stelling to the lad on Twitter in his bedroom, is to follow the match like everyone else but save the big ‘I’m the new Alan Hansen’ judgements until the final whistle, or maybe until the next Saturday comes.