Conversations with my dad
Contrasting yet well founded views on Newcastle United abound.
We have the certain uncertainty of statistics to suggest that we have promotion in the palm of our paws, if we could just slip it into a Sports Direct plastic bag; and we have the observable evidence that we haven’t taken anyone to the cleaners for ages.
We have the horrified staring at some of our defending through quivering fingers; we have the numbers to show that actually, we haven’t let in that many goals compared with the rest of our division.
Friends are divided, though I would like to think, still friends; and some fathers and sons refuse to agree to disagree.
It has been mentioned, by more than one person who has seen us both, that I look like my dad. Despite the fact that I’m ‘just a bairn’ in my mid-forties, we both go misty eyed when we think about Peter Beardsley’s goal against Brighton in 1984. There, however, our footballing congruency ends.
The first thing we talk about when I sleepily pick up my mam and dad of a morning, is Newcastle United. Barcelona could have been playing the Champions of Alpha Centurai on a pitch made of golden chocolate, and my dad would be telling me why he thinks we won’t get promoted/why Ronnie Simpson is his favourite ever Newcastle goalie/who we should buy despite the fact we simply cannot.
I usually let him get it out of his system, partly because it’s good to hear other people’s opinions, and partly because I can’t get a word in sideways.
He can remember winning The Fairs Cup, which it appears had Tyneside more rapturous than our Inter-Toto fairings years later. He has feasted at the banquet of success, or at least had something to put him on until his tea, while I have merely licked the salty tears of 1996.
I have no idea if this makes his arguments more convincing, or more compelling, but that’s not the point. They’re fascinating because they waiver between the affirming ideal (“Ashley needs to spend and spend big and we could do well!”) and what I’m used to (“Ashley needs to spend and spend big or we might as well just go and play down the field!”).
The simple thing is, he’s entirely correct and utterly wrong. Football fans tend to work in bi-polar absolutes. We don’t want to start the season by predicting 13th place and a two match run in the cups. Newcastle United fans have as much reason as anyone to predict ignominy or glory for the end of the season, given our lot in recent years, and I’ve nervously and repeatedly switched between the two over the last eighteen months. Sometimes I switch between the two during the same match.
What do I think? I honestly don’t think that my predictions really matter that much. I’m more interested in the psychological side of this season, now. I think we should get promoted, and if it’s a Chris Hughton team who prevent us doing so as champions, I can just about live with that. If we ended up in the play-offs, though, I think we’ll struggle with the let-down. Just a feeling. No evidence. But I’ve enjoyed reading the varying states of nail biting, and self-reassurance, of others.
What I, and I suspect most of us, have obsessed over, are the points permutations of the next month, and their effects on our players and fans. It’s a huge few weeks. While some of us disagree on the number of points we will need from the three away games, the Huddersfield Town game could be seen as pivotal to automatic promotion. We could go as good as nine points clear of a tiring third if we win. Will that be enough?
We know how uncomfortably close Huddersfield Town will be if we lose, but surely this should be the key difference between us as fans, and our team. The players, with the cutting edge sports psychology at their disposal, and the experience of grinding out some of our results, shouldn’t be focussing on that outcome. We need calm and measured, as well as passionate and committed.
Leave the worrying and dreaming to us, lads. It gives my dad something to talk about.
You can follow the author on Twitter @georgestainsby
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