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Pay it forward with Newcastle United?

5 years ago

Pay it forward.

The good things you do for other people today will maybe turn into good things for other folk down the line; maybe even you. The New Radicals, you may remember, told us that ‘You Get What You Give.’

Ruud Gullit and 1998. It’s history repeating but upside down. Be a malingering diver-pants for Nottingham Forest, sign for Villa, and score a comical own-goal, during which the ball bounces off your legs, twice; once for each con of a sending off.

Or maybe, just maybe, in the words of Homer Simpson:

“If You’re Going To Get Mad At Me Every Time I Do Something Stupid, Then I Guess I’ll Just Have To Stop Doing Stupid Things!”

It’s been a funny week for the karmic chaos of the footballing (and Newcastle United) universe, as it tries to settle into some semblance of order.

The Lansbury own-goal couldn’t really have been better scripted, unless he had signed for Sunderland and the goal was in the last minute of the Champions League final. We can but dream.

A few days later and Claudio Ranieri is sacked by Leicester in a move of clinical business/shameful disgust/modern footballing finance. Whatever the reasoning, there are a lot of fans and pundits who blame the Leicester players rather than the manager –and hope that some sort of footballing retribution is swift.

Embarrassingly, of course, we’ve been there ourselves. Bobby Robson was dismissed after a poor start to the season in 2004, apparently after losing the dressing room. The fact that some of the players who caused the mess were retained, is a cynical indictment of football. Still, it’s cheaper to replace one manager than a dressing room.

Then there was the Chris Hughton episode. The You Tube interview with Joey Barton in which he explains his thoughts on the situation is almost explosive and the Newcastle United hierarchy do not come out of it well. While Barton had an axe to grind against Derek Llambias, there can’t be many managers who are inauspiciously sacked following a runaway promotion and thrashing our deckchair cover wearing chums from down the A19.

You could argue that it is the parochial leaning of the football fan through which these controversial and harsh decisions persist. We’re not customers in the same way that if we don’t like a pizza shop, we can just stop ordering. While there are protests, and we’ve seen our fair share, it must be very rare for a club to alienate the majority of fans to the point at which the punters take the extreme action of, say, a new club. The current AFC Wimbledon are a good example, as are FC United of Manchester.

And then there is the other side of the coin. Relegation for any Premier League team isn’t just a football problem anymore. Jobs depend on survival. Look at the club shops and the extra staff who are not seen as frontline by the clubs; they are made redundant. Mind, you can still do it with a bit of dignity.

When Newcastle United as an organisation sacked Bobby Robson, and to an extent, Chris Hughton, irrevocable slides on and off the pitch were started. A business cannot be run on the basis of irreplaceable staff, but they have to be replaced with someone who not only improves the players, but who also upholds the ethic of the club.

Why? Because we keep on saying that football clubs are more than just a profit and loss sheet; their influence is bigger than football and footfall. The influence of players on the young (and old); the work in the community; the sense of identity, have to be bigger.

Maybe the lesson for a Lansbury is a lesson young footballers will learn from him. I don’t know if it’s karma but do reputations precede you? Does it affect the ways referees and fans respond to you? We have the same problem whenever Mitro goes in for a gutsy tackle.

And maybe our club have learnt their lesson when it comes to replacing the people who steer the footballing side.

Hopefully, the quiet dignity of Rafa Benitez as we go into a sequence of matches that may or may not make or break the season, is a big part of us paying it forward.

We have something we haven’t really had for a long time: self-respect, and possibly, an inkling that we’re learning from mistakes.

It won’t be karma that prevents a long stay in the Premier League, if and when we get there; it’ll be common sense, as much as common decency.

You can follow the author on Twitter @georgestainsby

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