**Disclaimer – I am not a doom-merchant, I am so happy with where we are this season and I love Newcastle United.
Over the course of the past year a number of Newcastle players have gone through stages of taking their fair share of criticism.
First it was Paul Dummett, then it was (and still is) Jack Colback. Now, the captain Jamaal Lascelles has come into the spotlight due to his poor and inconsistent performances, particularly since Christmas.
Criticism is an aspect of football that is ingrained within the sport, in fact it is ingrained within every sport. However, amongst certain sections of our fan-base, the term criticism seems to have taken on a different meaning.
It appears as though, according to some, no Newcastle fans are allowed to say bad things about their own players. If a player has played absolutely rubbish, then we are no longer allowed to say it.
If it is said, then those that do say it, are accused of jumping on the bandwagon, and putting a player down simply for the sake of it.
At what point do we stop calling a spade a spade?
If a player has had a bad game, then it should be said that a player has had a bad game.
If a player has played consistently bad over a period of time, then it should be said that he has played bad over a period of time.
Of course, I admit that there are some people in the stands who seem intent of picking out their least favourite players and having a go at them whenever possible. I recently sat in front of a man at Ipswich who seemed determined to prove to his young son that Paul Dummett was rubbish. In the end, the young lad said to his Dad “shut up, Dummett is playing well today”.
I was even accused of this myself at Brighton away. After Jack Colback was awarded a free-kick and instead of getting on with the game, he chose to remonstrate with the referee about god knows what (we had just conceded to go one down). This is something I really hate and I muttered to myself, “howay man Colback, get on with the game.” The man in front of me objected to this and accused me of wanting Colback to fail… maybe he too was a bit frustrated at the scoreline.
The point is, for some reason, as fans we are becoming more aggressive to fellow fans criticising the players and I don’t understand why.
Here’s a few facts;
- On the whole, Mo Diame and Ayoze Perez have been absolutely rubbish this season. So what is wrong with saying it?
- Away from home, Newcastle United have been incredibly boring and tedious to watch this season. I know, because I’ve been there. So what is wrong with saying it?
- Jamaal Lascelles has been nowhere near the top ten centre backs in the league this season, never mind the team of the year. So what is wrong with saying it?
- While they clearly fit into Rafa’s game plan, the likes of Jack Colback and Yoan Gouffran have been really poor this season.
- Mike Ashley will never change and as long as he is our owner, we should always worry about the future of our club.
- Aleksandar Mitrovic is a 22 year old centre forward who is yet to score (regular/enough) goals in a Newcastle shirt, despite the club spending £13 million on him.
These are all facts that people simply don’t want to hear. As Newcastle fans, we are a fickle old bunch. When we are winning games, top of the league, it is quite clear that most fans don’t care less about anything else, and therefore don’t want to hear it.
Too many people now live in a football world where we want to idolise players so much, rather than seeing them for what they are, human beings. Perhaps too often on social media we see fans messaging players with extremely ‘loved up’ quotes, clearly in the hope that they like their message or retweet their tweet.
Ayoze Perez or Jesus Gamez only have to tweet a picture for everyone to tell them how great they are… clearly in the hope that they will recognise their tweet. Similarly, Newcastle only have to sign a young 18 year old from Spain, and he will be labelled the next best thing, when in reality, he will never be good enough, just like most of the other kids at Newcastle… just don’t let anyone hear you say it.
After one game recently, someone tweeted Jamaal Lascelles saying “you were *** today” and he was by the way! Immediately, fellow NUFC fans jumped on the tweet and harassed the poor lad… for simply telling the truth. The reasons they gave was that the tweet was mean, and saying this wouldn’t make him play any better. Clearly they have never played football…
Now I am not saying that when a player plays bad you should go on social media and give him abuse, that’s wrong, and I would question any fans’ love for Newcastle United if they abuse their own players. At the same time, during the 90 minutes while the players on the pitch, as long as they are giving 100%, we should be supporting them unconditionally. However, why some people want to cuddle the players is beyond me. They are professional footballers.
On the the side we have the official local media channels in the North East, who once again, like to make out that every Newcastle player is brilliant, Mike Ashley is brilliant, Rafa Benitez is brilliant (even though he is), we are second in the league and nothing negative can ever be said.
If the local media, can’t even say when a player is rubbish, then what’s the point? A look at the Chronicle’s Lee Ryder’s match ratings after every game tells a story… not once has he ever came out and said ‘he was rubbish today’, even though he is probably thinking it. So why is this?
Again, we appear to live in a football world where we don’t dare be critical of anyone. The local media certainly aren’t going to ask the players why they were rubbish last weekend, or ask Rafa why he continues to play such boring football.
Why? Because they want to be friends with the stars, they want to keep their access to the players because that’s cool, rather than actually reporting on what’s going on.
Please don’t misunderstand the point of this article. Things at Newcastle are going brilliantly at the moment. In the grand scheme of things, we are second in the league and heading back to the Premier League with a stable squad, stable finances (bar the £129,000,000 we are in ‘debt ‘to Mike Ashley) and have one of the best managers in the world.
However, if we get to the stage where we can’t say a player has played rubbish, when he has played rubbish, then what’s the point?
Football is a game of opinions.
I loathe Michael Owen but I remember being 11 years old in the Leazes End on the day he signed and Justin Lockwood asked him “it’s going to be a lot of pressure performing in front of this lot isn’t it?”
To which he replied “well, if you can’t handle pressure then you shouldn’t be a footballer.”
You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles to [email protected])