If fun and pride are missing what is left for Newcastle fans?
As Newcastle fans we don’t ask for much.
We aren’t Manchester United supporters complaining because they are only a poor second in the Premier League.
We aren’t Arsenal fans wondering at the injustice of not having won a trophy since May 2017 (well, apart from the Community Shield in August…).
We aren’t Manchester City supporters who can’t even be bothered to turn up for a Cup semi-final at home – only 35,746 turning up last night as Bristol City supporters made up 7,680 of the 43,426 attendance, which itself was some twelve thousand under capacity.
As Newcastle fans we speak about trophies as some kind of surreal concept, we think that they do exist but don’t seriously ever expect to win one.
Instead we just turn up at matches hoping for at least one of two things.
These are fun and pride, usually at least one of them will be more than enough to keep us going, the two together and we are really happy bunnies.
Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson were those rarities, they both knew what Newcastle was all about AND they delivered an awful lot of fun on the pitch.
Great football to watch much of the time when each was in charge and they also inspired pride, whenever they spoke you listened, packed pubs after matches would be hushed into silence within seconds as KK and Sir Bobby came on the TV screens, Newcastle fans hanging on their every word.
Newcastle supporters also spot a wrong un a mile off and even in that season when NUFC fluked fifth place under Alan Pardew, fans still never really took to him. They loved the wins and some of the performances, bottom line was that many matches were decided by the odd brilliant goal, as Ba, Ben Arfa, Cabaye and Cisse all really peaked in terms of being match winners.
The post-match interviews were still largely embarrassing as Pardew couldn’t even spell class never mind exhibit it. The lies were shocking, especially then when everything was falling apart, as Alan Pardew was willing to say anything on behalf of Mike Ashley, no matter how ridiculous it made himself look.
This is of course before we then get to headbutting opposition players and calling an opposing manager a c… when facing Manchester City with Pellegrini in charge.
Steve McClaren was a bit of a ‘Pardew lite’ without the aggression/abuse, whilst we had John Carver offering to fight his club’s own fans. What a time to be alive.
Chris Hughton was somebody who kind of gave us a mild form of Keegan and Robson, maybe with proper (any?) support from Mike Ashley he could have given us much more. Despite next to no funds, Hughton gave us plenty of pride and fun, organising the team to get instant promotion at a canter and then comfortably in PL mid-table after wins such as the 1-0 away at Arsenal and a 5-1 Halloween hammering of the Mackems and 6-0 revenge on Aston Villa.
Managers such as Souness and Allardyce should never have been allowed within a million miles of our football club, arrogant and self-absorbed, they were shameless in taking huge payouts after doing their best to ruin the club.
As for Mike Ashley, maybe the appointment that best summed him up was JFK, a total embarrassment having him employed not once but twice.
Actually I take that back, easy to forget with everything that followed, that Dennis Wise was made the most powerful man at Newcastle United. That’s right, the hated Dennis Wise brought in to undermine Kevin Keegan.
Apart from managers, the catalogue of other crimes committed by Ashley at NUFC is hard to believe…
Renaming St James Park (for nothing, in favour of his own tat shop), taking on Wonga as sponsors, the treatment of club legends such as Shearer and Keegan, the stadium just one gaudy billboard for SD (with no revenue for NUFC), the discrimination case brought by cancer victim Jonas Gutierrez, and so on.
When Rafa Benitez approached Newcastle United after McClaren’s departure it was very bizarre.
After leaving Real Madrid he was willing to make his next stop Newcastle United, a club that looked certainties to be relegated, famous for all the wrong reasons under Mike Ashley, but he saw the potential…
His arrival instantly gave Newcastle fans a little bit of pride back, a world class manager who could see what their club was potentially capable of.
Even in the 10 games he had left that relegation season, he massively built on that first boost he gave supporters.
Once he got his feet under the table and realised what he had in his squad, Rafa put together a six match unbeaten run that just failed to bring safety, that run of games including matches against Manchester City (went one down but came back to draw), Liverpool (went two goals down but came back to draw)and Tottenham.
That Spurs match on the final day was remarkable for so many reasons.
Fifty thousand Newcastle fans turned up determined to convince Rafa Benitez that he should stay at the club despite going into the Championship.
He then masterminded a 5-1 demolition of the visitors despite Mitrovic reducing the Magpies to 10 men when the score was only 2-1.
If you had turned up to St James Park that day, you would never have guessed by the actions of the Newcastle fans that it was their club who were already relegated, rather than being the one who had been title challengers all season and had already qualified for the Champions League.
The supporters had belief, as well as pride in their club, which was all down to Rafa Benitez. We also had fun that day, a lot of it.
Since then it has been more pragmatic under Rafa, maybe not that much fun as it has been a more workmanlike job of ensuring promotion and now trying to ensure safety from relegation.
The pride though has been a constant in how Rafa Benitez has gone about the job despite the disgraceful undermining of him by Mike Ashley and his minions.
An incredible 51,000+ average at St James Park in the second tier was purely down to the manager staying at the club, the same this season with over 40,000 season tickets sold and almost every game sold out, as well as every away ticket.
There have also been glimpses of fun and a suggestion that with better quality players, the entertainment level will rise as well.
Against clubs where Newcastle can be competitive they have played good football against the likes of West Ham and Stoke, both home and away in each case.
In matches between clubs in the bottom half of the table, Rafa and Newcastle are easily top when it comes to wins and points.
Newcastle fans have got their pride back just so long as Rafa Benitez is here and that pride is actually even bigger because supporters recognise just how badly the manager is being let down by Mike Ashley.
It is the good old story of good on one side, evil on the other, darkness or light.
Newcastle fans now have the anxious wait to see if it will be Rafa Benitez or Mike Ashley that leaves the club and decides our fate.
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