A Life Less Ordinary.

The problem a football fan has, is that he or she can’t go backwards. It’s the same with cars, holidays, wine and a load of other things.

If you buy a Mercedes, it’s hard to go back to a Kia, even if you were perfectly happy with it once. The annual caravan holiday in Cleethorpes no longer appeals after 2 weeks’ all-inclusive in the Caribbean. And the £2.99 Co-op plonk doesn’t slip down as well as it did once you start bringing home £15 bottles of the fancy stuff.

That is why Manchester United fans are so frustrated these days. They were the best team in England for more than a decade, and could even claim to be the best in Europe for a time. They had the most money, the most successful academy and the best players. They don’t any more and that hurts. The Ferguson era gave them a sense of entitlement, and an arrogance which – now it is evaporating – rival fans take great joy in reminding them of. At the time of writing, they are 2nd in the league, a position most of us would jump at, but what went before makes it feel like failure.

It wouldn’t matter if you pointed out that their first Premier League trophy came 26 years after their previous (old 1st Division) title, or that they were relegated for a season during that time. They tasted life at the very top and nothing can ever taste as good. Liverpool fans had to swallow the same bitter pill after their (arguably greater) era came to an end.

In a way, it’s a similar thing for me, and a lot of the people I know.

If I’m honest about Newcastle United, they haven’t been that good, on average, since I stood in the Paddock with my dad for the first time in the promotion season of 64-65. If I look at where we ended up among the 92 clubs in each of my 53 seasons, our average position is 15th. 15.3 actually, so if history repeats for the rest of my time as a fan, we should finish 15th or 16th on average. We’ve only finished in the top 10 in 16 of my 53 seasons, which doesn’t tell me I’ve supported a successful side.

I’m guessing that if I was a fan of Plymouth, Preston or Partick Thistle, and had been watching football for a similar amount of time, I might see Newcastle in those terms.

Maybe the pundits and journalists who say Geordies have unreasonable expectations genuinely wonder why fans of the 15th or 16th best team of the last 50 years aspire to more. Add in the fact that we’ve won one solitary trophy in all of that time – and for a decade before that – and someone without a feel for the club and the city might be forgiven for wondering what the fuss is about.

Mike Ashley could show me a graph that demonstrates we have placed slightly higher, on average, under his tenure than we did in the 40-odd years before that. Hard to believe, but true.

I’ve seen us relegated 4 times, endured umpteen cup ‘upsets’ and seen a hundred abject performances. I’ve seen players who didn’t try, players who couldn’t play, and I swear I once saw one who turned up drunk. And don’t get me started on the managers…

But none of that matters.

I have seen us beat Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and all the others.

I have seen us compete for the Premier League title and watched us at Wembley.

I am lucky enough to have been to the Camp Nou, the San Siro and the proper Stadium of Light to see us play in Europe.

I’ve seen world class players like Shearer, Beardsley and Keegan in a black and white shirt.

And that’s what I remember. It’s the way my brain – everyone else’s I suspect – is wired. I will never forget the joy I felt when Tiote made it 4-4 against Arsenal. I have virtually no memory of the first half. I remember what I was doing before, during and after the 5-1 win over the mackems. All I recall from the subsequent defeats is some idiot punching a horse.

My memory of us beating Barcelona is 50 times sharper than that of the defeat(s) at their place. And so on through scores of happy times. It’s just no use telling me the club is pretty much where it always has been – I remember good (great!) times and I want more of them. I can’t believe they are impossible to achieve.

Blame Sir John Hall, blame Kevin Keegan, blame Sir Bobby Robson, but I want a life less ordinary.

I know this club can be so much more than it currently is because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Look at the stadium, the city, and the fans that turn up time after time and tell me we don’t deserve better. I’m not suggesting we attempt to catch Man City (a mate of mine does a bit of work for them, and reckons their training and medical facilities are like something out of Star Wars) and their like, but I do want to be ahead of the likes of Brighton, Watford, Huddersfield and Burnley (insert the customary ‘no disrespect…’ clause here if you wish). Surely it’s not delusional to aspire to that. I can’t accept that their finances have moved tens of millions ahead of ours.

And I’d like to give at least one cup competition a go. Since we were last in a final, Tranmere, Millwall and Bradford – among a whole host of other ‘smaller’ clubs – have been there and given their fans a day out. Even followers of the smoggies and the mackems have gone down Wembley Way in their new shellsuits since we last brought some class to North West London. Surely a club of Newcastle’s stature should see the cups as an adventure rather than a chore.

If we get new owners – and I sincerely hope we do – let’s hope they have ambitions that extend beyond the average, and see 15th / 16th place as the minimum requirement, rather than the goal.

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  • gallowgate26

    Did the author write this article in 1999? ‘Coz you don’t get much in my local Co-op these days for £2.99….

    • Mike D

      Half a bag of Doritos if they’re on offer. You’re stuffed if you want a dip.

    • Mike D

      I thought it was a good hypothesis, cost of living error aside.

    • Dillon Tovak

      Some KY Jelly. We’ll need it too as fat mikes about to frk us in the Arsenal very soon.

  • Anon

    I’m a mackem, dunno why this popped up on my news app but it did.. At the end of the day, both of us are clubs massively let down time and time again by poor senior management. Us a LOT more than you in my opinion, as you can tell from our sorry state of not establishing ourselves as a premier league club even though we spent 10 consecutive seasons there.. and now we’re bottom of the division below. The fact Bournemouth, Southampton, West Brom, Watford etc are more established than us in the prem is a joke. They aren’t big clubs.
    But as s*** as we are, no matter what division we’re in i’ll Always support this garbage. It’s in the blood. Just as it for Newcastle fans. Trophies don’t matter, the love of your club does. If you won everything like city it just wouldn’t feel right. The ups and downs are what make football what it is.

    • Phil

      I wouldn’t say you lot have been mismanaged anymore than ourselves. I seem to remember a lot of your fans being over the moon staying up by the odd point. I wouldn’t say you were beer close to being a well established premier league club. What I can see is a club and team who’s fans have deserted them. Enjoy league one!!
      P.s have you ever seen a mackem in Milan??

      • Wor Lass

        Pathetic response.

        • Phil

          How? They have not been mismanaged anymore than us. They have never been an established premier league team. Since being relegated the fans have stopped going. Yes they are rubbish and yes they have been ran poorly. Boo hoo. So have we!! Sorry for not showing him more sympathy!! You are the pathetic one feeling the need to pipe up on behalf of him when all I did was point out a couple of facts

          • Wor Lass

            The thing is, Phil, much of what you say is true and many people will have been tempted to say something similar and rub it in a bit. But then they would have thought, “Hang on, here`s an ordinary fan, who happens to be a mackem, responding to Davey`s excellent article – if I take the p*ss I`ll look like a small-minded supporter of a small-time club”.

          • Phil

            So you can’t take the p!ss out of your rivals without being called small minded?!
            Strange world you live in.
            Never mind the fact I disagree with a lot of what he said. But for the sake of not wanting to hurt his or your feelings I take it all back!

        • Phil

          His point about Watford, Southampton, Bournemouth etc not being big clubs? That’s pathetic. Southampton have one of the best academies around and churn out star after star. Have always been a decent club from what iv seen. Sunderland nor Newcastle have a right to be in the premier league. You’ll find you end up in the league you deserve to be on success or failure. Not a sense of entitlement or THINKING you are a big club.

    • Brian Standen

      I think your opinion is very fair! Yes we rejoice at each other’s demise and put up with our own clubs abject failures! But fact is we keep going back

    • Steven05

      I don’t agree with everything you say but on the whole a fair comment. The Legends program used to talk of the North East being the hot bed of football. I think between the lot of us, certainly over the last decade, because of varying reasons we have been embarrassing

  • shellington

    Newcastle were a super power in the early part of the last century, but then planning disputes from 20s/30s onwards scuppered SJP expansion plans, rivals stole a march and the rest is history.

  • HappyToons

    So I wonder who on average finishes 15th in the old fourth division? That is one depressing thought; those supporters must bag the title ‘the loyalist fans’. There’s always a bright side though, welcome Anon, who might have been there in the Old Third and trips to the grave yard grounds on a wet Tuesday night, but still proper football days out. Living in Sunderland officially the 8th worst place to live then the only way is up, although second worst place to live is only an achievement if you are pretty thick.

    As it is FA CUP weekend some of the best youtube videos are 1974 v WBA, away, Forest 4-3, and the semi against Burnley. 14,000 at the Hawthorns and even their own players said they felt like they were playing away. Adrian Chiles still talks about it even now!. Fantastic atmosphere against Burnley and what a day. ‘3-1 down, 4-3 up, then they went and lost the cup’ was a favourite Mackem song. To be fair they have had that glory of winning the cup when it actually did matter and against the top team of those days. Unfortunately it was classed as a giant killing, just like Hereford beating us. That was the gulf in those days and it is still there. At least we have enjoyed some seasons in the top 5 and Europe.

    I would say the mackems could have had a far different history if they had managed to get old boy Cloughie as manager, but they ended up with Lorry Mackemenemy and never really recovered. I think they had 50 plus thousand for his first home game, so we all know, grudgingly, that Sunderland have that potential, so agree with anon.

    I think if we had two seasons like them we would be getting 27,000 at the foot of the championship. What is crazy about us though is if we went down to League 1 and there was even a little rush of blood and an exciting manager appointment and a couple of decent signings there would be 50k there as long as we were in the top three!

    How did Forest and Villa ever win the European cup. Peter Withe sold by us and he scores the winner. Imagine a day like that.

  • Mag_Ladd

    Your canny old Davey

  • ghostrider

    One of the best articles I’ve read in a long time.

  • ghostrider

    The reality for all of us is that failure can also be as exciting as success.
    Stupid to think about but as true as all hell when it’s viewed in the short term way we view things.
    If we fought for the title and missed out on it by an end of season defeat or draw, we would be all gutted as if we’d just been relegated but as the wounds heal a little, we would then slip into bragging mode until next season comes around, yet expectation kicks into a higher gear.

    However, if we spend a season getting drawn into a relegation place with say, 10 games to play, leaving us adrift and needing some miracle to get out of it….then all of a sudden we go on a little mini revival that takes us to the last day of the season needing a win to survive….the tension of worry and excitement would be a mixture of something like we were going for success of winning a league title or something.

    If we won the game and staved of relegation, the scenes would be like we’d won a cup or actually won the league, as opposed to the sombre mood of finishing runners up in that very same league.

    This is how strange football is for the mind of the average fan.

    The article picks up on it all and I’m simply adding the obvious…but it goes to show that success and failure are much more exciting than anything in between.

    • Phil

      You are right and thats life in general I think.

      Some people are like Del Boy. Wheeling and dealing just to get by (but having fun doing it) Like Burnley for example.

      Whilst others have ‘made’ it and enjoy life eating lobster and driving fast cars. Manchester city style

      Joe bloggs on the other hand who works 9-5 and drives a Vauxhall zafira is bored and just can’t see the point! Like Southampton. Just plod on at the same pace going nowhere fast but not having to worry to much either

      • ghostrider

        Yeah you’re right.

      • mentalman

        Southampton aren’t plodding along with nothing to worry about this season

  • Martin

    Good read Davey. Thanks

    • Wor Lass


  • NUFCDan

    Then you’ve got the group of fans who just rejoice in misery and seem to get some sort of twisted sexual thrill out of moaning. A bit like my mother actually…

  • Whitehurst

    Cracking read!! We’re not asking much?