A colleague of mine conducted an experiment when he was at INSEAD (European Institute of Business Administration), it was designed to demonstrate the difference between positive and negative feedback.
It has been performed many times in different ways, but for his experiment he put a box on one of several tables in a big hall, and got a student to go into the room and get the box. The student was completely blindfolded, and there were 20 other students milling around him. All the subject of the experiment had to react to was his sense of touch and what he could hear.
There were three parts to the experiment and the box was moved to a different table every time.
In one part, the 20 people just said ‘well done’ and gave a massive amount of positive feedback whenever the subject moved in the direction of the table. When he moved in the wrong direction, they said nothing.
In another part, they gave positive feedback whenever he did something right and gave him a whole load of stick when he went even slightly wrong.
The third part (although they did it several times with different subjects and in different orders) involved negative feedback only. All the subject heard was derision when he went wrong and nothing when he did something good.
The person always does best when he or she gets positive feedback only. They do worst when they get nothing but criticism. Similar studies always have the same outcome.
There are a hundred things that affect the outcome of a football game. Fitness, tactics, discipline, skill, injuries, referees, the weather, and – sometimes – plain old luck. The list goes on, but I also l know that confidence can be a big factor, and I also know that a crowd can make a difference. I’ve seen it.
When we drew 4-4 with Arsenal a few years back, I swear the Arsenal players started to wilt under the combined second half efforts of a team punching well above their weight, roared on by a crowd who believed, for some crazy reason, that we could recover a four goal deficit. And we did.
Even at 1-4, there was a buzz around the ground that we really could achieve the impossible and I am sure that players from both sides started to believe it too. I’ve seen it happen on other occasions, and not always to Newcastle’s advantage, I have to say.
We are where we are, and that is one of 10 teams that could go down. For better or worse, the transfer window has closed, and the group of players we have today are all we have to navigate us through the final 13 games of the season. It is unlikely that there will be a takeover before the dust settles and indeed it may never happen.
We therefore have an owner whom we all despise and who must know we do. The whole of Tyneside is united in its view that Rafa will quit the club if we go down again and my belief us that another relegation would put an end to Newcastle United’s credibility as a club of Premier League standing. And I’d hate for that to happen.
As Newcastle fans, we can’t affect tactics, team selection, fitness, on-pitch communication, or luck. There are 1,170 minutes (plus injury time…) of football left for us to play this season, and it may be that out of the hundreds of things that will affect what happens over those nineteen and a half or so hours, it is the efforts of the Newcastle fans that makes the difference between disaster and survival.
Or, put another way, we could make the difference between Mike Ashley having a Premier League club with a huge fanbase to sell, or a second rate outfit that used to be a contender once upon a time.
Rafa – and therefore the squad – gets no support from those above him. As fans, we put much more into the club than they are giving us back. But – as a fan – I have the choice of spending the remainder of the season being negative about those things, or being positive towards a group of players who – despite their shortcomings – do try their best.
Believe me, I have seen plenty of players who didn’t. I think they could do with help from somewhere. If the powers that be aren’t prepared to provide it, then maybe I (with the help of others) can.
Newcastle fans complaining about the quality of our squad won’t help them play better. Groaning when a goalscoring opportunity is spurned won’t help anyone convert the next one. Venting my spleen against the Ashley regime won’t create a positive atmosphere. You never know, cheering the positives and offering encouragement when things don’t go well might just make the difference. If it works at an elite university, it might just work at the Gallowgate end.
I hate what has happened, and continues to happen, to my club.
I will never understand why you’d employ a world class coach and treat him like a parent running a kids’ team.
I despair at how the club has detached itself from the fans and the city.
I refuse to accept that there is no budget for players.
I am incensed that our owner repeats the same errors and the same lies every season.
There is a time to re-ignite the ‘Ashley out’ campaign, and that time is not now, for me.
Until teatime on 13th May, my energies will be spent doing all I can to be as positive as I can. I want us to be better than Ashley and his goons.
If someone is looking to buy this club, I want them to see the fans as their major asset, and that only happens if we cheer the team on until the last kick of the season. If all we achieve is help create a buzz that Kenedy and Slimani never experience again, or be a reason that Rafa’s next biography unequivocally sings the praises of Newcastle fans, then at least we’ll be able to look back on this season and know we did all we could.