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.

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  • Geordie Pete Moore

    Even if we are 3-0 doon sing your hearts out for the lads, The players need to hear that so they will fight harder in the next game and the one after that sing yer hearts oot for the lads

  • Pelican

    There never will be a right time for ‘Ashley Out’ for some. We cannot protest whilst the club is in relegation trouble, we cannot protest when the side is in the Championship as promotion is ever important. So when are the Ashley Out protests viable? When the club is sitting midtable? Good luck getting a protest when the club is in relatively good form.

    Submissive/Passiveness is pathetic.

    • Geordiegiants

      Im with you all the way, something has got to give somewhere! I have said numerous times before, I don’t just support Newcastle because they are a premier league club, I support them because its what you do growing up, it’s where I’m from. The clue is in the name as far as I’m concerned. We have sat like mutes for years, if it meant going down to the third division to get rid of the cancer, I would happily sacrifice that, it would also keep Fleckman happy as the fans could then afford to buy the club and run it properly.

    • Cockneytrev


  • Paul Patterson

    I agree it needs re-igniting. But the time for that is during games ONLY when we are mathematically safe. Anything else is a distraction the team can do without at present.

  • Fatwasp

    I completely agree with the sentiment of this article. Well written and well argued. It takes effort to support a club through adversity. It takes effort to rise above a vindictive regime and lazy media reporting. So let’s stop bitching and get behind Rafa and the boys. Maybe we have become so jaded and bitter over recent years that we are actually in danger of undermining our greatest asset…. the most fanatical, committed and passionate support there is. HTL

  • Mrkgw

    If Ashley causes this club to lose its Premiership status then it will be a disaster. Those who feel that we will bounce straight back up are mistaken. Whilst we need this despicable owner gone, I also get the fact that the team need support. That said, we need something in return from them in terms of commitment and effort during games.

  • kingfisher

    I agree with a lot of your points Davey, however I have a problem trying to be positive for the rest of the season.I agree that being negative must affect the players,however when you have supported N.U.F.C for over 50 years as I have, the hope,the positivity, the dreams of winning trophys, gets whittled away season after season, and I (as many others do, I assume) have more or less resigned ourselves to always either failing miserably, or promising so much, then after allowing ourselves to believe that finally we are going to win something, imploding and pressing the self destruct button. i.e 1974 F.A Cup Final humiliated by Liverpool 3-0, & 12 points clear and still we managed to blow it in 95/96.So I will try and stay positive until things are resolved either way, but if the worst happens and we are indeed relegated,then change has to come,via any means available to us.
    The time to be proactive and prevent the current regime from permanently damaging our great football club is rapidly approaching.Some would argue it should have come a long time ago !

  • Leazes.

    ‘Negatives and Positives’ have a place….. in a little box.

    You are one of these people who think attaching a vibe of ‘direction’ to a situation can affect its outcome, but in the reality of the Ashley experiment this is nonsense, the owner isn’t a willing participant in any experient, he shut himself and his regime away from daylight….

    ….When did pleas of ‘don’t sell Cabaye’ work? It doesn’t because this is one really nasty creature that owns this club, he’s malevolent, a cancer, haven’t you got that vibe yet Davey?

    You turn logic on its head Davey and seem to want to instigate more conservative apathy when we need momentum for change, the owner hasn’t shown his ugly face for a while and his PR sales stunt was just that….and it worked, because he’s shackled Rafa without spending a penny.

    If there is a single thing to praise Ashley for in an entire decade it is this…..

    The money he saved those people who saw and understood what he was doing here form the moment he sacked Keegan, and who walked out. The rest have spent the price of a new car watching their club being downsized, humiliated and asset stripped!….

    ….Not a lot to be thankful for in ten long seasons is it Davey?

    Forget the psycho-babble and just tell the truth about the club…we need an alternative voice to the conservative nonsense of the chronicle, not singing along in harmony to Ryder and Douglas’s chorus of ‘support the team and not the regime’.

    Ashley has to go…make him and his regime uncomfortable not welcome!

    A decade gone and you have learned nothing!

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      Great post

      • relaxed

        Spot on

        • Leazes.

          Well said.

    • kingfisher

      Well put Leazes.As many people have said before, it’s the hope that kills you. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve allowed myself to believe that we were finally going to achieve/win something, only to be once again let down.
      I get just as annoyed ( or possibly more) with myself for once again allowing myself to believe ” we could win this” only to fail miserably,as much as being annoyed with Ashley and the regime !
      How many more times has this got to happen before something is done?
      In the words of that popular beat combo The Who “We won’t get fooled again”

    • Cockneytrev

      I agree totally,,,

    • bob0411

      Spot on.

  • cmrowley

    I enjoyed the read. I have partaken in similar exercises myself and agree with the outcomes you present.

    But I can’t accept this as a comparison to support at an NUFC game.

    Had the experimenter being constantly throwing turds at the ‘supporters’ in the experiment then I could jump on board with your comparison. But… I wonder how many of ‘supporters’ would have continued to partake, how many would walk out, how many would start to forget about the experiment and start complaining at the person throwing turds at them.

  • whitleylad

    Our best chance of getting rid of Ashley is for the club to avoid relegation and for someone to come in with an acceptable bid for us as a Premier League club with a top-class manager in Rafa. We, as fans, can play our part in achieving this by giving our full support to the manager and the team in every game from now till the end of the season. Any Ashley protests during games will only serve as a distraction from the vital task of gaining enough points to stay up. It’s going to be touch and go whether we can survive and our solid, unwavering support of the lads could be the only thing that might tip the balance in our favour. In my 55 years of supporting the team I’ve seen many players who perhaps haven’t earned that backing but this group of players certainly can’t be accused of lacking effort, commitment or pride in the shirt. Let’s get behind them!

    • relaxed

      There will never ever be an acceptable bid for us as long as Ashley is making money from the club

      • Cockneytrev

        IMO he has no intention of selling ,, it’s a cash cow,,

      • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

        He’s not made a penny in 10 years.

    • Leazes.

      Nobody has mentioned gametime protest…. Ashley has taken the club into the abyss and you say let’s get behind him?

      The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.

    • Cockneytrev

      Ashley has relied on this kind of attitude,, we are always in a relegation fight and always will be while he owns the club,,

    • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

      Exactly right, there are two ways if ensuring a takeover. The first is to stay up and PCP will improve their offer. The other is for fans to put money in and buy the club themselves.

    • Monkseaton Magpies

      The fans who protest at games are morons and the players are distracted even by the tension at home games. Rafa knows this and has asked supporters to be united but it falls on death ears for some supporters. Protests during the game are like an extra man to the opposition.

  • Jimmy_toons

    If we stay up, he stays on. If you haven’t already, stop buying his tack in shops and at the ground, and as the letters come through to renew season tickets, put them in the bin and cancel direct debits.
    He only understands the language of money so hit him where it hurts. In his pockets, or kick him between his pockets. And yes, we get bucket loads of cash from tv, but games don’t look as attractive on tv if the ground’s half empty.

    • Cockneytrev

      Protest his shops,,
      Banners outside them,,
      he will hate this, especially If it was outside 10 /20 shops in one go ,, being filmed and put on social media,, the nationals would quickly pick up on it,,

      • Leicester Mag

        Maybe as an alternative you can go to the ground buy a pie / pint and program, sit in silence watching another helping of sh^t sandwich and hope next time it will change

        • Cockneytrev


  • Stephen

    Why do so many fans ‘hang there hat’ on Rafa?
    Quite simply, He’s all that’s left the only hope.
    Proven at Liverpool, employed at Spanish giants Real Madrid.
    Without him we are left with nothing.
    When Rafa walks, and he will, when it suits him and not Ashley
    At that point MA will be wishing he had sold up.

    • Leazes.

      Because we’ve ‘championed’ him to takle on the regime.

      • Cockneytrev

        Only recently has the national media woke up to the way he’s running the club ,,

  • Megatron1505

    Stockholm syndrome

  • Cockneytrev

    Going by your synopsis,, we never protest,, ?
    Or when do you suggest we protest?
    WHen we are in the top 10?
    When we are in the top 6?
    There is never a good time to protest with this owner as we are always fighting relegation and the team need all the fans behind them,,,
    According to some journalist recently, the boycott from the Spurs game when we were relegated affected Ashley,, apparently he didn’t like it,,
    He’s a horrible bit of work,, he continues to shaft the club/ fans and expects the fans to be grateful,,
    Protests need to be implemented but unfortunately they are never enough, the majority of the fans will always support the team,, (this is their right and I’ve no grief with that,, but if you don’t protest, don’t complain about Ashley)

  • Leicester Mag

    Are you somehow related to Neville Chamberlain ? In our case P!$$ in our time.

  • Proppaboots

    Fat Mike needs hitting in his pockets but most fans are scared to act or just apathetic.
    We should always get behind the team on the pitch or we are not true supporters and if we get relegated then we have aided this by giving abuse to the players which most of the time will have a negative influence on them.
    Why don’t we all stop buying any new NUFC merchandise from any retailer and only buy retro shirts from years gone by meaning no money to Ashley or our sponsors.
    Our sponsors will soon pull the plug on any money they are paying us and the Fat lad will start to think a bit.
    Why anyone would want to walk around with Wonga or Fun88 on their shirt is beyond me anyway??
    Here’s another thing ….why do those who hate Ashley rush downstairs before half time to line his pockets with a pie and a pint for £8…….No wonder he laughs at us!!
    Try and go a couple of hours without food and drink or bring a Greggs pasty with you and again hit Fat Mike where it hurts in his pocket.
    Small steps maybe but the team is still supported and we can at least make a financial statement to Fat Mike.

  • nevfur

    Totally agree

  • GeordieRico

    What about causing chaos in his shops. Try on 6 pairs of shoes but non feel right. Move stuff about – men’s jeans into swimwear etc. All this time wasted by his staff is time not selling.

    • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

      I tried 3 pairs of trainers on yesterday and only bought one pair. I gave the other two back to the assistant, she was fit and flirty. Does that count?

      • Jimmy_toons

        Purely out of interest, and in case I’m going to protest, which shop was that in?

        • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

          Sports Direct, in the he run she run area.

  • Jonas

    What if now us the ideal time?
    big name manager critical of the regime, Staveley/PCP still around and PL football. All if which could be distant memories in a years time when protesting will be far too little far too late.