“Enjoy the Game!” is the final tannoy announcement before Newcastle United kick-off these days.

Hmmm, chances are, I won’t enjoy the game.

As far as I’m concerned, we haven’t gathered at St James Park to be entertained like some visiting tourist.  In other circumstances/areas of life I can understand “Enjoy the movie” or “enjoy your meal”  being offered my way, but sorry, not for the match.

If I go to the movies then, to be honest, I expect to be entertained.  Hollywood knows the importance of that and you’ll rarely see someone leave a film halfway through – but “Enjoy the Game”?

I don’t know about you but I have come here to win, for me that’s the important thing.  It’s so critical, I expect I’m going to suffer and worry for the next 90 minutes.  I’ll wince over every stray pass, groan when we miss a tackle and grimace over any missed goal scoring chance.

God forgive me if I think one of our players isn’t trying hard enough…

Of course today I might just have to accept that the other team might be better than us or even (I can barely write this), want it more.  Where’s the potential enjoyment in this?  And don’t get me started on the joke of a ref and their assistants…

Ok, I’m maybe I’m a little guilty of cup half empty syndrome.  Yes, we might score, but even that I’ll probably welcome it with a clenched fist, more with relief than pleasure.  And then I’ll start to worry that we’ll go all defensive, or we’ll not be able to hold on until the final whistle.  I’ll have to endure the time counting down while I encourage the players to waste time and help us get over the line.  So no, I won’t be sitting munching overpriced popcorn, hot-dogs or nachos and enjoying the show.

If you speak with ex-players they will tell you the same.  Rarely do they enjoy the game either.  More than a few will be being physically sick with worry in the toilet beforehand. Ask Gary Neville – chronic pre-match barfer.  Maybe if you’re 4-0 up with 15 minutes to play and cruising but normally, like us, players are far too pre-occupied with the job in hand.   To do everything to ensure they have the measure of the man in front of them, 90 minutes and more of total concentration.  It’s not about enjoyment.

Now of course there will be occasional moments of brilliance that will brighten any game and allow a brief period of relapse and release for us all.  I’ll always remember Asprilla’s red wine fuelled debut against the Boro, his sublime hat-trick against Barcelona, Shearer’s volley against Everton and the fightback against Arsenal.  I even can appreciate the other side at times.

Such as when Jurgen Klinsmann played for Spurs against us at the height of his powers in 1995. I can still see him beating three of our players with a couple of touches, missing a penalty, and still being the talisman for them in a breathless game that ended 3-3.  At the time Keegan said “it was the greatest advert for football I’ve seen this season.  There weren’t any people queuing outside, asking for their money back, that’s for sure.”

Games and moments like this do bring enormous pleasure at the time and also live on long after the final whistle, warmly spoken about over a reflective pint reminding us all why it’s rightly called the beautiful game.

According to legendary film director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire & Olympic opening ceremonies), who knows about these things. There is a saying in Hollywood: “There are only two parts to a movie that are important – the beginning and the end.  And the end is far more important than the beginning.”  Think Star Wars, Jedis and Death Stars.  And there perhaps is the only similarity.

For me the most and only important part of the match is the ending.  Whether I watch Match of the Day or not comes down to one thing.  Did we beat the Dark Side or not?

I don’t come to be entertained – I’m here to urge us on to win with all I’ve got.

So please Mr Tannoy, how about dropping “Enjoy the Game” and have a little bit more “Howay the Lads!”

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  • Leazes.

    Yes it was John Hall who used the phrase ‘let our young man Andy Cole entertain you’, in the programme sales pitch for executive boxes, I don’t think Hall or any of his contemporary owners really understood the prime purpose was winning…. its a sport, a contest…. our city’s representative eleven against the enemy!

    ‘One nil to the Arsenal’ was the chant at highbury, the result wasn’t entertainment but it was happiness as they won things. Some clubs competed as sporting clubs, but United took a different route when after the heroics of Milburn and Co. in the fifties they fostered the United future ethos….

    ….the cult of the centre forward.

    It was to be a replacement for a sporting contest, and nobody better exemplified this than Hall and Shepherd who insisted upon the shirt seller…. the ‘trophy signing’

    Yes the centre forward will be better than other clubs forwards but essentially an abdication of purpose of genuinely competing.

    As we stand the present owner has continued the pursuit of a ‘match day experience’… in the same way you might go to the cinema….

    ….competition died years ago, Hall did make a half ar**d attempt but it was too entertainment orientated, too cavalier and without the steel of a sporting goal, Keegan was his ringmaster, an ultimate publicist and showman and that was reflected in his sides.

    I look forward to the day when United become a football club again, it is a sport!

    • Peaky Magpie

      I don’t know if it’s the cold weather or not but you’re on top form today…

  • Dillon Tovak

    Nothing to do with this article, but…
    Southgate meeting McTominay to persuade him to play for England.
    Wow! Wowowow oh wow.
    And Lascelles gets ignored every time even though he shows far better form than Jones, Smalling, Keane and Cahill.
    Big club bias at its worst, from a manager that didn’t even play for a big club.

  • ghostrider

    Why can’t a game be won, drawn and lost playing entertaining football?

    Anyone remember the saying ” it was end to end stuff”….?
    Of course we all go to watch our team hopefully win but we don’t go to say, I hope we win playing dire football…every game.

    We might single out a top game and say ” I don’t care how we win as long as we win it.”

    Football is an entertainment business as well as just a football game for the players.
    They get paid to perform for their fans, not just to sneak a goal and dourly defend it for the rest of the game….especially if that team is playing at home.

    When fans are allowed into the game for free or the players are plying the game for nominal fees plus travel expenses, then yeah we have no right to expect anything other than a rough and tumble game of football.