Are Newcastle fans up for Londoncastle United…or something even worse, if it means trophies?
I have just read a very good article here in The Mag about a conversation between a Mag correspondent and some Spanish agents.
In it, the point was raised regarding the reluctance of players to come further north than Leicester. This has bothered me for several years, and for several reasons.
Firstly, I can’t see the attraction of London, it’s rubbish. Then again, as a local lad, I can’t imagine any city being better than the toon, we have everything we need here, and as far as footballers are concerned -there’s a Nando’s and a Rolex dealership.
However, I can understand that with limitless money, it is possible to live like a king in the capital and possibly even walk down the street without being recognised, which I imagine must be nice. In Newcastle though, for the same money as a 2-bed flat in London, they could own 50% of Northumberland.
It does frustrate me that these 18-36 year-old man-childs prefer the smokey human landfill to the beauty of the North East and all it has to offer (except Sunderland). Then again, it is rare for anyone under 25 to appreciate the aesthetics of nature over the bright lights of 2-for-1 Jaegerbombs and Dsquared2 tank tops (I had to Google what kids are into these days).
Some footballers ‘get it’, namely Rob Elliot, who lives in Tynemouth, and Darren Peacock who used to frequent the Dyvells pub in Corbridge, Andy O’Brien used to drive a knackered old Saab despite his wealth and Olivier Bernard even bought a football team in the area (Durham City AFC); and some footballers are local, so know what they’d be missing by moving away (ask Gazza), but despite the strong history of players coming here and loving it, there still seems a reticence to venture north.
So, what can be done to improve the chances of attracting the players who get a nosebleed north of Stevenage?
Firstly, we can continue to say ‘f… ‘em’, if you don’t want to play for the greatest club on Earth and live in the greatest city on Earth, then frankly, we don’t want you.
But that might be cutting off our nose to spite our face, they may simply not know about the Toon, even those from other parts of England can have brown-tinted glasses when viewing https://www.newcastlegateshead.com/ , so one solution is to come up with a better brochure.
When KK told Rob Lee Newcastle was closer to London than Middlesbrough he (kind of) lied, I wouldn’t suggest going that far, but maybe a more informative info pack would do the trick. However, if a stadium full of 52,000 fans, Rafa Benitez as your manager, wads of cash and instant legend status (if you’re any good) aren’t enough to tempt someone, then an inspiring picture of Bamburgh castle is unlikely to do it.
So, a third option could be to relocate the training ground. This has been mooted in the past, and I’d be interested to see people’s views on it again. If one problem cited is the ‘Goldfish Bowl’ (Jenas, 2005), then a London base would remove that issue and anonymity would be restored. Do footballers really want that though?
Secondly, with the majority of games played in that half of the country, match-day travel time would be reduced. The thing is though, every home game is at SJP (did you know that?) and so travel time would probably actually increase, which would only level things at home with the opposition, so that mightn’t work.
Thirdly, the bright lights, the draw of living in cosmopolitan London, the endless opportunities to do…stuff. Yeah, okay, I can see that London is a millionaire’s playground, but they have money, they can visit, it’s only an hour by plane.
If footballers persistently insist that it’s a matter of location location location, and we are helpless to prevent them from disregarding (and disrespecting) Newcastle as a consequence, then we have to look back in at ourselves as fans.
We have to ask what we want. If it is guaranteed success, would we be happy for ‘our’ players to live down south?
What is it we crave? Success? Or a connection to the city and its people?
Personally, I get great satisfaction from hearing players talk about how much they love the city and the club, its fans and its magnitude. We have a world-famous club after all. If a player would rather sign for Crystal Palace (not naming anyone) than us based on location, then I would get little satisfaction from that same player then agreeing to play for us if he could stay away (*cough* Michael Owen *cough*). If, like I believe we do now, we have a team of players who genuinely enjoy being here and feel pride in representing the Toon, then I honestly don’t mind if we don’t win another trophy in my lifetime (I say that as though the Intertoto cup counts as a trophy).
If we had a team of players with no connection to Newcastle other than the odd visit, but who won the league every year, I don’t think it would take long for the novelty to wear off.
I don’t think there’s really a debate here, but what would you stretch to in order to guarantee, or increase the chances of, success?
Can we achieve success regardless?
How can we attract those players who fear the icy industrial wasteland we (apparently) all inhabit?