It’s gone right off then hasn’t it? I think we all got a bit distracted by the World Cup and suddenly the startling reality of another transfer window of misery, austerity and neglect hit home, exacerbated by the early closure of this year’s window and hammered home definitively by Rafa’s statements in Ireland suggesting he couldn’t stick this nonsense for much longer. The campaign #IfRafaGoesWeGo was swiftly born and I’d naively hope that this is something we can finally all come together on.
In the past, it has to be said that we as a fan group, have blown our chances at rattling Mike Ashley through a lack of solidarity.
A projected walk-out against Cardiff (final home match of 2013/14) fell flat when we couldn’t agree what minute to rack off in, with the 60th v 69th debate a bigger story than the protest.
Whilst the boycott Spurs match campaign the following season was well supported, but met with disdain from other fans, who feel any failure to attend a game is unbecoming of a supporter.
Hopefully, lessons have been learned and people who still had patience during the Pardew era, will largely have been worn down. The likely threat of losing Rafa, returning to our previous state of existential hopelessness and tearing headlong towards a third relegation, is surely enough for even the daftest, most sycophantic troll to appreciate that the Ashley era at Newcastle United is miserable for people and using the emotional connection with the club as a means to extort people. However, I think there are a few basic guidelines we could do with adapting this time, such as:
Show each other a bit of respect:
NUFC is becoming the sporting equivalent of Brexit, with fervent leavers calling out staunch remainers for their unwillingness to see the correct point of view.
Can people not get that some other, perfectly nice, decent fans might have a different situation to cater for?
The one I keep thinking of is the parent of a small child who has fallen hopelessly in love with NUFC and is going through the stage of living from match to match. You may have the principles to walk away yourself but you can’t do it to the child. It might be Ashley’s version of United but it’s still Newcastle United. Conversely, if you choose not to get involved in any protests, displays or stay aways because you feel it is counter productive then fine, but allow the people expressing themselves through action the chance to make a difference. If it works on any level, you’ll benefit from their efforts.
Plenty of notice:
Around the time of Boycott Spurs, every w..ker and his Alsatian had a tirade about how we should all miss the Stoke game because they look like Sunderland, or boycott Chelsea because Dennis Wise played for them. If matches are to be used in this way it needs to be co-ordinated well in advance, so people can make a choice without compromising plans. If a boycott is well advertised before tickets go on sale, fans can choose a different game if they’re attending sporadically, or plan other events around the demonstration. Which brings me to:
Prepare for the worst:
I have mentioned a boycott above and, to be honest, I am going on record as saying that as things stand this should be something that is done. The January transfer window is the absolute last chance saloon for Rafa Benitez and his chances of taking NUFC forward. A well positioned mass non-attendance of a (preferably) televised game some time around early December (West Ham) would, in my opinion, be an excellent show of intent. Whatever people might say, the Spurs boycott jarred Ashley to act, and I think we could get far more momentum this time round.
There is another reason I’m suggesting this though, that many won’t have considered.
I would advocate missing a game and spending the afternoon doing something that you would likely find yourself doing next season instead, should you walk away with Rafa next June. Support lower down the pyramid would be an excellent option, as the boycott could benefit local clubs while its success could be measured not only by the empty seats at SJP, but by swollen attendances at Blyth, Whitley Bay, Hebburn Town etc. If you have family members playing at grass roots get along and see them.
If the situation has spoilt football for you, see if Falcons are at home, or support your local rugby club.
If none of that applies, go to the Metro Centre then, but bear in mind that this is your alternative to watching Newcastle at St James. You may regret not doing it years ago, or you may conclude that deep down you just can’t go through with it. Come crunch time in 2019, whatever option you choose is fine, it’s your life and no one has the right to tell you how to enjoy what you’ve worked for.
Just maybe though, with a bit of solidarity, a bit of planning, maybe a bit of luck, things can work out better for us all.
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf