The big club debate is meaningless; a set of arbitrary rules formed through the subjective opinions of some of the more biased people you’re likely to find: football supporters.

Talk Sport on the other hand panders to the ill-educated, who are incapable of informed opinions and can only digest lowest-common denominator football chat: the station really is the radio equivalent of Rusks – it’s just baby food.

In reality, it is not about who is a big club, who is a small club and so on. This indeed is all relative – look at Sunderland in League One who possess a ground bigger than the entire population of Fleetwood. In Premier League terms, however, they would not enjoy such stature.

Here’s the thing: it’s about perception. And I think that a lot of Newcastle fans should consider how the club is perceived. It is not true to say that this is an entitled, expectant group of supporters who have a God-given right to be challenging at the top end of the table year in year out, but there is a slight imbalance and a recalibration is needed for some. This is because there is one difference between Newcastle United and every other club in the whole of the country.

And it isn’t one that’s easy to swallow.

You see Newcastle are the ultimate nearly-men; a team so close to winning the league that everyone from Wideopen to Wallsend could taste the sweet nectar that would surely flow from the Premier League trophy; and yet, it was snatched away. Cruelly, painfully, agonisingly, to the point where I’m not sure that some people on Tyneside have managed to recover from it, nor will.

The season is defined by the image of Stan Collymore ripping the heart out of the city, to the soundtrack of Kevin Keegan’s infamous interview following the win at Leeds. This, inevitably is played on repeat towards the end of every season, or of course when ‘Premier League Years’ is on Sky on a Tuesday afternoon in November.

And it’s this which means there is a massive identity crisis within the fan base. A club which could have won the league, should have won the league, but also crucially a club which missed the bus which stopped only once. Fans have tasted it, and want to do so again because they know it can happen, because it almost did.

Newcastle are the what-could-have-been specialists, the greatest of all losers, valiant in defeat all because of that one period in their history. For years afterwards there was a commonly-held opinion that the Magpies were everyone’s second team, and that was no doubt down to the way the team entertained football fans across the nation throughout the decade, but also because they came so close.

However, that time has come to an end. The Ashley-era is upon us – and perhaps the most damning indictment is that a club who has suffered back-to-back relegations have supporters who are nevertheless laughing like drains at the situation within the club two leagues above them.

No one enjoys watching Newcastle anymore, and the only good things you can say are those which will never change: the wonderful city, its magnificent stadium in a setting so perfect for the football fan, whether they have come from near or far.

On the pitch, there is nothing to love, and off it there is everything to hate. In truth, only one season in a generation have Newcastle been anywhere near the level of the Keegan years, which is a depressing statistic.

Sympathy may be in short supply from other teams at times, but show me one person who would want Mike Ashley anywhere near their club, then you are either mad, bad or Keith Bishop.

So Newcastle may be a big club, they may not; but what has changed is the way they are perceived – and it’s not for the better and it isn’t likely to change.

And who is to blame for that?

Don’t think too hard.

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  • BillytheFish

    It’s just the press who have an agenda, because they no longer want to talk as fans as they believe they are above us, they want, no need to sensationalise every show with an agenda…Sky Sports always have someone in football they are attacking, TalkSport who are owned by Sky cannot even discuss a game without finding an agenda, Rio Ferdinand supporting Ashley then you find out he is launching a clothing label in Ashley’s stores……….My friend is a respected radio commentator and he refuses to set an agenda so keeps being pushed down the pecking order….Football in dying by a thousand cuts, lets us Geordies at least remain together.

  • Albert Stubbins

    great article- sums up our situation perfectly. Having been so close to the promised land only to have it so cruelly snatched away from us has also left a lot of us bitter- I include myself in this. Do other clubs fans understand us? How Should we be perceived by everyone outside our great club. I have thought about this at length. It does bovver me (us?) because we all want the club to be something great and thus be associated with this greatness- it hurts us because it always fails to deliver this but deep down should we really care about what other fans perceive us as? Im starting not to really care to be honest. Is that Ashleys fault or am I starting to be more realistic/pragmatic about the whole thing as I get older? probably a bit of both. NUFC.

  • Mike

    only thing “big” is the 50k a game nothing else

    • Jezza

      True. We were a big club before Ashley came along. Now we’re a small club with big crowds.

      • GToon

        Exactly.

  • Leicester Mag

    Other fans undoubtedly laugh at us. Club is a joke but we turn to have our tummies tickled once a fortnight. You get respect through action. Liverpool/ Rangers and Arsenal fans have fought back. We haven’t. One answer boycott

    • kingfisher

      Absolutely spot on Leicester 👍👏(see my post above)

    • Kenny

      West Ham as well, the owners then spent £100m,

  • kingfisher

    Excellent article.I think after nigh on 50 years of failure and under achievement we could be excused for believing (not expecting) that we should have won something during that time !
    Obviously Ashley must shoulder the majority of the blame for the state the club is in,however the situation concerning the fans of other clubs and the media outlets/pundits who believe that we think we deserve success, can partly be attributed to the 50,000 who turn up at SJP regardless of results or of how Ashley treats them.
    Is it blind loyalty or foolish loyalty, every one has their own views, but the rest of the country must be asking themselves : If things really are as bad at Newcastle as the Geordies make out, then why do they still get full houses? No wonder we get called thick Geordies by some fans..Unmitigated failure for 50 years on the pitch and constant problems off it, yet still they come in their thousands,a truly massive contradiction.

  • Kenny

    A couple of my mates still go to the match, sometimes i will meet them in Town later for a drink, my 1st words to them are, if you complain about Newcastle & the Rat I’m off & they know I mean it

    • Clarko

      That’s a really cool story you should tell it again…

      • Kenny

        you should f##k off, it was great whilst you were gone.

        • Billmag

          He’s never been gone Kenny he has lots of aliases.

          • Carverlier football

            And given that I’d blocked him and could see that post means he’s also setting up new profiles with recycled aliases – he’s that desperate for attention

      • Cushty lad

        I’m surprised he has any mates. Must be lonely in that darkened bedroom all day playing “keyboard warrior 7” !!!

      • GToon

        Hurray you are back! Have you been on a school residential or something? Did you see Harry Potter the other night? It was on rather late tho so maybe not. Anyway, in your absence we have won all of our games and currently lie second from the top, just behind another well run club, Cardiff. We have all come to realize that Ashley was right all along and selling your best players is actually the way forward. I wish I had listened to you in the first place. My tortoise says the same. And the guinea pigs. Welcome back Harry Potter!

        • Clarko

          Who are you?

    • MrShack66

      You go drinking by yourself in Wetherspoons. #neemates

  • mactoon

    The debate about a big club is a complicated one, in terms of a big club we are massive due to the attendance, massive due to potential but we haven’t had much success. When Keegan almost won the title we were one of the biggest clubs in England but since Ashley has taken over I would say we are a club with one of the best attendances and the potential to be a big club, but we have an owner who refuses to allow the club to achieve that status.

    • Kenny

      The whole City & a huge catchment area up to the borders support Nufc
      the Fat Rat could have made us a top 6 club again but decided to rob us blind instead.

      • Jezza

        I couldn’t have put it any better than that.

  • Kenny

    Anyway here is a bit of useless information for you,
    the Police are selling tickets at £75 a pop to sleep in Fred Wests cell.

    • Leazes.

      It makes me wonder what you are googling?

      • MrShack66

        Suppose it makes a change from his normal youjizz.

  • X,WHY,Y MAN.

    Well I perceive that Newcastle United are utterly s***e under the stewardship of Michael Wallace Ashley !

  • Steve Smith

    People looking to get attention on a national/International scale don’t do so by taking cheap shots at small clubs.

  • Sickandtired

    The same [email protected] were having digs at us back then too.

  • LA toon

    “On the pitch, there is nothing to love”. I know it is begining of the season, however I agree. As I reside in the USA, I can watch any live PL game. I have no illusions of what to expect every week but I am unable to not watch the Toon. There again there are some games on at the same time that may offer offer thrills, goal mouth action and sublime footballing. I am, so far, not switching channels. Maybe doing a Sunderland maybe the only option to get rid of the FCB and rebuild. We are a big club, large fan base, with the aspirations of all PL clubs

  • Wezza

    Have to chuckle at the beloved manure trolls losing to Derby.