So, here we go then….it seems that articles on The Mag, or indeed any other Newcastle United centred corner of the internet, are becoming a bit formulaic. An article gets written about anything; Ashley, Rafa’s tactics, the colour of the away kit, the shape of the corner flags, literally sodding anything at all, and it creates an immediate division that develops into a squabble over who knows how to support Newcastle the best, usually centred around attendance of matches or not. This invariably and quickly descends into an ugly internet trait called the Ad Hominem fallacy, where failure to agree on something descends into personal abuse as quick as you can say “multiple avatars”.
While I disagree with some people’s approach, there’s no denying there is a valid debate here. Let’s have a bit of devil’s advocate.
The first argument is that going to the game makes you part of the problem, a traitor, a sheep if you will. This has more than reasonable grounding as the payment for tickets and associated kit/pies/programmes is falling into the big questionable cash vortex between SJP and Sports Direct that makes it worth the owners while, to keep unconvincingly pretending he wants to sell the club. There’s also a sense of warning that you are, frankly, being taken for a mug by voluntarily enduring the miserable matches. Finally, there’s the belief that an empty ground would devalue the product and force the regime change that the vast majority crave.
Conversely, there is the argument of the match going fan. This is underpinned by the right of anyone to make a personal choice, but there is a range of feeling here. Many see the match as their birthright, and abandonment as a surrender of what is rightfully ours to Ashley. It’s also a grand place for a show of defiance that may have more effect than the empty stadium plan.
Ultimately though, I think the main driver is personal circumstances, as people meet up regularly with friends and family in a way that life might not otherwise easily allow.
I’ve mentioned previously how I have three small children who are at various stages of showing initial interest in the team and the thought of not sharing this with them hurts my heart a bit. I believe there can be a lack of empathy from the older generation towards the next round of fans, as they are so ingrained with an opinion from decades of dyed in the wool support it can be easy to forget that they were afforded the opportunity to experience the club in the first place, because no one was telling them not to go.
This isn’t just from the perspective of a child either, as I would imagine the wide-eyed optimist in their early twenties is keener to build up their own matchday memories than the more grizzled veteran of 50+ who can walk away with plenty to look back on.
The worst part for me is simply that there is a divide. There are pros and cons on both sides but people keep leathering into each other for their choice, for the method of protest or their refusal to get involved. In spite of this we are the closest we’ve ever been to consistently pushing back against the regime and, while it remains a pipe dream at the minute, the departure of Ashley would arguably open this divide even wider.
The reason for this can be seen in any internet debate on the history of Newcastle United involving the real experts.
The real experts are not the long-standing observers of the club or those who have studied football social history, don’t be daft. Apparently they are the fans of Man City, Nottingham Forest, Leeds and, of course, Sunderland, all of whom have been privy to secret documents about NUFC that never made it to Tyneside for some reason. These geniuses will tell you how Newcastle got average attendances of (insert poxy figure) prior to 1992, when Kevin Keegan brought an army of glory seekers. The same intellectuals will then wee themselves hysterically at how United have won nowt in 50 years, oblivious to the oxymoron of how anyone could maintain glory seeker status under these barren conditions.
The facts of this are horribly straightforward.
Firstly, the attendance they give will almost always be Newcastle’s one-off worst attendance ever and not a reasonable reflection of the history of the support, which has always been above average, including times when our second tier attendances trumped the majority of the top flight.
Secondly, it ignores the known fact that the Sky/Premier League reboot of football caused a spike in interest across English football and everyone’s crowd increased to some degree.
However, the biggest missive for me is the fact that Kevin Keegan’s arrival to launch the Newcastle Renaissance was almost 27 years ago. Given that most children don’t have full control over their attendance, I would argue that anyone under the age of 40 cannot be labelled with this tag. Not wanting to depress anyone but that’s probably a decent chunk of any club’s support these days.
Nonetheless there was a divide created then. With 32,000 crammed into the ground when it could have sold double that every week, there were regular tales of woe from people who hadn’t missed a game until the Premier League, and now they were locked out while Johnny come lately took their ticket. Some people will have been priced out by all-seater season ticket prices of course, but other claims were dubious.
The question I have, regarding the Ashley overthrowing (I said it was relevant) is who will be the ’92 club this time round?
If benevolent oligarchs take over and demand rockets, will those that stayed away resent the current ticket holders when they are attending cup finals? Or could current sufferers claim they are paying their dues by sticking through these lean times. In many ways, it’s the same argument.
I hope we can at least channel behind making life uncomfortable for the regime, because our fans’ constant struggle to agree is becoming a character trait. Maybe East End and West End should never have bothered……
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf