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Opinion

Despite all this grief I would still love to be at Liverpool on Boxing day

7 months ago
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In light of the current mood, I  was tempted to do this months’ piece about  Xmas games from the past,  going on about nostalgic trips to Sheffield Wednesday in the eighties.

However, even for the man who has a backside full of  splinters, the recent events just can’t be ignored.

If the plan to boycott the Wolves match was to show to the world that the fans  of this club have hit a tipping point and have had enough, well it’s had the opposite effect.

It’s shown the world  that Newcastle fans  are either:

Hugely loyal to their club and will stick with them through the difficult times.

or

A bunch of droids who have been programmed to meekly sit and accept the dross in front of them.

Take your pick.

Sadly, what I  believe is that the failed boycott will have a  major impact on the relationship between people who have sat next to each other for years, and not for the better. The atmosphere could become toxic if results get worse.

I will use the comparison of the miners strike but I accept that  it’s a very bad one. That was about real life and involved the break up of families. This one will  be about two blokes spending 90 minutes bickering with each other  until one of them decides to shift seats , so it’s hardly that important in the great scheme of things.

But the focus for many could become the people around them and not the team in front of them and that could be important. Will those amongst us who have shouted for a boycott, now feel that they have to walk away?

Here are some stats for you, looking at the first and last home attendances during our relegation years

1977-78   Leeds 36,500  to Norwich 8,000  (season average 24,200)

1988-89  Spurs  33,500  to Millwall 14,700 (season average 22,800)

2008-09   Villa  51,000 to  Chelsea  52,300   (season average 48,750)

2015-16   Southampton  49,700  to Spurs  52,180 (season average 49,754)

As you can see, in the first two of these relegation years people deserted the club in droves, but in the Ashley relegations, the last game has actually seen more people turn up than who did at the first of the season.

Only at Newcastle.

I am old enough to have been around for those first two relegations when the atmosphere amongst the fans during the season was hideous.

I have written before about being one of the manic frothing at the mouth  “sack the board” lot in 1988, where I came close to punching people around me (or should I say getting punched by those around me – because I am a dwarf and I couldn’t plant someone unless I was on a ladder).

So when it comes to unrest at St James Park, nothing changes.

Is it a coincidence that when the crowds disappeared we stayed down for five years but when the crowds have stayed with the team, we have come back up straight away?

See, my splintered backside is on show again, because I simply don’t know what the answer is .

To stay or to go.  The last time I  checked, supporting NUFC isn’t to belong to a Moonie cult.  It has to be the call of each individual to make.

I no longer go and I quit under the Ashley regime, but I can’t say I quit because of Mike Ashley, I quit because I simply stopped enjoying walking up to the ground to watch a team I could no longer relate to.  You could argue the two things are mutually inclusive.

Perversely,  whilst another season of battling to stay up with  Palace,  Huddersfield, Cardiff and Fulham just doesn’t do it for me,  if we had been in the Championship this season and fighting at the top with  Derby, Leeds,  Aston Villa and Nottm Forest, that may have got me walking up the steps again.

These days, having prayed to all the Gods for the last 50 years to see my club win anything, now I really won’t cry myself to sleep should we go down again.

I think it’s an age thing. Personal health issues have knocked the fight right out of me.  I have more important things to worry about and anyway revolution is a young man’s game.

I do still care (writing this monthly piece for nothing tells me I do) and  even though season tickets are a thing of the past, I will still turn up with my brothers for the third round cup match against Blackburn, even though I know the team probably won’t bother.

That’s because FA Cup third round matches have been part of our life since I was 10 and it is an important tradition that we need to continue.  It makes no sense but then devoting so much of our lives to a football club never has.

Despite all this grief I would still love to be at  Liverpool on Boxing day. I’m sure this generation of fans will love their day out just as much as mine did at Hillsborough in 1985.  Thinking of that day can still bring a smile to my face 33 years later.

I Just hope their fashion sense stands up to the test of time,  better than ours has.  On Leppings lane that day, with our tashes, permed hair and denim jackets, we looked like a backdrop to a Village People video.

We thought we were cool though.
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