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Opinion

Time for Newcastle fans to step up – For the greater good, don’t go

5 months ago
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It is time for Newcastle fans to stand up and be counted.

I don’t think Mike Ashley truly understands, and he certainly doesn’t care, about the damage that he has done to this football club, these fans, and the city of Newcastle.

This week brought the news that Rafa Benitez has/is going (going going… gone), so what are we now left with as a football club? Nothing.

Let’s forget about the takeover for the time being, assume it is not going ahead. I think a separate article can be written on the need for the Bin Zayed Group to stand up and let themselves be heard, as they also have a lot to answer for on the events of the past month.

First things first, it is hard not to go and watch your team. I threw in my season ticket in January, and I moved to Singapore in April. There is no better feeling than watching your football team play; it keeps you sane, and when you are going through a difficult time in your life, stepping into a football stadium for 90 minutes can be the perfect break from every stress in your body.

A football club, or more specifically this particular football club, Newcastle United, is a club that should be at the heart of our community, it should be the lifeblood of a city, and the vehicle that brings people together. It does not do that anymore. In truth, if you really ask yourself honestly, you will accept that it hasn’t done this for a very long time.

I was in the Strawberry last night, digesting with family just what the fu.. is going on – and we all agreed that even if we were to win a cup next season, it would be tainted under the ownership of the charlatan that is Mike Ashley.

Obviously this is leading to me explaining why going to the game should not longer be a serious option for a serious fan. I am really sorry but the ‘support the team not the regime’ motto died a long time ago, and anyone advocating for that now, truly is living in Walter Mitty Land. The moment any money leaves your bank account to go to Newcastle United, the only person you are helping is Mike Ashley.

By helping Mike Ashley, you are killing Newcastle United football club.

Mike Ashley has destroyed the potential that this football club had – he has turned Newcastle United into a branch of Sports Direct, a vehicle used for nothing more than advertising his prime business to a worldwide audience via PL TV rights.

What adds to the misery is that we are still in debt to him, we still technically ‘owe him’ – so you have to ask yourself, is your money even going to the club? No. It is going straight into the pocket of a man whose football club was proven in court to have discriminated against a footballer because they had cancer. A man who has not only disrespected Rafa Benitez, but has all but banished Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer from the football club they love so much.

This is a man who has abused Newcastle fans, he has publicly mocked us, lied to us, and stolen our football club away from us. Even as I type this, Newcastle United remain under investigation from HMRC.

There is of course a real cost to all of this. A human cost. Relegations cost lives, not just a few bits and bobs. We have had two so far, and we are heading for another one next year. Relegations cost jobs, they have a negative impact upon health, security and families. The damage Mike Ashley has done not only with Newcastle United, but across his whole business empire, is quite frankly scary. To be honest, it begs the question of whether the FA/PL should reopen their fit and proper persons test for current owners (including those at Charlton and Coventry).

Of course, a Saturday afternoon should be an opportunity for friends and families to come together in town, whether in victory or defeat, have a bit of crack and go home knowing on that particular day your whole football club did everything it could for you to go back into your working week happy.

What do we have instead? It is another summer that now leaves fans feeling confused and frustrated, thinking of what could have been. Rafa has gone – so what do we want now? Well that answer has never really changed, irrespective of who the manager is. A football club that we can be proud of, a football club that’s primary motive is to win football matches and do its best to represent its fans.

We have seen successful boycotts in Germany, France and Italy. Even in the UK, high profile clubs like West Ham and Liverpool have in recent years made successful demonstrations against their owners with fans coming together for the greater good.

Further down the footballing pyramid, Blackpool fans put together their own ‘NAPM’ (Not A Penny More) campaign in which they agreed not to give a penny more to the Oyston family who systematically tried to dismantle the football club.

You have to ask yourself what is important to Mike Ashley. The only thing Mike Ashley listens to is money. A drop in attendance will hurt him. Of course there will always be a few idiots who say ‘oh season tickets only make up a certain percentage of income and therefore blah blah blah’ but if fans don’t turn up, if they don’t buy match day tickets, if they don’t buy club shirts, and if they adopt Blackpool’s NAPM mantra then it will hurt Mike Ashley.

We can no longer rely on others to save our club for us.

Not turning up to games, and not giving money to the club, does not mean you don’t support your football team anymore, and it does not mean you are any less passionate as the guy who may still decide to take his seat in the Sports Direct Arena.

You don’t have to tell me, or any fan, that there is no better experience than watching your team in the flesh – trust me I know. It can be somewhat depressing watching the team at 3am in Singapore, on your own, in your living room, when you are all too aware of the thrill that comes with sitting in the Gallowgate.

I know all too well about the short-term pain of missing games, but in the end when I jacked in my season ticket, it was because I could no longer justify giving my hard earned money to Mike Ashley.

However, you can recreate some of that experience by watching in the pub with your mates, or go and watch your local team instead… Gateshead, Whitley Bay, Blyth, South Shields, Consett, Durham City, Bishop Auckland, Darlington. Just a few clubs in the local area where your money can be better spent, clubs that actually deserve your hard earned cash.

For some Newcastle fans this is all too late, they have already given up. Many left 10 years ago when Keegan did, and although they have been replaced, lets not forget what Mike Ashley did to them – he made them fall out of love with the football club they grew up supporting.

It is a big step to take a stand and stop going. So hey, it may also be time for so called ‘fan groups’ (a term used to describe one person with a twitter account) and journalists to step up how angry they are – although I won’t hold my breathe as I am sure all of them can’t wait to play at SJP again, after the end of next season.

Benitez leaving is your last chance to do something about the future of this football club because if you don’t jack it in now, then will you ever do it? From this point onwards, what could Mike Ashley ever do to stop you from going? The bar has been set and it can’t get any lower.

Not going to games is the best and easiest way to put pressure on Mike Ashley, to make him feel like owning Newcastle United just isn’t worth the hassle because let’s face it, when there are 52,000 people coming through the doors, no matter what, it makes all of this bad press worth it for Ashley.

Not going to the game means you miss out on some brilliant moments, but that is the sacrifice that you have to make, for the greater good of the club.

Forget the past 11 years, lets take just the last 6 months for example, only a few weeks after I packed my season ticket in, there was that brilliant night in which we beat Manchester City and ‘broke’ (apparently) our club record transfer to sign Miguel Almiron. I watched it after work in a London pub with a fellow Toon fan, and we were both sick that we weren’t there as the roof seemed like it was blown off SJP.

In April I went to see us play at Leicester a few days before I moved to Singapore. I knew it would be my last game for a long time, and the scoreline and atmosphere in the away end, just filled you with so much hope that one day it could be great again.

Even in our last game, a 4-0 win at Fulham, a day out in the sun for thousands of fans was another reminder of what the future could be like. We could be so much happier.

It is these odd moments of hope that probably keep most Newcastle fans going, stringing them along with the thinnest of strings. It will hurt not to go but for the sake of the football club it has to stop now.

If you are sat in your seat come the Arsenal game… then I would wonder what will it ever take for you to do something to help your football club?

The future of this football club is bigger than Mike Ashley, it is bigger than Kevin Keegan, Sir Bobby Robson and Rafa Benitez. Most importantly though, it is bigger than you. For the greater good, don’t go.

You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn

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