Summer Diary Of The Armchair Fan – Boycotting Newcastle United 2019/20
Introducing The Armchair Fan – Boycotting NUFC through the 19/20 premiership season.
Sunday 9th April 2000, Wembley Stadium. 4.23pm
Squinting through the April sunshine, I can see the profile of Alan Shearer skinning Frank Leboeuf on the far side of the pitch. Almost in slow motion I see the cross getting whipped into the box and I’m aware that I’m screaming, roaring on any Newcastle Player to get on the end of it.
As the ball hits the back of the net there seems to be a split second of disbelief before a guttural roar of nuclear force booms from the lungs of 40,000 black and whites who’d invaded the tunnel end of the most famous stadium in the world. Pure ecstasy like this happens only once or twice in a lifetime.
It soon turns into an out of body experience as I lose all self control, I’m arm in arm jumping up and down with my big brother who’s not only eleven years older but also much taller than me. I have just enough time to think ‘he’s going to yank my bloody arm off’ before we separate, I punch the air, scream to the heavens and fix my gaze upon a black and white balloon that bobbles happily despite being stuck in the Wembley roof.
Newcastle have just equalised against Chelsea in the FA cup semi-final. No goal before or since has ever done to me what this one has.
I was lucky enough to be behind the goal when Tino completed his hat-trick against Barcelona, when Solano stroked home the winner at Elland Road and when Dwight Gayle slammed home six minutes into injury time against Norwich. All of these goals are imprinted into my memory and will live with me forever but this one is different, this one is special, this one is going to ensure all our dreams come true. We’re going to win the FA Cup! This is the best day of my life!
Twenty five minutes later and the mood is much less jovial. I look to the heavens in disbelief this time, how did we lose this one?! I search for the merry black and white balloon and fail to find it, it must have burst. A dark cloud forms itself into a fist and punches me in the gut. I’m thirteen years old, too old for what I’m about to do. I close my eyes, swallow hard and cry.
Part one: Pre-season:
Monday 24th June 2019 12.35pm
I stretch out on my girlfriend’s sofa with a cup of tea and a good book. I’ve got the house to myself for another three hours. This is the life for me. Weak sunshine peeks through the blinds and I contemplate what to do with the rest of my day. The predicted storms have failed to materialise and I take a breath, content in a state of total relaxation. The early afternoon peace is shattered by a notification on my phone. I’ve got a text from my mate Craig, probably wants to meet for a pint this week. I unlock my phone, press ‘messaging’ and my heart drops as I read:
‘Just announced that Rafa is leaving at the end of the month!! :s’
In my mind’s eye, the sky turned black at this point and the aforementioned storms hammered rain and hail on me leaving me freezing cold and soaking wet despite being in the living room. I’m willing to admit this is probably my memory playing tricks on me but I genuinely remember a storm of biblical proportions hitting at this exact moment.
I take a swig of now freezing cold tea from my Newcastle United mug and spit it in the sink. A fitting metaphor, something that had the potential to be savoured and enjoyed, now makes me want to vomit.
I cling on to one last shred of hope. A takeover might happen immediately and bring back the one man in the world capable of uniting our fanbase.
Tuesday 2nd July 2019 9.36pm
‘Rafa Benitez is unveiled as Chinese club Dalian Yifang’s manager after leaving Newcastle United’
So he’s actually gone then, he’s not coming back. The best thing that has happened to us in recent years has gone and for what?
Having the audacity to ask for a sensible budget or the right to sign decent players over a certain age? Maybe it was the entirely unreasonable attempt to sign our player of the season who also wanted to stay. What a novel idea that would be, actually signing good football players in an attempt to win matches. It’ll never catch on.
When fans of other clubs tell me I should be grateful for Mike Ashley, I feel like inviting them to be a contestant on ‘come dine with me’, serving them a massive pile of steaming dog sh.. and telling them they should be grateful they haven’t had to cook.
I’ve never been a fan of boycotting. In this day and age, I feel that fans don’t have the same power they used to. Match tickets only count for a fraction of any club’s incoming wealth and whilst the only thing Mike Ashley cares about is money, the vast amount of revenue is coming from TV companies. There’s also the added sweetener that turning St James’ Park into a gigantic Sports Direct advertising hoarding massively benefits his other business interests that are in no way related to NUFC.
When previous boycotts have been organised I’ve taken the view that they are unlikely to make much (if any) impact. This time it feels different though, it feels more personal, I can no longer justify giving so much as a penny to that greedy parasite who’s destroyed every enjoyable thing about supporting our club.
I’m not going to any more matches, not buying a replica shirt and wouldn’t spend so much as a button in the club shop. I thought it would be the most difficult decision of my life to walk away but in the end I didn’t think twice. I’ll return when Mike Ashley is gone. Not a second before.
Tuesday 9th July 2019 2.56pm
Steve Bruce. The two words fill me with chills.
I don’t care if he’s from Corbridge, he does not love Newcastle United.
My abiding memory of that oaf is of him running down the touchline in celebration as Sunderland fluked the spawniest of derby draws against us in 2011. He’d spent the entire build up to the match discussing how desperate he was to taunt Newcastle fans with his own choice of song after he’d led his red and white heroes to victory. He not only wanted us to suffer that weekend, he was openly planning to rub salt in the wounds.
I can’t speak for anyone else but my gut feeling is that Steve Bruce is about as welcome in Newcastle as I am in a nunnery wearing nothing but a mankini whilst knocking back jagerbombs and handing out invitations to a debauched stag do in Amsterdam. He’s got as much chance as winning over the Toon Army as Mike Ashley has of winning a bikini clad beauty contest and he should never ever come within spitting distance of our manager’s office.
A shortlist of potential NUFC managers reads like a who’s who of people in football I despise. Reports that the club recently approached Sam Allardyce have me convinced that Mike Ashley is deliberately pressing our buttons. Then again Dennis Wise, John Terry and Steven Gerard hardly have me jumping for joy either. Quite frankly I’d feel more comfortable if we had Ruud Gullit sensibly preparing for a Tyne-Wear derby whilst mild mannered Joe Kinnear calmly briefs the press.
If Mike Ashley is going to sell all our best players, trouser the extra cash and then leave us with a new owner, bottom of the league and on the way to championship then so be it.
I’d happily take relegation and a new owner any day of the week regardless of the circumstances. NUFC feels like a shell of a club at the moment without a proper owner, manager or any realistic hope of progression. I’ll return to St James’ Park once those hideous Sports Direct logos are where they belong, in a skip round the back. The clubs flies out to China this week to compete in the Asia cup thingy without Rafa, Rondon or Perez. You’ll forgive me for failing to feel much excitement despite this being our most realistic chance this season to win a trophy.
Asia Cup, Wed 17th-Sat 20th July 2019
I used to love pre-season friendlies, especially the first one of each season. Like a kid counting down the days to Christmas, It made me think that football was coming and barren Saturday afternoons would soon be gone for the next nine months. The knowledge that NUFC would be competing in a tournament live on Sky would have me begging for the shift off work and warning my nearest and dearest not to bother me when the match is on. This year I’m not even sure what time it kicks off. The morning before the first match of the tournament, NUFC will either start the competition with no manager or Steve Bruce as manager, I can’t work out which is worse.
On 17th July, the match kicks off at 11am UK time. The good news is that Steve Bruce is not the new manager. The bad news is that he has been installed as ‘head coach’ which is concrete proof (not that it was needed) to many fans that he’s nothing but another Mike Ashley patsy.
The complete opposite to Rafa Benitez is now in charge of the tactics that will go a long way to determining whether or not we’ll stay up and you just know that the season is doomed before it even begins. On the pitch the lads show all the attributes you’d expect from a Steve Bruce team and get slaughtered 4-0 by Wolverhampton Wanderers. Thankfully we’ve avoided Man City in the final so will play West Ham in a few days time to determine who’s the shi..est English team in Asia this summer.
Surprisingly, Newcastle beat the hammers 1-0 to finish just one place behind Man City (who lose on penalties to Wolves). Street parties fail to materialise on Tyneside but if we finish just a place behind them in the premier league then it may be about time to dust off the black and white bunting. Games away to Preston, Hibs and at home to St Etienne are planned before the real deal starts. With 19 days of the transfer window remaining, Newcastle travel back to England with a bronze medal but not a single new signing.
Tuesday 23rd July 2019 6pm
Precisely sixty eight days and one hour after everyone else, Newcastle United take advantage of the transfer window and sign a new player. It seems churlish to be anything other than delighted with signing a Brazilian striker for forty million quid but a part of me can’t help thinking that signing Rondon for a fraction of the price and appeasing Rafa would have been more shrewd.
Ashley apologists may point to the fact that NUFC have broken the club transfer record twice in the past six months, the rest of us would rather he sold up, shipped out and left us in peace before the club is allowed to stagnate any further.
Tuesday 30th July 2019 9.47pm
After a lacklustre defeat to Preston, Toon manage to put on a bit of a show away in Edinburgh. A 3-1 friendly win over the mighty Hibs might not sell many DVDs but did at least stop the rot and allow Joelinton to score his first for the club. I caught the second half on the radio after work, apparently Almiron missed two sitters. Coupled with his penalty miss against Preston, you can’t help wondering if the lad will do a Jon Dahl Tomasson, an incredibly talented footballer whose confidence was so shot to pieces on Tyneside that he’d often struggle to hit a barn door with a banjo.
Nobody cares that we’re playing St Ettienne this weekend, the only thing we want to know is who the goalkeeper is going to be. If Dubravka is once again left out of the squad then the writing is on the wall, he’ll be sold soon and we take another step backwards. We have one friendly left, one signing in, one manger down, one top-scorer sold, one owner we want rid of and just one week left, Arsenal must be licking their lips.
Saturday 3rd August 2019 5.47pm
Newcastle show their usual degree of forward thinking and advanced planning by signing two more players only 26 hours before their last pre-season friendly. Both new boys play a part in another victory (2-1 with former player Debuchy scoring for them), with the main highlight being another goal for Joelinton. Only 16,686 fans were there to see it, meaning just over two thirds of seats in the stadium were left unsold, a similar statistic in a league game or two might just make a case to the owner that it’s time to sell the club.
Sunday 4th August 2019 1.21pm
How would you describe this pre-season?
Woeful? Abysmal? Interesting? Or just plain frustrating?
Whatever words you’d choose to use, it’s never dull. I’m off work this week and take a holiday down south with my better half and her family. In theory, this means I’m on my best behaviour. On the first full day we take her little lad to the beach and have an ice cream. An impromptu trip to the market leads me directly to a bargain bucket full of football themed beach towels. West Ham, Everton, Man United are all there but at first I can’t see any black and white. Just as I’m about to turn away, I see a silver seahorse poking out at the very bottom. Thankfully it’s not from the official store so I have no qualms about returning back to the campsite, the proud owner of a new NUFC towel. Hopefully I won’t be using it to dry my tears come 4pm a week from today.
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