Diary Of The Armchair Fan – Still boycotting Newcastle United 2019/20
Another from The Armchair Fan.
Boycotting Newcastle United through the 19/20 premiership season.
Here is part two as we progress through August:
Upton Park, Saturday 26th April 2008 4.31pm
West Ham United 2-2 Newcastle United
“One Mike Ashley, there’s only one Mike Ashley” the Newcastle fans belt out as our illustrious owner watches the Toon battle back from 2-0 down to gain a very credible draw. He’s standing about ten rows in front of me and leaves near the end of the match. As his bodyguards chaperone him to the front of the away end and along the perimeter of the pitch, he turns and waves to the travelling Toon Army. I get a picture of him smiling on my camera phone. I can’t believe how mint our new owner is.
Premier League 19/20:
Sunday 11th August 2019 1.58pm
Newcastle United v Arsenal
In 2017, Newcastle were promoted back to the premiership. Despite being in the second tier, our average home attendance of 51,106 was the fifteenth highest in Europe.
On Sunday 11th August 2019, we kicked off a premiership match against Arsenal in front of an estimated 43,000. The match had been earmarked for a mass boycott but even with eight thousand less through the turnstiles, it’s still a huge crowd in anyone’s book. Enough supporters turned up that would fill most grounds up and down the country.
Usually, when I’m off work for a Toon match and can’t make the game, I throw a legendary party at my flat for everyone to come and join the celebration. I say ‘legendary’ but my guests may well disagree.
What usually happens is my better half and closest friends sit there smiling weakly and avoiding eye contact with one another as my health, language and general behaviour all deteriorate to an alarming degree. The sight of me fuming at another defeat or (on the odd rare occasion) wildly celebrating a victory is tolerated for two reasons.
Firstly, they love me and value our time spent together.
Secondly (and I suspect more importantly) they are allowed to help themselves to free booze and pizza, no questions asked.
When Newcastle went on an amazing run of form near the end of last season, the number of guests to these shindigs dwindled to an astonishing extent. Various reasons and excuses were given for this sudden lack of interest but my ‘gut’ feeling (if you’ll pardon the pun) was that the sight of me drunkenly swinging my shirt round my head after late goals against both Everton and Bournemouth was simply too much for most of them to bear. Needless to say, my flat was hardly full to bursting when the first match of the season came around.
One of my best friends went to extreme lengths to avoid attending this afternoon and actually flew his wife to the other side of the world. He claims their honeymoon in New Zealand had been booked for quite some time but I have my suspicions.
So it’s come to this then, for the first time since March 2016 Newcastle kick off a competitive match without Rafa Benitez in the dugout. I imagined my day to be a rather sullen affair – sitting all alone in desperate silence, clutching a can of lager whilst the Toon stutter to an inevitable defeat against far superior opposition. Almost enough to make a grown man cry.
The reality however couldn’t have been more different. Despite the boycott, the unwanted change of manager and the farcical pre-season, my excitement had been slowly building all week. By the time Sunday morning came around it was match day and therefore party time. Fridge full of beer, takeaway on standby, Toon songs blasting out from youtube and a dodgy internet stream, all combined to disorient and excite in equal measure.
My mind drifts back to amazing memories against the Gunners – Ferdinand blasting home when United pushed for the 1996 title, Andy O’Brien heading in a corner at Highbury on a night when everything went right, Laurent Robert dispatching a beauty at the Gallowgate End in the 2002 FA Cup and then repeating the feat in the league the following year, Matt Richie stroking home an unexpected winner just 16 months ago but most of all, most wonderfully of all: I see Cheik Tiote sprinting the length of the pitch to celebrate the most astonishing 4-4 draw football has ever seen!
With so many golden memories, how could we possibly lose?! Newcastle are going to do this, I can feel it! Newcastle United are definitely going to win this match…
105 mins later:
What an idiotic boob I was, just under two hours ago. We were never going to win today. Perhaps we were due a point for an encouraging performance, perhaps we had an individual error punished by a better team, perhaps we should have been more attacking against an Arsenal side there for the taking and perhaps we all better get used to the fact that this is going to be one long, hard slog of a season.
Tuesday 13th August 2019 10.11pm
The league cup first round brought with it the usual level of thrills and spills. For personal reasons, I was hoping the Toon would get either Oldham Athletic or Morecambe in the next round. Oldham helped avoid a family feud between myself and Mrs Armchair Fan by conceding twice in injury time to exit the cup. Morecambe played away at Mansfield and went back and forth in a mammoth penalty shootout before the Shrimps confirmed they would join the Toon in round two. When the draw was made however, it was Leicester City who were confirmed as our opponents later on this month.
My reaction to our upcoming tie was torn, on the one hand we’re at home to an eminently beatable side and Steve Bruce has assured us he’ll ‘have a go’ in the cups. On the other, a certain Mr. Perez may be quietly confident of scoring his second hat-trick of the year at St James’ Park.
Saturday 17th August 2109 3.00pm
Norwich City v Newcastle United
My one visit to Carrow Road was bitterly disappointing. We drew 0-0 in January 2013 and some woman on the train barged into me, managing to soak my clothes, train tickets and a good book, in warm lager, without so much as a backward glance let alone an apology. Needless to say the day didn’t leave much of an impression.
The only other match that stands out in my mind is a 3-2 defeat in 2016. I wasn’t at that match, I was actually a groomsman at a wedding that started fifteen minutes before kick off. At this point, I feel I should cleanse my soul with a confession and an apology to my friend Eddie and his beautiful bride. I was paying attention to the ceremony at all times…all times I wasn’t updating text commentary on my phone that is. The good Lord punished me with a last minute defeat that went some way towards ensuring relegation.
Newcastle went into this match as something of underdogs, the consensus amongst various ‘experts’ was that a frenzied crowd enjoying their first home match since promotion would be enough to carry the canaries home against such fragile opposition.
Despite getting hammered 4-1 the previous week, some bookies had Norwich being twice as likely to win this one; unfortunately they were right.
To the unbridled joy of Sky Sports News, newly promoted Norwich took Newcastle apart. Today was a complete disaster, a heavy defeat, a host of yellow cards and our most expensive signing being taken off injured before the end. By the time Jonjo Shelvey scored a well taken goal, the points had already been safely banked in Norfolk. The setting of this defeat was actually quite apt – there was ‘Norfolking’ point in watching it!
Sunday 25th August 2019 4.30pm
Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United
We’ve had some amazing matches against Spurs over the years. If a personal highlight is being in the East Stand the day the crowd inspired Rafa to stay during a 5-1 demolition of the cockerels, then a close second has to be being behind the goal at White Hart Lane when Tim Krul made a million saves in 1-0 win courtesy of a Loic Remy strike – as an aside, that match happened to mark the only occasion where I’ve ever invented a chant and tried to get it started. Unfortunately ‘You’re never gunna beat Tim Krul’ to the tune of ‘Why you got to be so rude’ never caught on and to this day I can’t understand why.
Steve Bruce’s preparation for this crucial match against last season’s Champions League finalists has consisted of publicly arguing with Michael Chopra and wondering out loud if Jonjo Shelvey has been attending training (something that I presume he would know if only he was the proud owner of a pair of eyes!).
The entire Chopra situation seems to have been blown out of all proportion, the bloke is a complete non-entity who was nowhere near good enough for our first team. For a pair of fellas that keep repeating how much they love their ‘boyhood club’, they didn’t half try their hardest to ensure we lost various derby matches when they were proudly flaunting their association with our arch rivals. Bruce and Chopra arguing about who loves the Toon the most is akin to two bald blokes fighting over a can of hairspray – utterly moronic, completely unnecessary and it makes no difference who wins or loses.
Twenty years ago to the day, madman Ruud Gullit lost the plot and tried to get an exorcist to rid St James’ Park of the demons that only existed inside his own head. His behaviour seems calm, rational and sensible in comparison to the idiot we currently have rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. So it’s off to London we go to play against a team with title ambitions who have started the season with five goals, four points and no defeats from their first two matches “abandon hope all ye who enter here”.
Final score Tottenham 0 -1 Newcastle
How many times am I going to be proved wrong this season!? A million monkeys with a million typewriters couldn’t have written the script for this one. A defensively solid Newcastle United looked organised and coherent as we comfortably soaked up pressure and hit them on the break at will. Our new striker scored the only goal of the game and I got drunk, so very drunk.
Wednesday 28th August 2019 7.45pm
Newcastle United v Leicester City (League Cup 2nd round)
I remember seeing us play at home to Blackburn Rovers in the league cup when I was just 12 years old, we lost on penalties but a seat in the front row of the Gallowgate End was genuinely life affirming. Tonight we had less than 23,000 fans attending and I can’t help wondering how many impressionable young Toon fans have missed out.
Ayoze Perez is back at St James’ for the first time since his summer move and he took approximately 20 seconds before bursting through and almost opening the scoring, he also had a chance to win the match at the death too but fortunately didn’t read the script that had apparently been written ever since the draw was made.
As soon as it went to penalties there was a certain air of inevitability about the entire spectacle. Before tonight we’d participated in a total of ten penalty shootouts in our entire history winning only one, we’ve now competed in eleven…winning only one. A 1-1 draw courtesy of Muto’s goal wasn’t the worst result in the world but three more injuries to add to the various aches and pains picked up against Spurs makes for very little cover ahead of a crucial match this weekend. Of particular concern is Matt Richie who needed stitches to help heal an ankle wound sustained in a horror tackle. I guess he ‘paid the penalty’ for thinking a cunning ‘fox’ would play fairly.
Saturday 31st August 2019 3.00pm
Newcastle United v Watford
In 2003/2004, Sir Bobby’s Robson’s Newcastle failed to win any of their first six league matches (three defeats, three draws). Despite being second bottom of the league at the end of September, United battled back to finish fifth. In fact, we were still in with a chance of a top four finish going into the final two matches and ended up just four points off a Champions League place. Fifteen years later, Rafa Benitez didn’t see a single victory during the opening ten league games of the season (seven defeats, three draws) and still finished comfortably clear of the relegation zone come May.
I’ve got a funny feeling that ‘must-win fixture’ will be the most overused phrase of the current campaign. After just three matches (one win), United face Watford in a ‘must-win fixture’ at St James’ Park. An example of how little the league table matters at this time of year comes from the fact that we could be anywhere between third and last place by teatime. The crisis at Newcastle United is happening off the pitch way more than on it.
This match was quite frankly bizarre, like all Toon fans I feared the worst when Warford scored after just seventy five seconds. We spent the rest of the half wasting opportunities to get the ball into the box until Fabian Schar netted an equaliser. The officials then had a total disregard for VAR with a number of close offsides flagged immediately and at least three penalty appeals not even looked at before Toon hammered Watford for the first 20 minutes of the second half.
Just as it looked like the winner was inevitable, back came the hornets and there was very nearly a sting in their tail when Dubravka was forced into three good saves near the end. A point apiece was probably fair but it’s hard to feel that this is anything other than two points dropped.
How would you describe our start to the Season – Acceptable? Frustrating? Disappointing? Or just plain varied?
Five matches, one victory, the odd draw, two defeats and one cup competition exit. If the highlight has been Joelinton slamming home the winner away to Spurs than a low point must surely be Pukki putting Norwich 3-0 up in a match where we never really got going.
At the end of August we’ve got the same amount of points as games played, a similar equation come Sunday 17th May could see us relegated.
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