Diary Of The Armchair Fan – Boycotting Newcastle United through 2019/20 season (Includes flashback)
Another one from The Armchair Fan.
Boycotting Newcastle United through the 19/20 premiership season.
Here is part five as we progress through November:
Saturday 22nd December 2001
Leeds v Newcastle, Elland Road 4.16pm
“Christ it’s cold!”. If Mark Viduka’s goal had knocked the stuffing out of the travelling Toon Army then Ian Harte’s strike had threatened to silence the hordes of Black and whites behind the goal.
Memories of the midweek victory at Highbury provided the only comforting warmth to keep the ice and snow at bay through this bitterly cold Christmas afternoon. 3-1 down with half an hour left to play and it looked like we’d have to put this one down to experience.
My first ever proper away day (Wembley aside) had began with rumours of the match being off due to driving snow and treacherous conditions. Battling down to Yorkshire had all seemed worth it when Bellamy scored at the far end to put us 1-0 up. Reality intervened however, when Leeds hit back with goals from Bowyer, Viduka and Harte seemingly ending this one as a contest.
This was Sir Bobby’s Newcastle though and in those days we just didn’t know when we were beaten!
A snapshot from Dyer was parried onto the head of Robbie Elliot and all all of sudden it’s game on. With nineteen minutes left the fans hopefully appeal for a handball in the box and Jeff Winter points to the spot. Shearer blasts home and we’ve salvaged a point. Get in! At this point, most of us would settle for the draw, Leeds still look menacing and coupled with the win midweek, we’ve had a wonderful return from two very difficult away games.
The final whistle was just about to bring sighs of relief and clenched fists as we celebrate a 3-3 comeback point. With ten seconds of the ninety minutes to go mind, Nobby Solano burst through and stroked home one of the most wildly celebrated away goals in living memory.
I’ve seen this goal replayed over one hundred times and from every conceivable angle and on each time it seems to fly into the bottom corner. In my mind’s eye though it takes an age to cross the line as time stood still and the ball gently inches its way into the back of the net. Newcastle are top of the league and Santa can have this Christmas off. Sir Bobby Robson has already given us everything we’ve ever wanted.
Saturday 2nd November 2019
West Ham 2-3 Newcastle
Hands up who didn’t see this one coming!
Steve Bruce’s shot-shy magpies absolutely ripped the Hammers apart in a scintillating first half that conjured up memories of happier times on Tyneside. With Saint-Maximin pulling the strings and Almiron back on form, the Toon looked like scoring from every attack, 2-0 up at halftime, having missed two one-on-ones and hit the bar.
Before the match, Saint Maximin stated that if we could give him the ball to feet, he’d run at teams and ‘annihilate’ defenders, on the evidence of today he is capable of single-handedly turning teams inside out. Get him working with Almiron and Yedlin and there’s the pace we’ve been missing all season.
Shelvey put the black and whites in absolute dreamland at the start of the second half when burying a free-kick from miles out. He ran the length of the pitch of celebrate with the now ecstatic away fans. At 3-0 we genuinely had realistic expectations of racking up a score of monstrous proportions.
Of course this is Newcastle and nothing is ever that simple. Two late goals gave us an uncomfortable injury time but the referee blew the final whistle and the celebrations could really begin. If we can build on this performance and put some results together then this season might not be a total disaster after all.
Saturday 9th November 2019
Newcastle 2-1 Bournemouth
One of the lowest crowds of the season so far, saw the Toon come from behind to win for the first time since March.
Even during a well publicised boycott, 44,424 fans turned up to take in the match. That’s nearly forty five thousand fans prepared to pay Mike Ashley within the region of £40 each for the pleasure of watching a team managed by Steve Bruce.
When you factor in programme sales, food and drink, replica shirts and free advertising for Sports Direct then why would Mike Ashley possibly sell up? He’s a businessman who’s getting money for old rope time and time again and he knows it.
United started sluggishly and went behind early on due to a well worked set-piece routine. Things seemed ominous when Bournemouth hit a post soon after.
Thankfully the Toon built up a head of steam and when Saint-Maximin crashed an effort against the bar, the feeling grew that an equaliser was coming. Sure enough Yedlin stretched to bury a diving header and when Clark bundled home early in the second half, the comeback was complete.
The only thing left was to see if either Saint-Maximin or Almiron could break their duck – they did everything but! The move of the game encapsulated how unlucky these two have been in front of goal this season – Saint-Maximin sprinting through before attempting to round the keeper who got a hand to it, the ball running loose to Almiron who was only able to cannon an effort off his own teammate who was still lying on the floor having tripped over the keeper seconds earlier. You get the feeling that when one of these scores, it could light the touch paper for our striking players. Goals scored by strikers so far this season – one, goals scored by defenders – seven.
Tuesday 12th November 2019
Chris Sutton has had his say on Newcastle United.
Like Simon Jordan, Richard Keys or any other number of non-entities that line up to discuss NUFC despite having no connection at all with the club, fan base or city.
On the one hand the media saturate this viewpoint that ‘Newcastle United are not a big club’, on the other they struggle to talk as much about anyone or anything else. Chris Sutton’s views on Newcastle United are about as welcome as an animal rights activist on the set of ‘I’m a celebrity’ and he’s probably as relevant to the Toon as I am to Adam Johnson’s tinder profile.
He played second fiddle to Alan Shearer twenty five years ago and has done absolutely nothing since. It’s not yet December so you’ll forgive me for taking no notice of this ghost of Christmas past. For some reason I have a sudden urge to watch ‘Everyone hates Chris’ on my laptop – the title couldn’t be more apt.
Thursday 21st November 2019 7pm
Alain Saint-Maximin has easily been our best player this season and has played a massive part in our recent resurgence. Off the pitch too he’s been a breath of fresh air – donating to food banks, engaging with fans on social media and agreeing to a live Q and A session on BBC Radio Newcastle.
This interview went out well before the watershed. Hilariously he did his best Joe Kinnear impression and came out with the following statement when asked about his lack of goals so far: “I don’t care, I care if I don’t score and we lose, now it’s different. If we win and I don’t score I’m happy because the most.important thing is to win. I don’t give a fu..”. Hahaha, I’m not quite sure what a ‘man crush’ is but I can be pretty certain I’ve got one. I love this guy.
News broke the next morning that Steve Bruce has hired Steve Harper to return to the club to be first team coach. An experienced pro who loves the club and played 199 times for the Toon including an FA Cup final at the old Wembley stadium.
All very agreeable on the face of it. Hang on a minute though. He’ll be joining the back room team of Steve Clemence and Steve Agnew. So let me get this straight, Steve has hired Steve to work alongside Steve and Steve? The odds on Steve Taylor joining the coaching staff must be dropping by the second!
Monday 25th November 2019
Aston Villa 2-0 Newcastle
Sunday 24th May 2009 and the nerves were jangling like never before. Newcastle needed a point at Villa Park to guarantee survival and avoid relegation to the championship. If what happened on the pitch was a tragedy (rather appropriately scoring an own goal to condemn ourselves to a first demotion in twenty years) then what happened off it was truly baffling. A set of supporters who we’d had no previous problem with spent the entire day going out of their way to abuse and ridicule the Toon Army through their darkest hour. Some even going as far as to prepare banners and painting bedsheets mocking our plight.
A number of those nasty little cretins were in level seven of the Leazes end when we hammered them 6-0 fifteen months later to celebrate our return to the premiership. Since that fateful day over ten years ago, we’ve had the upper hand over Aston Villa, losing just once in the next fourteen meetings. They’ve become a team we love to hate, a club we enjoy to see suffering. Tonight we had the chance to win three on the bounce for the first time in exactly a year, gain a place in the top half of the table and inflict another defeat on one of our most hated rivals. Bring it on.
Finishing work at 5pm meant I had three glorious booze fuelled hours before kick off. Tonight was going to be mint, I was going to get drunk, listen to Toon songs on youtube and watch United win. Unfortunately, only two of those three things happened.
I can’t bring myself to rehash much of this match. In a nutshell, Toon played poorly and never got going, conceded two cheap set-piece goals and looked ready to surrender from the first minute. Saint-Maximin tried but stuttered and couldn’t reach the heights of the previous two matches, Almiron was off the pace throughout and Joelinton is proving himself to be as much value for money as elocution lessons from Joe Kinnear. A poor night at the office ended in a dismal 2-0 defeat and Chris Sutton was quick to have his say. Happy sodding Monday.
Saturday 30th Nov 2019
Newcastle V Man City
Newcastle United is my life. I’ve made that clear to family, friends, my boss and especially (the long suffering) Mrs. Armchair Fan. I can be a nightmare when things aren’t going well for NUFC and match days are always absolutely sacred.
If anyone can please explain to me then how on Earth I ended up overseeing my better half’s son’s sixth birthday party for the entire duration of one of the biggest games of the season then I’ll be eternally grateful.
Rather than drinking cold beer, I was handing out orange juice.
Rather than wearing my Toon shirt, I was in a giant fancy dress costume.
Rather than sitting in my favourite Armchair (the entire purpose of these articles) I was in a soft play area two hours away.
The worst thing was that I couldn’t even sneak to the local pub as the do was taking place in Manchester itself and was crawling with City fans. Thankfully the wonders of modern technology meant that I could download the BT Sport app, watch the game on my phone and still accumulate brownie points with the in-laws. The better half knew I was keeping an eye on the match and warned me not to draw attention to myself should Newcastle score. I tried to take this advice, truly I did.
All was going to plan when Willems scored to make it 1-1, I had a little cheer to myself but managed to just about stay incognito. When De Bruyne scored to put us 2-1 down it looked as though I’d gotten away with this multi-tasking ordeal. Having resigned myself to a narrow defeat, the last thing I was expecting was a final twist to the match. Atsu teed up Shelvey with just two minutes to go and he bent a superb strike into the bottom corner of the Gallowgate End net. Long story short, adults really aren’t allowed to jump around in the ball pool and those who do will be asked to leave immediately.
So how would you describe this November for the Toon?
Exciting? Unexpected? Prosperous? Or rather mixed?
If the highlight of the month (and possibly the season so far) was seeing Shelvey lash home a wonderful equaliser against one of the best teams in the world then the lowlight of the month (and possibly the season so far) was the non-performance against Aston Villa, one of the only matches all season that was approached with a semblance of optimism. We end the month having taken seven points from a possible twelve whilst scoring seven goals in just four matches, a vast improvement all round.
December brings not just presents this year but six league matches for the Toon to rack up potentially eighteen points and climb away from the relegation dogfight. Hopefully we’ll celebrating more than just Christmas come the end of the month.
Here’s hoping you have a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Cheers.
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