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Diary Of The Armchair Fan – Boycotting Newcastle United through 2019/20 season (Including flashback)

10 months ago

Another one from The Armchair Fan.

Boycotting Newcastle United through the 19/20 premiership season.

Here is part six as we progress through December:


Wednesday 4th January 2012

United v Man United

“We shouldn’t have made them angry” Half time and the Toon are 1-0 up against the reigning champions. Newcastle easily holding their own before taking the lead at the end of the first half through a super Demba Ba volley.

At the start of the second half, the reds look menacing. Newcastle break towards the Gallowgate End however and win a free kick outside the box. With the crowd chanting for Ryan Taylor, Yohan Cabaye steps up to hit a swerving effort that smacks off the underside of the bar on its way in. I’m sat in the Leazes and have just enough time to see the ball flying over the wall before the entire stadium explodes in celebration.

Even at 2-0, things aren’t comfortable. It feels too good to be true and every time the ball is in and around our penalty area, the crowd collectively hold their breath. Man United are coming back strongly at us in a desperate attempt to get a toehold in the game, they hit the post and have two efforts cleared off the line by former red Danny Simpson.

The board goes up showing we’re into injury time and ‘keeper Tim Krul launches the ball the length of the pitch to waste a few precious seconds. I’m praying now – “Please God let the final whistle go”. We haven’t beaten Man United in years and are so, so close. The ball bounces toward the opposition goalkeeper and there appears to be very little danger. The lumbering Phil Jones has other ideas as he gets his bearings all in a muddle and bundles the ball into his own goal. I nearly pass out through cheering so much.

Not since Sir Bobby led us to a 4-3 victory in 2001 have we gotten one over this lot, we’ve waited over ten years for this. 3-0 to the Geordie boys. Happy new year!

December 2019:

Monday 2nd December 2019

I used to love the FA Cup. Some of my earliest football memories include United swashbuckling their way to Wembley for successive finals under Dalglish and Gullit.

My first ever away game had me screaming in delight at Robert Lee’s header in the 2000 semi-final and every year, I’d have a silent prayer at midnight on New Year’s Eve “please let this be the year that we bring it home”. Even when we didn’t come close to winning it, there were still highlights – Kluivert’s header against Chelsea in 2005, Kieron Dyer sprinting through to score the winner against Southampton the previous year and of course Alan Shearer equalising Jackie Milburn’s record against Mansfield at the Gallowgate End, scoring his 200th Toon goal in the process.

These days it’s just a nuisance. Year after year of reserve players exiting the competition early with no attempt from the club to take the competition seriously.

When the draw comes round it’s more like “right who’s going to knock us out this season?” rather then the excitement it used to bring. When Boston or Rochdale came out of the bag, it conjured up memories of matches against other non-league teams.The BBC have done Hereford to death but if Boston are successful in the replay, hopefully they’ll behave more like the dignified Yeading rather than the opportunistic little Stevenage Borough.

Thursday 5th December 7.30pm

Sheffield United 0-2 Newcastle

Nothing beats derby day! Due to the complete failure of every single team in our region, the season’s most local match-up took place in Sheffield.

I’m not sure who had been at the sherry this early December but this was quite frankly a bizarre evening.

Firstly, Allan Saint-Maximin managed to open his account (at long last) and did so with an unexpected towering header. This put United in control at half time with Dubravka especially impressing with a string of fine saves.

Things got really silly with about twenty minutes to go. Pantomime season kicked off in fine style with Jonjo Shelvey “he’s behind you” jogging half the pitch before nonchalantly passing the ball into the net whilst the Sheffield players stood quietly watching. The linesman had already flagged for offside “Oh no he wasn’t” but VAR proved otherwise and and one of the strangest goals in living memory was allowed to stand (and we all lived happily ever after).

The Sheffield United manager bleated on and on about the second goal after the match, what he failed to mention however was the the players had been specifically told before the match to play to the whistle and allow VAR to sort any issues of this nature. The fact that the opposition decided to stop playing and allow one of ours to place the ball into the net is hardly grounds for the goal not to stand.

Imagine this attitude in other lines of work.

Would a Doctor stop mid-operation? A fireman stand idly by watching a burning building? Would a Big Brother contestant get paid for just sitting around doing nothing…actually don’t answer that last one! The fact of the matter is a group of footballers decided to stop playing football. Christmas puddings!

Sunday 8th December 2019

Toon 2-1 Southampton

We all get carried away from time to time. Football in general and Newcastle United in particular can occasionally get the better of us. A personal demon of mine is drunkenly hugging Malcolm Macdonald in 2012 before falling asleep in a pile of Chinese food after we beat Tottenham 2-1. I’d like to publicly thank him for his patience and understanding that day.

Today, Toon came from behind to notch a memorable three points. The game looked to be heading for a draw (Shelvey’s excellent header for us) until Sean Longstaff smacked a vicious effort that the ‘keeper could only parry into the path of Fernandez who stroked the ball home to spark lavish celebrations. Unfortunately, anyone walking past where I live at this precise moment would have been ‘treated’ to the sight of me ripping off two layers of clothing to swing both my T-shirt and hoodie round my head. Maybe I should take this moment to apologise for what I can only imagine was the exact opposite of a sight for sore eyes.

Monday 9th December 5pm

Gather round children and I’ll tell you a story about a miserable old miser named Ebeneezer Ashley. One cold December evening, Ashley was visited by three ghosts who caused him to change his ways. He woke up the next morning with a spring in his step and a song in his heart as he decided to give away ten thousand half-season tickets completely free.

Either that, or this boycott really is working and the sheer number of empty seats has proved damaging to his Sports Direct brand. If we could have a completely empty stadium just for one match, imagine the impact that would have. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re in for a Scrooge-like turnaround any time soon and so keeping up the pressure is imperative as we hope to one day wrest the club back. The results on the pitch have been slightly better than expected but the situation off it remains as toxic as ever. Free ticket or not.

Saturday 14th December

Burnley 1-0 Newcastle 3pm

A nothing game. Two poor teams tried to out-do each other in the mediocrity stakes. If losing Saint-Maximin to injury was the killer blow, then losing both Shelvey and Almiron to niggles put the game beyond us before it had even started. I remember nothing, I watched an entire game of football and remember precisely zero seconds of it. One newspaper described it as a gigantic game of tennis with two centre halves pinging the ball back and forth to one another over a net made of all the other players. One goal was always going to be enough to win this one. Unfortunately, when it came, it was Burnley enjoying an early Christmas present.

What emerged afterwards was that a significant portion of the away contingent spent large parts of the match in danger of being crushed. It appears that this was due to poor organisation and outdated facilities. In a chilling echo of the Hillsborough disaster, Burnley released a statement blaming the spectators involved. For all the glitz, glamour and money of the Premier League, you have to wonder how much progress the last thirty years has really seen.

Saturday 21st December

Newcastle 1-0 Crystal Palace 3pm

Some football matches are special due to the level of skill and entertainment on offer, others are special for an individual moment, a particular goal or significant milestone being achieved.

When we beat Portsmouth 2-0 in 2006, Alan Shearer raced through to break our all-time scoring record and send the ground into spine-tingling ecstasy. When we kicked off the derby match against Sunderland in 2010, even the most optimistic Toon fan couldn’t have dreamed of the beautiful drama that was about to unfold. When we beat Bolton 2-0 in 2012, it seemed the match would peter out to a boring, goalless stalemate until Ben Arfa turned his man, ran more than seventy yards and scored an opening goal of such quality that I got his name printed on the back of my shirt on the strength of it.

Today was also a special day.

Not because of the match (that was mostly rubbish) but because of something that happened near the end. With just seven minutes left, a cross into the box was nodded down into the path of Almiron who lashed home at the Gallowgate end.

This lad has ran himself into the ground trying to score his first for the club ever since he hit the post on his debut back in February. Every fan has been desperate for him to break his duck. The fact he did it whilst scoring the winner in such a tight contest ensured an almighty roar around St James’. One fan video featured on ‘The Mag’ caught the perfect aftermath of just how delighted all the players were for young Miggy as he milked the applause of the crowd and his teammates. A wonderful moment and hopefully the first of many in a Toon shirt for the young Paraguayan, Worth the wait? Not half!

Man United 4-1 United

Thursday 26th December 2019 5.30pm

It’s Boxing Day and Newcastle United kept up their reputation for having a Scrooge-like defence. Unfortunately, that was the Ebeneezer Scrooge in the story after the intervention of the spirits, the one who started randomly giving things away to total strangers on a whim.

It sounds churslish to be anything but humbled by a 4-1 defeat but just a simple glance at the highlights would show that their first was an error from Dubravka, second was an error from Schar, third was scored whilst we had a player prone on the ground with a possible head injury and the fourth was a shocking mistake from Longstaff senior.

Gifting Man United four goals at Old Trafford is never a good idea and today it really knocked the Christmas stuffing out of us. Annoyingly enough, with a quarter of the game played we were winning and looking the more likely to get the next goal. Man United seemed unsettled and disorganised whilst our players and fans had been buoyed by Matty Longstaff scoring his second goal in as many games against the Red Devils.

If Gayle had remained composed when through on goal early on then we could have been 2-0 up before things had really settled. Then again that didn’t do us many favours last season did it!?

Toon 1-2 Everton

Saturday 28th December 2019 3pm

2019, what a year! From the first match on January 2nd (a 0-2 defeat against Man United with Benitez as manager) to the last (this one a 1-2 defeat with Steve Bruce as head coach), we’ve experienced almost every emotion imaginable.

One of the big football talking points of the year has been the introduction of VAR. You know, that fool-proof system designed specifically to override ‘clear and obvious’ errors. Clear and obvious you say? Like when the Everton player headed over the bar and was then given the corner from which they won a free kick to score the first? Clear and obvious? Oh, like the double palmed push into the back of Andy Carroll inside the area that would have given us a late penalty? Both of these incidents could not have been more clear or more obvious. Thanks very much VAR.

We went into this game with one of the best home records in the country having lost only once since the first day of the season over four months ago. After falling behind early on, we enjoyed a period of sustained pressure that was unlucky not to bring about a Toon goal – Almiron hitting the post, Carroll having an effort disallowed and Schar bringing about a fine save from the odious Jordan Pickford.

The second half brought hope of coming from behind to beat Everton for the second season in succession, especially when Schar volleyed home from Carroll’s superb knock down. At 1-1, the next goal was always going to be crucial and unfortunately it came for the toffees just a few minutes later. Newcastle huffed and puffed but never really threatened an equaliser and when the final whistle went, it brought the curtain down on an eventful 2019.

So how would you describe this December?

Exciting? Fortunate? Frustrating and mixed? Or just downright bizarre?

If the highlight was Almiron smashing home his first for the club to steal all three points from Crystal Palace then the lowlight was probably the laborious waste of a ninety minutes against Burnley where we looked out of ideas, out of sorts and happy to settle for a goalless draw. Six matches has brought three wins, nine points and seven goals as we continue to ease away from the relegation zone.

As things stand we have twenty five points from twenty games, the same equation come Sunday 17th May would see us comfortably in mid-table with a two point improvement on last season. Mike Ashley is probably the only person on Tyneside who would consider that ‘success’.

I agree with the sentiment of anyone wishing you a happy new year, I however would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy new owner.


The Armchair Fan has his very own blog here and you can follow on Twitter @NUFCarmchairfan


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