Diary Of The Armchair Fan – Boycotting Newcastle United throughout 2019/20 (Including flashback)
Another one from The Armchair Fan.
Boycotting Newcastle United through the 19/20 premiership season.
Here is part seven as we progress through January:
Sunday 24th February 2002
Sunderland 0-1 Newcastle
The nerves leading up to this one were beyond intense. Newcastle were going for the title in one of the tightest races in years whereas Sunderland were desperate for points to stave off the threat of relegation. Sunderland hadn’t lost a derby in six matches whilst Newcastle hadn’t tasted defeat on Wearside since 1980. Both teams were unbeaten in a derby at the Stadium of Light, a 2-2 draw two seasons ago followed by a 1-1 stalemate the year after.
This match is too close to call, my mood has swung from wildly optimistic (at one point proclaiming proudly we’ll win 4-1) to completely terrified (actually praying to avoid a 2-1 defeat) at least half a dozen times in the past twenty four hours. The first half is the usual frantic affair, Bellamy having a goal harshly chalked off for us whilst Given makes two world class saves at the other end. The teams go in for their half-time break with the score deadlocked at 0-0. It’s time for Sir Bobby to work his magic.
On exactly sixty three minutes, Newcastle win a free-kick and the chance to whip the ball into the area…“we’re going to score from this. Please, please let us score from this” I think to myself not daring to utter a word. I’m convinced that now is the moment.. My inner monologue is going into overdrive. I’m fifteen years old sitting in a pub in Hexham with my big brother, we haven’t won a derby in six years and a win today will put us at the top of the league. I know we’ll score from this set-piece but to say it out loud will break the spell, jinx the guaranteed goal that will win us the match.
The free-kick is pinged into the box by Robert, it bounces across the face of goal and all of a sudden there’s two Newcastle defenders ready to nod the ball into the top corner. I swear I’m up and celebrating a split second before Dabizas scores. The Greek has been on an absolute mission to put the ball in the Mackem net this second half (coming close with two excellent efforts already) and his powerful header leaves Sorensen no chance. Utter chaos ensues as the whole room explodes in one of the wildest few seconds of my life. Newcastle are mint and Sunderland are sh.t. The air hasn’t tasted this sweet for six long years. GET IN!
Wednesday Jan 1st 2020 3pm
Newcastle 0-3 Leicester
Is it just me or is there something about Leicester coming to St James Park that brings out the most bizarre matches in living memory?
In 1993, Newcastle were 6-0 up by half-time as the entire city celebrated promotion in wild style.
In 1997, we were 1-3 down near the end until Alan Shearer scored a late hat-trick (his first for the club) to turn the match on its head.
A year later and John Beresford buried a last minute header in a 3-3 draw where Jon Dahl Tomasson was credited with a goal that brushed off his shin and in 2014 Gabrial Obertan scored the only goal of a match that had to be delayed for fear of a giant TV screen crashing into the Leazes End!
Today we were hoping for more of the same – goals, talking points, entertainment, maybe even the odd anecdote or two. What we got however was a glorified training exercise where Leicester openly chose how many to score against us and only won 3-0 because they took their foot off the pedal. If they’d chosen five, they would have scored five. If they’d chosen six, they would have scored six. If they’d chosen seven…well you get where I’m going with this.
Newcastle started the day with an injury crisis. We then contrived to sustain four more mid-match. Happy new sodding decade.
Saturday 4th January 2020 12.30pm
Rochdale 1-1 Newcastle
FA Cup 3rd Round
Remember when Newcastle were a cup team? Going to Wembley three seasons in a row and having genuine ambitions of winning the whole thing? Those were the days. Today we played a Rochdale team that have got to the fourth round of this competition more times in the past few years than we have, despite the fact they start off in the first round.
The nation tuned in to BT Sport to snigger at another FA Cup humiliation for NUFC and in the end they weren’t disappointed. Things started off OK, Newcastle looked lively and fielded an experienced line-up.
Almiron opened the scoring with a cracking effort reminiscent of Papiss Cisse’s first at Stamford Bridge in 2012, flicking the ball up before hitting a rising effort past a helpless keeper. Things began to unravel near the end of the first half when Joelinton muscled his way through on goal before rolling it the wrong side of the post. This reminded me of Silvio Maric at Wembley in 1999, a striker short of confidence who’d done the hard part perfectly before completely screwing up the easy chance at the end.
The second half came and there still didn’t seem much danger of the Toon not winning until around the seventy minute mark when Rochdale began turning the screw, sensing that this could be a day to remember for the League One side. They hit the post, had a shot well saved, scored a 79th minute equaliser and then should have won the match at the end when putting the easiest chance of the lot wide of Dubravka’s goal.
I hope I’m wrong but today may well mark the beginning of the end for Joelinton, not only did he miss a number of chances but he also incurred the wrath of the away fans for a perceived lack of effort. His confidence is clearly shot to pieces and as things stand he’s not even getting the basics right. Joselu wasn’t good enough for our first team but still managed goals against Tottenham, Chelsea and Blackburn last season. It really wouldn’t be a surprise if Joelinton struggles to match even that meagre tally of three this time around.
Saturday 11th January 2020 3pm
Wolves 1-1 Toon
I went to Molineux once, it left such an impression that I’ve never ever wanted to go back. Poor facilities, unfriendly locals, nowhere to eat or drink pre-match and then there was the game itself. In fact, just the game alone. A ridiculous 3-2 FA Cup defeat in 2003 where United collectively had an off day and Wolves managed to make three separate second half goal line clearances.
Most fans would have taken a point and a score draw before this one started. I struggled to find an internet stream at first and just found one in time to see Willems burst down the left wing, play the ball though to Gayle who laid it off perfectly for Almiron to blast into the top corner. After waiting ten months for a Toon goal, he’s now buried three wonderful strikes in his past six matches, long may this continue. Wolves scored soon after of course and from then on it was simply a case of whether we could hang on for a point. That we managed a draw was due to two superb saves from Dubravka, the first a particularly impressive effort sticking out a foot to clear a point-blank header.
Anyone else feel it was a bit rich for the Wolves fans to complain that we didn’t deserve a point from this one? The last time the two teams met on this ground, we were 1-0 up five minutes into injury time before a Wolves equaliser was allowed to stand despite their attacker blatantly attempting to yank Dubravka’s neck off. You’ll forgive me for feeling no sympathy whatsoever for the fact that it was probably them that deserved the victory this time around.
Despite being down to the bare bones, we managed to sustain three more injuries in the first half hour. This can’t be down to just bad luck, either the training methods or the facilities are to blame. We also have the problem that injured players are being rushed back way too early or being forced to play on whilst injured.
This season we’ve seen Saint-Maximin, Schar, Lejune and now Joelinton limping through the remainder of matches. None of these players were able to influence the match in the state they were in, just get them in the dressing room and play with ten men, surely that’s preferable to doing long-term serious damage?
Another injury was sustained only five minutes into the match but as it happened at my flat, it failed to make the press. Apparently inadvertently punching the light shade across the room when celebrating Almiron’s goal is neither sensible, acceptable or normal behaviour for a thirty three year old man and his poorly hand will garner no sympathy from those around him. Who would have thought?!
Tuesday 14th January 2020 7.45pm
Newcastle 4-1 Rochdale
F.A Cup 3rd round replay
Steve Bruce promised us when he first arrived he’d ‘have a go’ in the cups. In his two cup matches as head coach so far, we’ve drawn 1-1 with Leicester (lost on penalties) and 1-1 with Rochdale. We’ve now been given the chance to beat two league one sides at home to reach the 5th round of the FA Cup for the first time in fourteen years. If ever there was a chance to ‘have a go’, then this was it.
What lovely house guests Rochdale were this evening, so thoughtful of them to come bearing gifts. If sliding the ball into their own net wasn’t enough, their keeper was also kind enough to pass an assist straight to Almiron to ensure his fourth goal in seven appearances. When you factor in further goals for Matty Longstaff and Joelinton as well as starting returns from injury for Ritchie and Lascelles, this was a feel good encounter all round.
The one blight may well be the fact that Mike Ashley attended for the first time all season. You could almost see the cogs working in his head as he prepared for a transfer meeting with Steve Bruce – “New players you say? Oh no we don’t need any of those. I was at the match just the other night and we were fine, four goals, no further injuries and Joelinton has now doubled his goal tally. Now how much can we make on offloading our key players? I made a mint in Jan 2011 and fancy more of the same. As long as we finish seventeenth or higher, nothing else matters. Ta ta for now”.
Saturday 18th January 5.30pm
Newcastle 1-0 Chelsea
Maybe it was Chelsea’s dreadful recent record on Tyneside, maybe it was Almiron finally finding his goal scoring touch, maybe it was the return of Alain Saint-Maximin to the squad, or maybe it was the unbridled joy of seeing Joelinton score a tap in against the mighty Rochdale. Whatever the reason, there seemed to be a real sense of optimism about this one.
Chelsea huffed and puffed but for all of their possession, Dubravka didn’t have many saves to make. The match looked to be petering out towards a drab goalless draw until one moment of magic reminded us all why we bother with this ludicrous football club.
Whilst the 1-0 victory was quite rightly celebrated long into the night, it’s worth remembering that we’ve now taken a whopping twenty three of our twenty nine points from matches featuring Allan Saint-Maximin. He might not have been one hundred percent this afternoon but his contribution was telling, even at the very end. As he whipped a superb ball into the Gallowgate end box, there was about ten seconds of injury time remaining. Just enough for Isaac Hayden to blast a header into the bottom corner and send St James’ into ecstasy. Sometimes it really is worth it.
Tuesday 21st January 7.30pm
Everton 2-2 Newcastle
Fact can be stranger than fiction. Sometimes things happen that are totally beyond the realms of rhyme and reason. An event may take place that you know in your heart of hearts belongs in the twilight zone.
For all intents and purposes this was a nothing game, a 2-0 away defeat where United never really turned up. A poor display that can be explained away due to injuries to key players. The type of match that slips easily from the conscious and is straight away consigned to the history books, never to darken our door again.
With the clock ticking past the 93rd minute mark, I barely celebrated Florein Lejune’s overhead kick. I texted my mate acknowledging the brilliant technique but also expressing “it’ll count for very little unfortunately.”
Delightfully, deliciously and gloriously I was to be proved so very wrong. Just over one hundred seconds later, a goalmouth scramble resulted in Newcastle United gaining the most undeserved point in their history.
When I stumbled into bed a few hours later having wildly over celebrated and split my big toe open in the process, I wasn’t raising a glass to Steve Bruce, Florian Lejeune or the excellent Martin Dubravka. My mind was preoccupied with Jordan Pickford. I was at Goodison Park in 2018 when he openly goaded the NUFC fans on a number of occasions. What goes around comes around though and my God did he get his just desserts tonight. You can take the lad out of Sunderland…
Saturday 25th January 3pm
Newcastle 0-0 Oxford United
FA Cup 4th round
Toon fans woke up to the one millionth takeover rumour since Mike Ashley promised to sell twelve years ago. Having been duped so many times before though, the consensus among everyone I spoke to was to take it with a gigantic vat of salt. We’ll believe this one when the deal is fully sealed and not a second before.
The match was a bit of a non-event. Toon had plenty of possession but very few chances and on the two occasions we did manage to get the ball into the back of the net, the ‘goals’ were rightly ruled out for offside. Oxford had their chances to win it near the end but when the final whistle went, it condemned us to a midweek replay that nobody with a North East postcode wanted. For the first time under Mike Ashley however, Newcastle United are in the draw for the fifth round of the FA Cup.
So how would you describe this January? Fortunate, exciting, outrageously lucky or just plain unexpected?
If the highlight of the month was the ball hitting the Leazes end net in the 94th minute against Chelsea, then a close second was Lejune’s late, late show at Goodison Park just a few days later. The low point came on New Year’s Day when Leicester took us to pieces and looked like they barely had to lace up their boots to claim all three points.
We end the month with thirty points from twenty four matches, meaning we’re on the cusp on ensuring our survival in the Premier league. Unless this takeover does happen, this will sadly remain the height of our ambition. As of 11p, Wednesday 29th January, the entire fan base of NUFC can be split into two categories: optimists and pessimists. The optimists see their glass half full whereas the pessimists consider theirs half empty. If this takeover goes through, we’ll all be having a drink regardless!
If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]