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My mate nearly died from the virus and I wanted to talk about him – He wanted to talk about football

4 months ago
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The Newcastle United takeover, football suspended, football now returning, Mike Ashley actions (and inactions), dealing with the virus situation in general, playing matches behind closed doors.

All subjects that as a Newcastle United fan you have had to deal with in recent months.

Ahead of the Magpies returning to competitive action, we have asked some regular and irregular contributors to The Mag, to answer some varying sets of questions relating to themselves and NUFC.

Next up now is Davey Hat-Trick.

Has the virus situation made you think that football / NUFC is more or less important as a distraction/ hobby in your life?

A mate of mine nearly died from Covid-19. That is not an exaggeration – they were just about out of options, but the outstanding care he received from the NHS meant he pulled back from the brink.

I had a socially-distant cup of tea with him in his garden last week. I wanted to talk about him. He wanted to talk about football. I think – despite all our moans and groans about how the club is run – it’s still a great escape from the grimness of real life…

If you could press a magic button, would you choose to have pubs open as normal, or fans able to go to football matches as normal?

Haha – good question.

I associate going to football with a few beers before and after the game, but I’d rather have football without the pub, than the pub without football. In that situation, I’d probably just talk about football and get depressed!

With hindsight, do you think Premier League football was suspended at the correct time in mid-March, or should it have happened earlier, or maybe you think later…?

Probably about the right time. Cheltenham and the Liverpool v Atlético game should not have gone ahead in my opinion – but I think the domestic game stopped when it should have.

Being a Newcastle United fan, has that been a help or a hindrance in coping with these virus impacted times?

Kind of a help. I’ve missed football – more than I thought I would – but while we were on full lockdown, it’s best not to have temptation in everyone’s way. But weekends haven’t felt like weekends for 3 months…

Is it the right decision to complete the 2019/20 season?

The Premier League is about money and nothing else, so what fans think is irrelevant.

Clubs would line up to sue the Premier League if they were relegated after 29 games, or told they hadn’t qualified for the Champions League. And clubs have taken (probably spent!) money from sponsors, Sky et al in exchange for delivering a full season of football. So they were always going to complete the season if they could. I’m glad it’s happening, but they don’t care about what I or any fan thinks.

Is football without fans pointless, or is it just not as good?

Not as good. The Bundesliga looks a lot less competitive without fans and I think the Premier League will be the same.

Home advantage will count less – if at all – and those players who thrive on the matchday atmosphere will fare less well. I can see Liverpool and Man City, for example, winning a lot of games easily. I guess players who are lower on confidence (Joelinton, dare I say?) may relax a bit more without the pressure. But I’d prefer to watch a game played in front of a full house.

Do you think at least a small percentage of fans should have been allowed into games when the Premier League resumes?

No. They wouldn’t socially-distance, and it would give the haters a reason to label us as idiots

What observations do you have about the media coverage of the potential takeover?

There has been no real news for months now, so journalists have nothing to say.

Trouble is, the fans want answers, there aren’t any, so the journalists have looked a little foolish, having fallen over themselves to bring us “news” early doors.

I’d have preferred it if everything had happened in secret and we heard about it when it was completed (if it was completed).

To be honest, the only journalist I rate is George Caulkin. I trust what he says and I barely pay any attention to what the others say.

Do you think the Newcastle United takeover will happen?

I didn’t know last time The Mag asked me this question and I have less idea now. If I had to bet on one of two outcomes, I’d bet on it NOT happening. I think the piracy issue is a potential showstopper – but I’d be delighted to be proved wrong.

What do you think about the way Mike Ashley has ran Newcastle United during this virus crisis (furloughing staff, no refunds on tickets/season tickets, advance payments taken for 2020/21 season tickets etc etc)?

I think it’s entirely predictable. He knows the fans hate him and nothing he does could make them hate him more. So he probably figures “why not?”.

I imagine his defence/attitude is “I didn’t cancel the fixtures. Take it up with the Premier League and the government”.

If the takeover didn’t happen and the 2020/21 season kicked off with Mike Ashley still owning the club, what would be your position as a fan?

As it is now. I’m not interested enough to invest money in the club. If a mate offers me a ticket I’ll go. If I don’t, I’ll find something else to do with my time. I’m not boycotting but they are not doing enough to persuade me to spend my hard-earned with them.

Do you think the takeover is taking this long because there is something stopping it happening, this is just how long it takes, or do the Premier League have to be seen to taking a long time…or any other thoughts on why no announcement yet?

I think the piracy thing has caused real concern.

With the benefit of hindsight, the takeover would have been more straightforward if a member of the Saudi royal family was put up as the buyer, rather than the sovereign wealth fund. An individual can’t be blamed for human rights abuses, bombing Yemen, murdering journalists, pirating football etc. The state can, and even if some of those factors don’t come into the Premier League’s remit, I fear the last one does.

What would be your best guess of month (and year!) when you think some fans will be allowed back into Premier League stadiums? Also, when you think full capacity crowds will be allowed?

October for some. March 2021 at earliest – July 2021 more probably – for full crowds. But that is based on the same infallible logic that saw me put £10 on Newcastle to beat Leicester over Christmas…

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