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Letter from a Hater

5 months ago

As I crack open an ice-cold can of lager and pour it into one of many pint glasses I’ve borrowed from my local over the years, I settle into the sofa prepared once again to be footballed into passivity by Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United.

We start the match with an ambitious attempt of stringing passes together, managing to hold onto the ball without looking scared of it. Lateral passes between the back line eventually find their way into midfield.

What happened next took everyone by surprise. A pass into the box.

I sit up, my posture adjusted to suggest a level of engagement with what is happening on screen. Taking a sip of lager with the belief that perhaps tonight is the night we have a shot on target.

A man can dream.

Yes, a man can dream; even a man who has followed Newcastle United for twenty nine years can dream. Though talking heads in the media would have you believe that your dreams and ambitions as a football fan are misplaced and that such luxuries are reserved for the “big six”.

It’s a backwards ideology that we should challenge, we are allowed to dream of forward passes, through balls and shots on target. Keep it quiet, but perhaps we’re even allowed to dream of winning football matches.

Following an unexpected and sudden two-nil win on Friday night at Palace, Alex Bruce in all of his wisdom took to the internet to exclaim “That keeps the haters quiet for a week.” Which, now a few cans into my evening, got me thinking about something that no Newcastle United supporter should think about.

Sustainable, long-term success.

Surely the aim is for a football team to deliver consistently good performances over time, not always winning, but at the very least entertaining the people who pay to watch them, whether in the stadium or from their sofa.

“Haters” are something Youtubers and instagram influencers have, whereas supporters are something a football club with 128 years of history has; supporters who are perfectly entitled to judge any manager who passes through the doors for a few months before they are inevitably given their marching orders with a huge pay-off.

I can’t help but feel that “keeping the haters quiet for a week” is the absolute minimum expectation of a Premier League Head Coach.

Alex isn’t the only one, we’re told weekly to curb our ambitions, that we expect too much and that we should be happy with what we have. Ambition felt by supporters of clubs outside of the top-six has become a taboo subject, it’s spoken about in hushed tones between friends in WhatsApp groups and quiet pub corners. After all, who are the Geordies to expect their team to score a goal, win a football match….Win a trophy?

Sport void of hope is futile, let’s normalise ambition.

Lockdown has created a world where our voices can only be heard online. Where we used to occupy the stadium we now occupy our front-rooms, forced to use social media as our battleground for protest, tweets and facebook status’ our banners and flags.

Recently, a source from the club claimed that supporters who voice their displeasure online are nothing but a vocal unrepresentative minority, if this is true then there is a common theme amongst this group of supposed rebels, as I slump back into my sofa I digest the thoughts of the fanbase online; it is clear that many of us have been talking of apathy, of not really caring what the result is or that we are even playing that day.

Who are we kidding?

“No matter how much I try to convince myself I don’t care about this mental football club, even after being bored rigid for eighty-eight minutes, I’m absolutely useless at keeping the charade going. The excited knot of victory is pounding. It never leaves you, you know” – @micknufc

Two late goals from our men up top threw the sofa-bound crowd into a state of delighted astonishment, none of us really understanding where this came from following a relatively eventless eighty eight minutes that preceded.

This calls for another beer.

The truth is that one win does not absolve this head coach and though this showing was an improvement, form this season tells us that another abject performance is looming. Whilst this win gives the rabid pack of misinformed pundits a bone to gnaw on for now the long-term future of this club is without doubt in the hands of the wrong people, in the boardroom and the dugout.

These larger issues do not mean we can’t be glad in victory and give credit where it is due. The vast majority of us do want Ashley out and it is arguable that the majority don’t believe that Bruce is the man to take our club forward.
I am happy that we won and I would prefer a different manager. There is no space for mutual exclusivity in football, especially at Newcastle United.

No supporter should apologise for admitting that they want their club to win something and there shouldn’t be any guilt in the desire they have to see their team compete. If that makes me us haters, then so be it.

At least we’ll be ambitious ones.

You can follow Josh on Twitter @NotSoLocalHero


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