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Opinion

Newcastle United is a self-harming habit you can kick – I have been clean for two years

3 weeks ago
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I was an addict for more years than I can remember.

For decades it had me in its grip, a number of times I tried to give it up but suffered severe withdrawal symptoms.

Like a moth to the flame, before I knew it I was back in it just as bad, could no more give it up than I could my children.

Then just under two years ago, that all changed.

I found I suddenly had the will power and events conspired to make giving it up so easy.

Newcastle United is a self-harming seriously addictive habit that you can kick.

I am living proof and have been clean for almost two years now.

I blame my upbringing, my family pushed me into this serious addiction, from a very young age I was told to keep on taking it and that eventually I would be under its sweet influence, where even getting beat week after week wouldn’t matter. Newcastle United would be flowing through my veins regardless.

It was actually my grandparents who were my first dealers, serving up Newcastle United on TV when I was allowed to stay up and watch Match of The Day on a Saturday night, when I regularly stayed over.

It wasn’t long before they had me on the hard stuff, my Grandad actually taking me to St James Park.

Well, if I wasn’t hooked before, I was now!

Inhaling the burger van fumes outside, I was already high as a kite before I got through the turnstiles, my Grandad having to balance me on a barrier in the paddock.

Win, lose or draw, I was never happier than when I was inside St James Park watching Newcastle United.

As time went on of course, that became never was I happier than a matchday, with the pre and post-match drinking in the city centre and a bit of football in between.

Anyway, fast forward through the years and we get to end of June 2019. When I found it so so easy to say no more and walk away from this all encompassing addiction.

It wasn’t that I thought Rafa Benitez was the greatest manager ever and I don’t think in some ways he is a natural fit for Newcastle United with his style of football BUT only a total absolute knacker of a football club owner could have thought it was a good idea to force him out of NUFC.

Any negatives I felt about Rafa Benitez were totally blown away by the positives.

Thanks to Mike Ashley’s unambitious and ridiculous running of the club, he had it back on its knees with that second relegation of his reign. Rafa came in and agreed to stay on after relegation.

Purely because of that small hope he gave us, due to Benitez us hopeless addicts happily filled the ground week after week for second tier football. Over the course of the campaign, more people went to NUFC home matches in the 2016/17 season than any other club in England, apart from Man Utd.

Rafa Benitez was slowly but surely rebuilding the club and had a long-term strategy.

Even though starved of funds he stabilised Newcastle United in the Premier League and when the first slightly ambition signing was allowed of Almiron on 31 January 2019, that helped set in motion far better football and results. The final 16 games of the 2018/19 season (and of Rafa’s time at NUFC) saw Newcastle with the fifth best form in the Premier League and fifth highest number of goals.

With sensible investment and realistic backing, Newcastle fans felt this could yet be another bandwagon that was seriously set to roll. This time with long-term aims and foundations, Benitez wanting the ‘essential’ state of the art training complex Mike Ashley promised in 2013 would be built ASAP, plus proper funding and structure of the Academy to enable it to churn out the stars of the future.

Mike Ashley refused and forced Rafa Benitez out.

From that point I haven’t touched the stuff since.

Yes I still get a bit of that old buzz when Newcastle win, a bit of a downer when they lose.

However, none of it has ever tempted me to go back to my old ways.

Pre-Covid I was still regularly doing the pre and post-match drinking in the same pubs, only difference being that I had zero desire to walk up the hill to the game.

Forcing Rafa Benitez out of Newcastle was pretty serious but what then followed was almost worse.

In July 2019 we then saw Mike Ashley employ Steve Bruce as Rafa’s replacement. Unbelievable! Easily the worst ever permanent appointment he’d ever made, which is saying something with the likes of JFK and McClaren.

Within six days, the £43m (according to Ashley) signing of Joelinton and the lunatic circle of NUFC life was complete under Mike Ashley.

He had just done the equivalent of setting your own house on fire, simply because he had to get his own way.

I had no envy of the 10,000 Mike Ashley eventually persuaded to fill the reduced capacity for the Sheffield United match.

I will still watch the games on TV.

I will still want them to win.

However, I now have control of myself, if I ever do go back, it will be on my terms.

No longer will I just go out of habit and give the evil dealer Mike Ashley my cash.

I’m obviously not tempted either to try another supplier, certainly not a local one!

Now it isn’t me that needs to change, it is my football club.

New owners and new direction and Ashley taking Charnley and Bruce with him, I would more than happily walk over the proverbial broken glass to breathe in once again the fumes from the burger vans, then float in high as a kite into St James Park, where I would be a fully signed up addict once again.

So look kids, I would never tell anybody else what to do. However, if you are thinking of not going back unless Mike Ashley goes, don’t worry, staying Newcastle United free will be far easier than you ever imagined.

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