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Nandos, Worst films, Dodgy second albums and…Bruceball – Why does anyone bother?

10 months ago

It’s a topic that is often written about on The Mag.

After the shambles of the transfer window there has been a bundle of articles regarding it and I have had my say in the past.

Nobody can demand that someone else boycott or attend Newcastle United games.

They can try but most supporters will make their own decisions and won’t be influenced by others, no matter how vociferously their opponent argues their point.

People can have opinions on it though. My opinion is those going are being taken for a ride and are enabling the regime.

My opinion aside, I really just want to know what anyone gains from actually going to matches anymore? Why does anyone actually bother?

Football is about entertainment. That’s its fundamental purpose.

In the Premier League era it’s come to stand for about a million other things as well but when stripped to the bones football is about entertainment and competition.

Entertainment has been in short supply at St James Park in recent seasons. I’ll admit, I was still going to games during the Rafa era and attended two of the worst matches ever, Cardiff and Southampton away (both 0-0). However, at least during Rafa’s reign we were building towards something, and we felt if he could just keep improving that squad the football would get better. And it did.

Towards the end of his tenure, we put in some great displays. They are often quoted stats but the 8th best form over the last 28 games and the 5th best over the last 16 is not to be sniffed at. The current regime is fawning over the 6th best in the last 9 games of 20/21, but this period is nearly half the length of the latter quoted stat, and less than a quarter as long as the former. Plus, we all know the jammy Newcastle United fixtures included in that run and the shocking period that preceded it.

Once Miggy was in, over halfway through Rafa’s final season, and that forward three were linking well, we looked a different proposition to what had come before. Two of that forward three are gone now and Miggy sits in a position completely unsuitable for him and doesn’t look half the player he used to be.

I stopped going when Rafa left, as a point of protest. I have been boycotting everything else Ashley owns for years but I finally turned my back on the one product I still valued after the last game of the 18/19 season. I was there when we tonked Fulham 4-0 away from home. A strange parallel to Rafa’s first Championship game when we lost 1-0 to the same side at Craven Cottage. I was there too and, although we had lost, we had faith that Rafa was the man to sort us out and lead us to promotion. At the 4-0 game, although we had won convincingly and had improved on the previous season’s points haul, many of us had no doubts that it would be the last we’d see of the serial trophy winning Spaniard, in our dugout, and that tough times would be ahead once more.

And here they are. Bruce has had investment at a level Rafa could only have dreamed of but he’s managed to only replicate the Mighty One’s points tallies and has turned our defence from a solid, disciplined unit into a comedy blooper reel, shedding goals aplenty. It looks like the money has been turned off now until big players are sold and the investment elsewhere has not been forthcoming.

Back to the current ‘entertainment’ though. What enjoyment do people take from Newcastle games these days? Many of the large cinema chains offer annual passes that allow you to watch as many films as you want. I would love to have time to watch a film or two every week. If I did, I would invest in an annual pass. However, if that cinema then decided it would only be showing the worst films of all time for the rest of the year, I would soon stop attending and I wouldn’t be renewing the pass until I could see things had improved.

I enjoy going to live concerts. Everyone has their favourite bands. Sometimes a new band comes out with an outstanding album and you love it and listen to it non-stop. You might go watch them live a couple of times. If the next four albums they make are terrible and in later live gigs they don’t play any of your favourite hits, you would soon stop buying tickets.

I like to go to Nandos once a week. I enjoy the food and it’s quick and easy on my lunch break. If my food started taking longer to turn up than Shelvey and was as tasty as a Joelinton right foot strike, I would soon give up that as well.

Yes, I get the camaraderie of meeting with pals for a day out, but what sort of day out is that really? Go to the pub, have a laugh and a catch up. Go to the game and be bored to death for an hour and a half and then go back to the pub to moan about how it’s ruined your weekend. Can nobody discover a more enjoyable hobby?

I traded (temporarily at least) Newcastle United for England and have thoroughly enjoyed attending many of their games. Yes, the football can still be boring but anyone that was in that crowd when we beat Germany or when Kane smashed the rebound of his saved penalty into the net, in the semi against Denmark, will tell you they had a far better feeling than anyone has had at a Newcastle United match in recent times.

On top of that, you are guaranteed trips around Europe, something we’ve only seen once under the Ashley reign. For me, on those trips, the football is a bonus. It’s an opportunity to travel to a country and/or city that you may not usually consider going to. We turn our trips to Europe into mini holidays. I couldn’t afford that whilst shelling out on a season ticket watching Bruceball.

And trust me. If you’re in the ‘home end’ at Wembley, which is a group of blocks behind the goal, the atmosphere is brilliant.

Which again, brings me to Newcastle United.

Some could argue they go for the atmosphere but other than a lot of booing and moaning, I have rarely experienced a decent atmosphere at St James Park for well over a decade. The only one I’ve witnessed in the flesh was the Championship trophy winning game against Barnsley. The destruction of Tottenham, having already been relegated, was sensational too, although I only heard that through the TV. There may have been lots of others but the games I’ve been to there has been little singing or excitement in the stands unless we score. Of course, away games are a completely different matter but those aren’t what I’m discussing here.

Anyone going to games now saying ‘Support the team, not the regime’ surely can’t be ignorant to the fact they’re doing the opposite. They are paying money to prop up the regime and are then giving little encouragement to the lads.

So, I ask, what’s left? When the atmosphere and enjoyment are gone. When the fundamental football values of entertainment and competition have been amputated. What is the reason for handing Mike Ashley money every week/year? That’s what I would like to know.

Anyone that does still attend please give me answers in the comments.

You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin


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