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Opinion

Newcastle United – Widespread fanbase getting some overdue feelgood

4 months ago
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I have to say, Jane Clark’s recent piece on The Mag on Wednesday morning really resonated with me, pointing out the vast sea change in emotion that the new and improved Newcastle United has brought.

The individual points, such as the dreading of NUFC related conversations at work were very familiar, but overall I think we can all understand the theme; something that previously made us regularly miserable is now a source of happiness.

I haven’t done the sums but I would estimate that over the past 14 years around two thirds to three quarters of the Newcastle United results were defeats or disappointing draws.

The exceptions to this would be the Championship seasons, which were underpinned by the misery of us being in the Championship coupled with terror that we may not cling on to that promotion place. Plus the one solitary positive Premier League season, where Pardew’s team came 5th. Even that generally jolly time was tainted by the unpredictability of the ownership and disconnect between fans and club that has hammered home the general misery throughout this period.

The effect on us all as a fan base is probably quite easy to summarise; if you are feeling generally good and having a smashing weekend, it will be sullied or even spoilt by the travails of NUFC. I remember writing years ago in the old paper Mag about getting engaged to my (now) wife in the tropical surrounds of the Australian Whitsunday islands after a day snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. A perfect trip just slightly soiled by United’s insistence on losing 3-1 at West Brom.

Conversely, if you are in a bad place and feeling down, shoddy results serve only to magnify the negative feelings surrounding you. This has been particularly pertinent in the virus affected times of the past couple of years. I remember vividly feeling uplifted when fully televised football matches restarted after the initial halt. It was a pleasing distraction at a time when there was little else going on and I looked forward to each fixture. However, this soon turned its ugly head as Bruce guided us to that miserable run across the middle of last season, where two  wins from 21 games included such delights as the league cup exit at Brentford and the jolly defeat at Sheffield United.

At a time when so many people were struggling, Newcastle United were doubling down the sadness and misery with these clown shows, usually exacerbated by some wet bletherer on the telly telling us all how great the manager was, or how we should be grateful for where we are.

The effect of this type of thing will have ranged wildly. For some more casual supporters it will have been a mild annoyance against the backdrop of a scary world. For many like me, the focus was surely increased at a time in life when there were precious few other outlets to let off a bit of steam. But I really felt for those who may have hit a low point, who devote the primary focus of their life to following NUFC and may have found themselves living alone without the outlet of workmates or those down the pub. People really needed a lift and Bruce was prescribing them a kicking instead.

This is a big factor around our club. For so many it’s a huge part of life, whether that’s shared with family, friends or just something they enjoy alone. Huge percentages of the 750k population of Tyneside, and the wider catchment area of Durham and Northumberland will have some degree of vested interest in the fortunes of NUFC, not to mention families who have left the area, or those admirers from afar.

It’s with this in mind that I’m going to make a bit of a snooty observation. I think it would be upsetting to far more people if Newcastle United went down than if, say, Brentford of Watford did, with around a million miserable households compared to a few thousand hardcore. This goes further and, while many might enjoy the idea of Everton going down, similarly huge swathes of people would be gutted if they or Leeds were relegated than would be affected by the smaller clubs.

I know that everyone is there on merit, but it really wound me up when a Brentford fan mentioned in their post match comments that we were only “a sh.t team buying our way out of trouble”. If all owner investment were nullified, Newcastle would still be a huge club due to the investment of vast support, whereas Brentford would be back in their natural position, bouncing between the bottom two leagues. The heavy investment into their club by Matthew Benham has seen them profit dramatically from an uneven playing field.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but it has to make you think about Sunderland, the only club outside of the Premier League averaging over 30k, seemingly marooned in League 1, where Brentford were getting crowds of 5k less than 10 years ago. I wonder how much depression has spread across Wearside while that 5k crowd inflated to 16k with the addition of many who would probably quote their support as for Brentford AND Man U / Liverpool / Spurs.

I don’t just want to pick on Brentford (although they drew first blood sir). Bournemouth look set to come up from the Championship with crowds of less than 10k, whereas Derby are almost certain to drop out of it with crowds of 22k. The large fan bases of Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich and Nottingham Forest are all currently under a cloud of underachievement to some degree.

I realise this seems a bit snotty and as I said I understand that every side is in its relevant position on merit. Maybe it’s a response to the unpalatable glee of the fans of the internet as we looked for so long like taking the fall (and yet might) despite being nouveau rich. Maybe I’m just affected by the worrying events going on in the world at the minute, straight off the back of COVID, Brexit, Trump and so many divisive, unpleasant world events. I can’t pretend I don’t feel that our heavily invested, widespread fanbase is getting some overdue feelgood and long may it last.

I hope you all have a great weekend, with the Brighton game either a pleasant factor or an outright highlight.

You can follow the author on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

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