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Opinion

‘A generation of Newcastle United fans understand Leicester and West Ham’

2 weeks ago
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I enjoyed my Thursday evening, endlessly flicking around the West Ham, Rangers and Leicester matches.

Apart from Villarreal to an extent threatening a surprise, it has been the usual boring predictability of the Champions League.

The same group of clubs that have ensured they have a massive inbuilt advantage due to coefficients and seedings, as they want the very same teams to reach the last sixteen each season.

However, in the Europa League it is much more open to surprises, for older fans a reminder of the days when all European competitions (European Cup, UEFA Cup, Cup Winners Cup) were all free draws, anybody could play anybody.

The Europa League also uses coefficients and seedings but with the mix of clubs changing each season, it has a far smaller detrimental effect.

The same with the new competition, the Europa Conference League, which has been a very surprising hit. Jose Mourinho in tears as AS Roma got past Leicester last night to reach the final.

Winning matches, competing in European competitions, matters to people, whether it is Jose Mourinho or the man on the street.

AS Roma fans now set for a final out in Tirana (Albania) against Feyenoord, whilst Rangers fans set for a trip to Seville and a Europa League final against Eintracht Frankfurt.

What it all summed up for me, is that for most football fans (unless you simply choose a club because it wins trophies) it is all about adventure.

Nothing sums that up better than European adventures, if you love travelling away to watch Newcastle United then there is nothing better when that means heading off to another country. It is not just another level, it is countless levels above.

This is something that the media most definitely didn’t want to acknowledge (amongst countless other issues) over a decade and a half of Mike Ashley.

In the 13 seasons from 1994/95 to 2006/07, Newcastle United had European football (including Intertoto) in 11 of those 13 seasons.

In the 15 seasons we kicked off under Mike Ashley, Newcastle United had one European season out of fifteen.

Yes we didn’t win anything in Europe but who cares?

Yes I would like to win trophies but it doesn’t keep me awake at night, I just want to go to matches and enjoy myself, particularly away ones and especially especially European ones.

A generation of Newcastle United fans understand Leicester and West Ham fans, they will be gutted that they didn’t reach their respective finals last night BUT I bet this summer or whenever, when they are meeting up with friends and family, they will be reliving some brilliant European adventures.

I just had a quick look and the two sets of fans had the chance this season to visit…

Leicester City fans – Poland (Ledia Warsaw), Russia (Spartak Moscow), Italy (Napoli and Roma), Denmark (Randers), France (Rennes), Holland (PSV).

West Ham fans – Croatia (Dinamo Zagreb), Belgium (Genk), Austria (Rapid Vienna), Spain (Sevilla), France (Lyon) and Germany (Eintracht Frankfurt).

For Mike Ashley, European football was just an inconvenience. Something that interfered with his plan of Premier League survival with the lowest spend and as few cup distractions as possible, plus the fact that UEFA take over stadiums for advertising purposes then meant Ashley’s tat empire wouldn’t be promoted when St James Park hosted matches.

Alan Pardew spoke clearly for the owner when after the 2012/13 season when Newcastle reached the UEFA Cup quarters, he declared ‘Thank God we aren’t in Europe again’ (or words to that effect).

That summed up our club for a decade and a half, not only one that had zero ambition, but also one that did everything it could to deprive the supporters of anything they might potentially get excited about, or take pleasure from.

That is the past though and now we have the future.

I’m not dreaming of Champions League finals and winning the Premier League (though if they come along I wouldn’t knock it…) but rather simply Newcastle United trying to be the best it can be and sometime in the future stepping back on a plane for a European away trip. If that is in the Europa Conference League and somewhere I had never previously heard of in Finland, all the better.

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