Five good reasons to hate Newcastle Utd
Noel Gallagher’s right: there’s no better sight than seeing a fat, topless Geordie fan crying.
‘I hope Newcastle go down. There’s no better sight than seeing fat, topless Geordies crying.’ And so say all of us. He hasn’t written a decent song for years, but Noel Gallagher can still deliver a killer soundbite.
Let’s be honest, Tyneside apart, the nation was rooting for Villa on Sunday, whose victory meant Newcastle were relegated from the Premier League. Of course you’d expect Schadenfreude in spadefuls from Sunderland fans, who jubilantly waved their ‘Let’s all laugh at Newcastle: ha ha’ placards when the final whistle went at Villa Park. But why were so many neutrals laughing with them? Newcastle are often described as ‘everyone’s second favourite’ team. There might have been a sliver of truth to this in the mid-1990s when Kevin Keegan’s attack-minded team were credible challengers to the evil Manchester United empire. But not any more. The Tyneside club today is an object of ridicule. Their fans are mocked for their delusions of grandeur (and not just by me I’d hasten to add).
So, why is there so little public sympathy for the plight of the tearful Geordies? Well, here are five good reasons:
1) Geordie tears: In short, we’re sick of the weeping. Within seconds of the final whistle sounding at Villa Park on Sunday the camera picked out a Newcastle fan crying shamelessly. The close-up of the sobbing fat Geordie has become one of the iconic images in the modern game. Newcastle fans patented the weeping-fan genre as Keegan’s team blew the title in 1996. Nowadays it’s a staple of sports broadcasting; a picture that articulates despair more eloquently than a commentator’s words ever could. The money shot.
The soccerati welcomed the spectacle of grown men publicly weeping at football. They loved it when Gazza blubbed in 1990. The weeping football bloke was seen as a sign of the changing times – a sign that the traditional British stiff upper lip was starting to quiver. But rival football fans didn’t feel the Geordies’ pain. In fact they mocked them with chants of ‘Crying on the telly, we saw you crying on the telly’ back in the 1990s. The blubbing Geordie has come to symbolise a city that has made mawkish sentimentality into an art form.
2) Massive club syndrome: Stick a microphone in front of any randomly selected gaggle of barcodes and I guarantee that they will tell you, with no trace of irony, that Newcastle are a ‘massive club’. Geordies believe that Newcastle’s rightful place is at the top table. Despite decades of underachievement – their last domestic trophy was in 1955 – the delusion that Newcastle belong amongst the elite still persists.
It was perfectly expressed by David Ginola, who said: ‘It would be a disaster for the city if Newcastle went down. But it would be a disaster for the Premier League as well. The English game would suffer.’ Well, I’ll concede relegation might be financially ruinous for Newcastle. But a disaster for the Premier League? I don’t think so. The crap football won’t be missed. Nor will the comedy defending. And if you think the Premier League is incomplete without an expensively assembled troupe of overpaid underachievers to entertain us, then we can always rely on Manchester City.
3) Geordie Messiahs: One of the most pathetic spectacles in football is that of thousands of Geordies gathering at the gates of St James’ Park proclaiming their latest Messiah. What is it with Geordies and Messiahs? First they put their faith in Keegan, an inspirational manager but a tactical dunce. Keegan quit in 1997 saying that he couldn’t take the club any further. Quitting isn’t exactly one the characteristics you’d look for in a prospective Messiah, but Newcastle never stopped believing in King Kev.
Bobby Robson was hailed as a saviour when he took the job in 1999 but he joined the ranks of unemployed Messiahs in 2004. Keegan’s Second Coming in January 2008 was greeted with delirium on Tyneside and widespread bewilderment everywhere else. The Newcastle fans still had faith in a man who three months earlier had said he was ‘finished’ with management and hardly watched any matches. Inevitably, Keegan walked out on the club in September 2008.
As relegation loomed chairman Mike Ashley played his final Messiah card by hiring Alan Shearer. Cue delirium on Tyneside again. If anyone could save the Toon from the drop then Wor Alan was the man to do it. Admittedly he had no managerial experience whatsoever but why should that be an obstacle? Shearer started fining players for turning up late for training – a sure sign of how far the rot had set in – but he couldn’t perform miracles. Will the experience of relegation cure Newcastle fans of their Messianic cravings? Don’t hold your breath.
4) Self-styled ‘best supporters’ in the land: Newcastle fans are often described as the ‘best supporters’ in the country. Many of them believe this nonsense. They point to the 50,000 paying punters who turn up at St James’ Park every week despite the fact that the Toon have won bugger all trophies for decades. That shows just how passionate and committed their fans are, right? Wrong.
Newcastle’s support is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s a one-club city so there’s no market competition. So they’ve not won any trophies for years – so what? As Newcastle fans will discover next season, the Football League is full of clubs who have won sod all for years. Unlike Newcastle, they haven’t had the pulling power of Premiership football to put bums on seats. And yet attendances in the Coca Cola Championship continue to rise. Those of us who support Championship clubs have had to put up with crap football and no silverware for years. But you don’t find us banging on interminably about how passionate and committed we are.
5) Geordie nation: It was former Newcastle chairman Sir John Hall who popularised the myth that Geordies were a nation apart. ‘The Geordie nation – that’s what we’re fighting for’, Hall once said. ‘London’s the enemy. The South East’s the enemy.’
Hall’s phoney North-East nationalism finds contemporary expression in the belief that Newcastle United should be managed by someone who understands the inscrutable ways of the Geordie. ‘You listen to the phone-ins and people talking about it. They’re people who don’t understand this place, they don’t understand the Geordies. I do’, said Kevin Keegan. ‘This is my third time here, my dad was a Geordie, so I understand them and I know what they want.’
The idea that Geordie culture is incomprehensible to outsiders was bluntly expressed in the ‘Cockney Mafia Out’ banner unfurled at St James’ Park last year after Keegan’s departure. Another banner read: ‘YIZ DIVINNT KNAA NOWT ABOUT GEORDIES, ITS WOR CLUB, LERRIT GAN, NIVVA RETORN. GORRIT.’ Or, as they say in German: Ausländer raus. But, the thing is, there’s no great mystery to Newcastle’s decline. It’s nothing to do with the failure to understand Geordie traditions. It’s simply down to bad management and underperforming players. End of.
Duleep Allirajah is spiked‘s sports columnist.
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