Guest Sheriff John Bunnell (Ret Posted February 3, 2009 Share Posted February 3, 2009 http://timesonline.typepad.com/thegame/2009/02/the-biggest-dan.html For once a decent article which isnt the usual lazy Anti-Newcastle media bullsh*t... George Caulkin This has been a bleak season for Newcastle United and it could still become bleaker, yet amid the turmoil and the departures, the controversy, the numbing performances, the concern, the mess and the self-inflicted mishaps, hope is shimmering. It is a delicate, fragile sort of hope, encircled by thorns, but it is there, nonetheless. It requires assiduous nurturing. It will come as little surprise that events on the pitch, which have been largely miserable, have not prompted this spark of optimism. It will come as absolutely no surprise that nothing which has taken place in the manager’s office or the boardroom, where mixed messages continue to thrive, has contributed to it. As usual, it has emanated from the stands. The media perpetuate two myths about Newcastle supporters; that they are impatient and that they are perennially militant. Both are wrong. Quite how fans who have had no domestic trophy to cheer since 1955 and none at all since 1969 can be accused of impatience has never been clear – decent football and a committed team are hardly outrageous demands - and the militancy thing is simply nonsense. During the less inspiring moments of Freddy Shepherd’s tenure as chairman – and there were plenty to choose from – episodes of outright dissent were rare. Perhaps that was because there were other divisive figures to rival directors, whether unpopular managers (appointed by Shepherd) or fractious players (bought by him), but mainly because of loyalty. Loyalty almost to a fault. People may have a mental image of teenage Geordies bouncing outside St James’ Park in front of the television cameras waving their shoes in the air, but that is not representative. The protests which accompanied the 2-1 home defeat to Hull City in September, shortly after the exit of Kevin Keegan and which precipitated Mike Ashley’s decision to sell the club were vibrant and raw, but also untypical. But Ashley, of course, is staying (at least until a buyer emerges) and things have not got any better on Tyneside. A relegation battle is being fought by a small squad and the transfer window saw two senior players leave including, in Shay Given, a world-class goalkeeper with a passion for the club, but a loathing for all the chaos. Only three signings arrived; Newcastle, shamefully, made an £8m profit on their dealings. Derek Llambias, the perma-smirking managing director, from whom nothing has been heard, will finally break his silence late this week, answering questions, sent in by readers, to two local newspapers, but a far more significant exchange of views will take place elsewhere. On Wednesday at 7pm, in the Tyneside Irish Centre, Newcastle’s soul will be wrestled over. The Newcastle United Supporters Club (NUSC), an independent body designed to represent fans and challenge the club (and in spite of quotes attributed elsewhere, it is the only organisation of its type), was established in the aftermath of Keegan’s departure. Still in its infancy, it needs legitimacy, backing and members. It has spokesmen and issues press releases, but it is not staffed by people who crave attention for the sake of it. Influential fanzines and websites like The Mag, nufc.com and true faith have offered guidance, financial and philosophical, to the NUSC, but none have a wish to set or control the agenda. What it will ultimately be and could become is still up for debate; yes, there should be principled and serious opposition to Ashley, but what are the wider issues? Where would it go post Ashley? The biggest danger facing Newcastle at present is not relegation. It is not their billionaire owner. It is not Dennis Wise. And it is not anger, impatience or militancy. It is apathy. For home matches, attendances have often been 5,000 below capacity and after years of heartache and underachievement, there is widespread muttering about season tickets not being renewed, of hope finally being extinguished. But it is there. If supporters have less power than they used to, they still have some and those who step out into the freezing weather and head for the Irish Centre will be reclaiming their club. Membership of the NUSC is not required. As they put it themselves, they wish to “establish some common ground. Bring with you your thoughts, your anger, your hope, your ideas, your wants, your needs.” The NUSC has already promoted a boycott of official club merchandise and has written to Ashley to request a meeting, anywhere in the country, on his terms, simply to discern his plans for Newcastle. As they anticipated, their letter was ignored. But the greater the numbers, the louder the voices, the more difficult it will be for ears to be blocked. There is hope for Newcastle; it just needs seeking out. Link to post Share on other sites More sharing options...
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