Tony Gillan’s claim that Newcastle’s “difficulties are compounded by delusion – and not just from the fans” may have just been a throwaway line, but it’s one that Newcastle fans are growing frustrated of having trotted out against them.
The national press have been fond of it for a while – too often we have to sit and listen to the likes of Paul Merson or Robbie Savage repeat lazy observations (or lack thereof) from afar about how we, as fans, expect too much, or think we fundamentally deserve better.
To see that opinion doled out now in a more local press is a further frustration – with the best-case assumption that it wasn’t an attempt to fish for a reaction – and a sad reflection of a viewpoint which just doesn’t exist amongst the majority of fans.
Of course, you’ll always find them in any bunch – as the Sky cameras do with alarming regularity when they descend on St James’s Park – the scarf-wielding, sporadically-toothed young ‘un who still believes two wins on the spin is a sure-fire sign we’re back off in search of the Champions League, or who genuinely believes Steven Taylor should be troubling Roy Hodgson’s selection thoughts.
The reality among the majority however couldn’t be further from it. Spend an afternoon on Barrack Road, in the middle of the stands as yet another team comes up to our hallowed ground in full expectation of taking three points back home with them.
Better yet – spend it in a local watering hole, where most of the loyal fan-base has chosen to spend their Saturday afternoons (or whatever TV-mandated portion of the weekend) in recent years. What you’ll find is a set of fans who know all too well that 19th in the league is exactly where we should be – and only by the grace of an even more shambolic team in Aston Villa.
The reasons for our position can be debated all night – players who are or aren’t better on grass than they are on paper, the ever-smiling manager, the bag-boy masquerading as a Managing Director, whatever it may be – but don’t let that extend to the lazy thought that the fans think we deserve anything else.
The club is rotten, and the fans are the ones who feel it the most. We’re the ones who have to live it every week, sitting in a stadium prostituted out to the cheapest brands going, watching a bunch of mercenaries trot around the pitch wondering if the stepping-stone contract they signed is actually a lot less solid a foundation than they were sold in the brochure.
The youth teams are as bad as the first team, the stadium shop a tacky Sports Direct outlet, the stadium bar a renamed insult to our greatest son – even the half-time entertainment is an embarrassing reminder of the hollow corporate shell this ‘club’ has become.
Fans shout at players, at the manager, at each other – the club is tearing itself apart, piece by piece – and week by week supporting Newcastle loses another bit of joy, and becomes more of a burden.
So don’t talk to us about what we think the club deserves. Do you think we look at Bournemouth, or Swansea, or Norwich or any other ‘smaller’ club and think we deserve better than they do? Not a chance. The club is getting what it deserves, the upper management what they deserve, and the players what a large portion of them deserve (spare some sympathy for the likes of Rob Elliot).
We could be doing better, of course, be we’re not – and we know the reasons why better than anyone.
So next time you fancy taking a cheap shot at the direction of the sorry state of a club that is Newcastle United – aim it at the plenty of targets that deserve it. We’re suffering enough already.