Who could have predicted this eh? Couple of decent results in the first half of the season, a January of no signings and squad depletion, resulting in capitulation in the second half of the season with a manager, ahem, head coach, telling us it’s all going great! The answer to that question is “everyone” of course. Even the most optimistic of fan wouldn’t have been expecting a FA Cup run, or for us to challenge the top 8. Even the most optimistic of fan knows that under Mike Ashley this club is standing still at best, and slowly retreating towards another bitter relegation at worst.
We have put up with 8 years of Mike Ashley’s tenure at Newcastle United. In that time we have experienced club legends (Keegan and Shearer) having their reputations tarnished, relegation, stadium name change, association with Wonga, the decimation of our playing squad, Dennis Wise, Joe Kinnear (twice), 4 years of Alan Pardew, 5 consecutive derby defeats and only 2 top 10 finishes. While some of our more cautious fans have taken this for “stability” I for one would label all of the above as nothing short of turmoil.
Following on from the aforementioned 5th consecutive defeat to our arch-rivals Sunderland, some fans have taken to say “enough is enough” by choosing to take part in an arranged boycott of the upcoming home game against Spurs on Sunday. To many Newcastle United fans, the very notion of boycotting a game, any game, is an insane suggestion. However, the fact that this boycott appears to have such widespread support sweeping the city and region is testament to the depth of despair and strength of feeling that is circulating in these days. The times they are a-changing.
As someone who was not fortunate enough to grow up in Newcastle, I did not have the privilege of going to the cathedral on the hill every weekend. I spent my youth wistfully dreaming of the day that I would get the chance to be part of the magic I grew up watching. Now that I live here, I cannot bring myself to put any more money into that man’s pocket. It has been an inherently personal sacrifice, but one I do not regret making for a second.
Mike Ashley’s list of sins are many. However, one sin that does not get much air time is the deep, and hurtful division that his tenure has caused among our once united fan base. There currently exists a “with us or against us” mentality from both sides of the divide. Those who believe they are right in staying away chastise match-goers as feeding the regime, while those who are still going to the matches claim that the stay-aways are disloyal. This divide and conquer technique has been employed by Ashley as a means of pitting fan against fan in order to distract from the main culprit and it needs to stop. We need to reclaim our unity because what else have we got?
There have been many discussions this week about whether fans should join the boycott or go to the game. I’m not going to sit on the fence and say “make up your own mind”. I am going to nail my colours to the mast and say that I urge each and every one of you to join the boycott on Sunday. Ask yourself, what have you got to lose? 90 minutes of another insipid display? Your own pride in having gone to every game this season? Or do you genuinely feel that there is nothing worth protesting? Perhaps you think that protesting will achieve nothing. Maybe it won’t force Mike Ashley’s hand but it will send a message though. What message will going to the game send? What message will Mike Ashley take from 52,000 showing up week-in, week-out despite everything he has done? Doing nothing will achieve nothing 100% of the time.
The question isn’t why should you join the boycott, the question is why the hell should you go to the match?
Loyalty is a 2 way street. We’ve all been loyal for these past 8 years, and that loyalty has been betrayed. That loyalty has been made a mockery of. What’s worse is that loyalty has been exploited for Mike Ashley’s financial gain. Those of us who have chosen to stay away don’t love the club any less than those who still go. Attend the protest on Sunday and you will see how much Newcastle United means to each and every boycotter there.
On Sunday, we have a golden opportunity. An opportunity to send Mike Ashley a message. An opportunity to send the world a message. An opportunity to heal a divided fan base. An opportunity to reclaim our battered dignity. An opportunity to say “enough is enough!”.
Please don’t let that opportunity pass you by. Support the boycott.