Treated to the mountain ranged line graph of Newcastle United’s league performance over the last two decades, I must admit it’s a hypothetical concept I’ve wrestled with myself.
Indeed, such is the general custom in England that most people have selected a team by the age of five – an innocent time where we can quite conceivably spend the best part of an hour picking our nose. I was no exception – I’ve been following the Toon for as long as I can remember, thanks to a family connection. But I cast a thought to the other decisions made in my life. Would I have chosen my career, politicial affiliation or life partner at a similarly early stage?
I suspect if I had, I’d probably be an apathetic astronaut married to one of the lasses from Blue Peter.
It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? What if we could make an informed decision – one not predicated by parentage or geography, but rather by playing style or resonance with a particular player? Of course, it opens up the whole glory hunter argument again, but does it not simaltaneously quash the guilty by association debate?
This chap in The Telegraph certainly thought so, but then he was a Watford supporter.
As I said, personally, I’ve been torn on the matter, owing to the fact my experience of Newcastle has been consistently inconsistent. In the same decade, I watched them play both Champions League and Championship football. In the same season (2011/2012), I watched them beat Manchester United 3-0 and lose to Fulham 5-2.
I’ve seen Newcastle beat the likes of Barcelona and Juventus, but also seen them succumb to Hartlepool 6-1. I’ve seen Alan Shearer score from 40 yards and Albert Luque miss from two. I remember the elation I felt in 1998 and again in 1999, reaching two successive FA Cup finals, and the heartbreak when we lost them both.
I’ve seen Newcastle sit atop the premiership table at Christmas three times. I still haven’t seen them win the league. Regularly purported as one of English football’s ‘big’ clubs, Newcastle’s inability to justify that tag in more recent seasons has been a profound source of frustration.
We came close in 2011/2012, finishing 5th, but it wasn’t long before we capitulated and placed 16th in the following campaign. Joe Kinnear was brought in as director of football and only one senior player arrived in the transfer window….on loan. Yet, we beat Chelsea just last weekend.
I came close to giving up on Newcastle last season. Phillipe Coutinho had just danced past our ‘defence’ in Liverpool’s 6-0 win at St James’ Park and I was tired of the club ruining my weekends. Still, despite the pain they caused me last year, I stuck with them. It wasn’t until recently that I remembered why. Funnily enough, it was actually at another loss that my enthusiasm was restored; I was one of the 33,846 that turned up midweek* to watch us crash out 2-0 to Manchester City in extra time of a Capital One Cup tie.
I was joined in that number by a father and his son, attending his first Newcastle game.
As the Gallowgate erupted for what was ultimately an offside Shola Ameobi goal, the embrace I witnessed between them, if only to be cancelled out by the linesman moments later, was enough to convince me that supporting Newcastle is something I’d like to share. See, Newcastle’s a bit different to other clubs. All clubs have their ups and downs, some with more downs than others, but what makes Newcastle special is the way we react to it.
Did you know that the season we spent outside the premiership we had the third highest attendance in England, bettered only by two clubs with bigger stadiums?
Of course it’s disappointing to see us lose, of course it’s frustrating to see us finish in the bottom six with a crop of allegedly European players, but if the issue is about ‘support,’ I have no doubts that I’d want my child to experience the best support in the land, if not necessarily the best team.
The emotional catharsis that Newcastle fans experience is unique to our club and something that makes our perception of football far more than a game. It’s a chance to bond with friends and family, a solidarity unlike any other.
Whether Labour or Conservative, rich or poor, black or white, Newcastle fans are a community united. As we approached extra time against Manchester City, the father lifted his lad up to get a better view.We had a corner, which means we were unlikely to score; nevertheless, to see the two of them angle in suspense together was truly heartwarming.
I will not force my child to support Newcastle, but I’d like to think if I just take them to one match day, I won’t need to.
What do you think? Should the child be allowed to choose allegiances? Or would that encourage glory supporting?