Monday, 25 May 2009
Aston Villa 1 Toon 0
Well, that's it then, goodbye to the Premiership, goodbye to the hype, the overpaid and the under-performing. In the picture opposite is myself and my band of fellow Toon suffers. The five of us who have been to a large number of the debacles that have been loosely termed as entertainment this season (spotted on Sky Sports by a colleague). All of us reached the end of this game and after a few rousing choruses of support for the team, slowly shuffled off and dispersed for the summer. No tears, no anger and no recriminations; just a quiet resignation.
Before the game it felt like old times, thousands of Geordies grouped around pubs in Aston, singing, drinking and generally having a good time. The sun was shining, beer was flowing and everyone was determined to have a good time. It continued when we got into the ground. No fancy dress from the Newcastle fans this time, but just a steely determination to "Sing our hearts out for the lads" And we did.
Then the game kicked off. Typically, the players appeared anxious and nervy. About half way through the first half, news came through that Manure had scored against Hull, there was a ripple of excitement, but nothing too ecstatic - we could see what was happening on the pitch in front of us. Then the inevitable happened, a Barry punt from outside the penalty area, a huge deflection, one nil down... You just know its going to be one of those pub quiz questions in years to come "Who was the last player to score for Newcastle United in the Premiership?" Only if it had been for us, rather than against us, eh Duff?
This was a game that needed a hero on the pitch - the shame was that the 14 that appeared in the Black and White shirts were incapable or unmotivated to be that hero. The second half was pitiful - and expected. At the end of the game there was a raucous explosion of support for the team, no violence (despite what the police and stewards were expecting) no tears (despite what the Sky cameras were expecting) just a (semi) dignified out pouring of support for the team. It felt like a desperate attempt by a City to show the rest of the country that our club may make a mockery of the town, but the fans still have the pride. The players haven't been good enough, the management has been achingly poor, but there was a feeling that we'll be there long after the current wearers of the shirt and current incumbents of the directors box will have scuttled off from whence they came.
I took this picture just after the final whistle, and for me this is why I'll be going back next season and the season after. Blind faith? quite possibly, but the sense of belonging is hugely powerful and alluring.
So, the trip back up the M6 brought plans of trips to Preston, Barnsley, Blackpool and Scunthorpe, with an odd sort of optimism. It may be a case of the morning-after-the-night- before, but its all quite exciting. New grounds to visit, new players to look forward to, quite possibly a new manager to look forward to (we all felt that at least Alan Shearer understood how the fans reacted). It was a case of looking forwards and not backwards - the Premiership is dead, long live the Championship.