I thought I was looking forward to the new football season; Newcastle United had picked up some potentially interesting players and the giddy childish thrill of all the Premier League teams being on 0 points had set my teeth with anticipation. “Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot” (yo yo yo like Henry V y’all)
Then I tuned into Sky’s Sunday Supplement on August the 10th for expert journalistic analysis of the forthcoming campaign and saw the same privileged faces preparing to quack on about the same dreary subjects: “We’re back, it feels like we never been away,” said Neil Ashton.
“F*** Off!” I blurted out over my fried egg sandwich before spending the next week getting increasingly irritated by the hype and the bollocks and the assumption that we are all excited by Van Gaal arriving in Salford or by the existence of f***ing Chelsea. Why is Jim White shouting at me from the Sky Sports Centre like a chief fireman urgently warning us that the roof is about to cave in?
All across the media there was this unquestioning belief that I should be enraptured by the re-emergence of these multi-corporate conglomerations that used to be football teams and I hated it. And yet I was still looking forward to the new football season.
Last season ended up being bloody awful: Newcastle stopped playing properly in December and our tribe became upsettingly quarrelsome with each other to the point that even frivolous optimism was treated as treachery. The cheery consolation that at least sunderland were going to get relegated slipped away as they wriggled loose while demonstrating a disappointing degree of grit and competence while lovely (and handy for me) Norwich got relegated. In fact we ended up having to bestow begrudging credit on many old foes; Allardyce kept West Ham up, Pulis did brilliantly at Palace, the odious Mark Hughes’ Stoke deservedly pipped NUFC for the prestigious 9th slot. And the richest team in the League handed in their receipts and got what they paid for and I hated it. And yet I was still looking forward to the new football season.
The season began and Match of the Day kept cutting between games while spinning a giant 50 across the screen which was distracting for me because it was the same weekend that I turned 50 so I kept thanking them while toasting myself.
This Monday I sat down in front of Manchester City v Liverpool; last season’s Champions against last season’s runners-up – a proper heavyweight affair and I wondered why I was so bored from the second it kicked off. Then I remembered that I have been doing this every year for my entire life; getting Newcastle United’s new season mixed up with the start of football in general. It’s only when confronted with the idea of spending an hour and a half watching a Champions League group game or a Championship game or Hull v Stoke and wish I was watching a Newcastle game instead that I remember how this actually works. I don’t care about other teams, I don’t have to choose a team to follow in every division in Europe (although I often do) and it is fine for me to listen to the Radio 1 Punk Show and navigate a pirate ship from Cuba to Kingston (Assassin’s Creed Black Flag) instead of watching Bradford play Leeds. Because I don’t care about other football teams, in fact I actively dislike most of them and every non-Newcastle match is merely a decision as to which team I despise least.
I’m a Newcastle fan and I’m looking forward to the new season. For no reason other than I just am. I know we are not going to win anything and I know I will get stressed, anxious and disproportionately hateful but I’m still looking forward to the new season.