I Thought I Was Looking Forward to the New Season

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.

Is this Bradford v Leeds?


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.
Madness.

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Not A Furious Book

I’ve got a new book available.
Well, I’ve written half of a thing that isn’t a traditional book.
And it isn’t a Furious book and it isn’t about Newcastle United much.
But I would be grateful if you bought it and I think you’ll like it. And it’s less than a fiver.

trvel book, gap year, nufc

Available Now From Amazon


It’s a travel book, it’s a book written by Wifey and I about giving up work and cars and record collections to travel. It’s about firing rockets of recklessness into our own future to live in the now and see the world while we’ve still got the strength. It’s about giving up our comfortable life and trying to climb out of our boxes and how the world really doesn’t like it when you do that. It’s about setting fire to your old life and trying to find a new one even though you don’t know where it is or what it looks like.
We travel across America from coast to coast in a very indirect fashion, we spend longer than expected on trains, we drive, we catch a bus full of weird people to Las Vegas. We drop into Central then South America then visit Australia and try living in New Zealand. We decide not to live in New Zealand so head home via South East Asia but we can’t go home because there are people living in our house. Strange people who want us to give them our house because they like it. Although it turns out they don’t like it because they think it is trying to kill them.
It’s then a book about how we try and reintegrate and how the world really doesn’t like it when you try to do that either.
Like I said, it’s not a book about Newcastle United although we deliberately and accidentally meet Newcastle fans from all over the world. We try to keep up with what was happening with our football team and see televised games when we can; so there are chapters about seeing games in a Chilean desert, at 4am in a New Zealand disco, on a massive screen in a mansion and on a tiny laptop on a Thai beach.
I wrote half of it, Wifey wrote the other half, in short sharp turns, we squabble for your amusement, we get lost, we get drunk, we have days where we feel we’ve made a terrible mistake and days where we don’t care if we did because the world is so excellent. It is bloody funny as well.
It is available from Amazon for Kindle and you can read the first seven chapters for free if you click “look inside”. I am reliably informed that you can get free Kindle apps for your phone or tablet or you can read it on your computer. No print copies yet because distribution, print and storage are a pain in the arse and bump the price right up. Also while “A Mag For All Seasons” sold thousands of copies (thank you very much) I have still got dozens of the buggers in my loft.
Yes, yes we all like the smell and feel of actual books and of browsing the shelves at Waterstones. Some of us secretly enjoy having shelves creaking under the weight of extensions of our personalities but will the complete works of George R.R. Martin fit in the pocket of your jacket or in your handbag? No they bloody won’t.
“Screw Work, Let’s Travel” by Lynn & Kriss Knights will and you’ll be glad it did. You have nothing to lose. Buy it.
Thank you.

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Why I Hate Golf

As a very very young person I used to physically despise all sport that wasn’t football. My grandfather used to take me to motor-cross but I didn’t consider that a sport – it was more a form of full sensory, mind bursting terror on two wheels. The smell and the noise of the bikes, the proximity to death, the flying mud, the riders, with faces hidden like super-villains, hurtling towards me – ah the thrill reverberates still.
Anyway, as I got older I realised that I didn’t actually hate other sports, what I hated was that, with only three channels on the TV, was the absence of football. Any sport that was on TV in this limited amount of space that wasn’t football had clearly been put there by some deluded idiot who didn’t understand that the only sport that the entire world required was football.
Then there was no football on TV. You try and tell anybody under 30 that there was a season where there was no football on TV at all and they will consider you with the same expression they use when trying to imagine a world without mobile phones or with white dog shit festooned across the nation’s pavements.
Worse still there were seasons where the only football on television was provided by ITV: the scale of ITV’s incompetent clueless bungling witnessed today is a miniature version of their f**king uselessness in the 1980’s. Rather than have a highlights package they would show one live game a week and assume everybody would be delighted to see Liverpool again.
People resorted to watching snooker or American football or became predatory sexual deviants – seriously there were no perverts trying to snatch children off the street back then, kids used to play outside. Honestly. In my opinion this is ITV’s fault so I never watch it.
Now of course there is far too much football on television and there is no longer a “one thing or the other” argument. Also I have got older and have become more tolerant to other people’s pastimes. I admire people who entirely turn their backs on the corrupted money making machine that is top flight football.
“Good for you” I think. In fact I recently stopped on a cycle ride to a nearby pub to witness some young folk scorching around a field on off road bikes. “That looks like a lot more fun than watching Newcastle United lose,” I said to Wifey and she agreed.
There is no need to complain about any sport, if people enjoy it good for them, I don’t have to be bothered by it. Formula 1 racing may be a deliberately wasteful and indulgent insult to everybody in the world who isn’t a multi-millionaire but it is easily ignored. These days we can dip in and out of any sport that might tweak our interest and there is no need to get involved in anything that doesn’t. Everyone can do what they want sport wise. Live and let live, each to their own and it takes many colours to weave this rich and beautiful tapestry we call life on earth in 2014.

Ernie Eels - not even a real eel

But f*ck me if golf isn’t a game played by, watched by and talked about by utter wankers. I f*cking hate golf. I hate shops that sell golf stuff, I hate the very idea of golf clubs except that they keep people who like golf away from me. I hate the fussy manicured grass and the daft shoes and the sun-visors and the way people talk about it like it is an actual thing that deserves contemplating. I used to live near a golf course in Gosforth and I was horribly aware that I could be killed by a golf ball when passing. To actually die of irony? It is one of the reasons I moved. I have friends who play golf and I have to suppress the urge to punch them in the face whenever the subject comes up.
When they cut to an item about golf on Sky Sports News I find it physically offensive and inappropriate. I would be less horrified if the presenter suddenly said, “And here is some footage a man being bummed to death by a bull elephant” before actually showing a man being bummed to death by a bull elephant, while I was eating my Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes.
They were talking about golf on the radio this morning and there was a comment that Rory Macklehooey or Ernie Eels would win some sort of green coat if he could use his expensive stick to pot the little ball with fewer hits than the other wankers or something. A f*cking green coat? What the f*ck is that about? What a stupid pointless thing to come home with. *
“Oh there is a lot of money in golf,” people say to me when I express this hatred. So? So f*cking what? And why? Why this expensive collective stupidity persists is what troubles me most, like I expect some golfer to look up at some point and say, “What the hell are we doing this for, does anyone fancy a pint?” This is not going to happen so I imagine a Day of Judgement where some awesomely powerful deity or species turns up and says, “Justify golf, go on, look at the state of this planet and the horrible mess you people have made of it and then tell me you went off to play golf instead of doing something about it. You horrible, horrible wankers.” The human race would then be condemned to extinction and quite rightly so. And that’s why I hate golf.

(* I suppose many sporting trophies can seem absurd when taken out of context, fortunately as a Newcastle fan this is a subject I rarely have to wrestle with.)

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What If That Had Been Sir Bobby?

When Wifey and I were living in New Zealand Sky NZ would show all the English Premier League games in their entirety but not necessarily live. So now we are living just outside Norwich avoiding the Newcastle United score until we can see the game feels less like an inconvenience and more like of a reminder of a lifestyle we were fond of but chose to give up.
The day Newcastle played at Hull however I hadn’t turned my phone off because we were yet to decide if we wanted to wait in blissful ignorance for the highlights of an essentially meaningless mid-table game. Sipping cold Bitburger in The Plough I got a text from Tom, a Norwich fan and incorrigible scamp, which simply read “Hahahahahahaha,” when there was still 20 minutes of the match remaining. This was confusing because Tom has never mocked my team via text before and this message definitely lacked details. I couldn’t begin to imagine what he meant . I also couldn’t get an internet connection on the train home and, full of Bitburger, I fell asleep in front of Roma v Bologna so it was only when Match of the Day started that my curiosity awakened. “Why the hell are we on first?” asked Wifey.

Bitburger - You Can't Get it in the Beehive


Tom’s text again, “Hahahahahaha”, nagged at us and we got increasingly nervous as Newcastle went 1-0 then 2-0 then 3-1 up, what the hell had happened? Then “Whoa!” and “What?” and as Tom had so accurately said “Hahahahahaha” – We had been dreading a double sending off, 4 own goals and Hull winning 11-3 so our manager being shoved and responding by nudging some no-mark with his head came as a great relief.
Unfortunately the media stamped all the joy out of this essentially humorous aside with their tedious and predictable overreaction. A proper head butt is a sickening thing to behold, with blood, crunching bone and concussion. Pardew overreacted but no actual damage was done, football is full of overreactions that don’t see the level of punishment handed out to Pardew. In the end that punishment added up to a seven game ban and £160,000 in combined fines which, if rumours are to be believed, is about four years wages for AP.
Imagine, if you will, that the manager dismissively barged aside by a player had been Sir Bobby Robson or the recently sanctified Alex Ferguson – how would the story have played out then? “Ah”, you may say, “but no player would push so disrespectfully past either of these gentlemen.” And I would say “Exactly.” The initial impudent shove that started the situation wasn’t by Pardew it was by David Meyler yet Steve Bruce came straight out and said how well his player had done and we ended up with people asking why he even got booked.
Morally Pardew did the right thing by apologising but you don’t admit any liability in football if you have any sense because as soon as you accept the blame you get hammered for it. This is because the Premier League, terrified by powerful clubs employing expensive lawyers most of the time, will then take the opportunity to try and prove to the media how toothless they are not.
Witness Loic Remy and Bradley Johnson being sent off at Norwich: Johnson instigated the situation, escalated the situation then play-acted to get Remy sent off (something he tries to do “all the time” according to our mate Tom). Initially Pardew said both players had to go but Norwich manager Chris Hughton said Johnson isn’t that kind of player (“He f***ing is” says Tom) – result Johnson got his red card rescinded and we had to play sunderland without our best player because the ban on Remy was upheld.
You will no doubt recall the odious Dave Whelan saying Callum McManaman played the ball when he tried to cripple Massadio Haidara last season. An obvious lie but McManaman got clean away with any retrospective punishment. Compare the Pardew situation to what McManaman did and compare the punishment. Anyone suggesting that NUFC isn’t getting the shitty end of Premier League justice isn’t paying attention. It isn’t that long ago that Mike Williamson got a three game retrospective ban after Johan Elmander ran into him at Bolton. Within a calendar month of this Wayne Rooney got no ban at all for sizing up Wigan’s James McCarthy before clattering him with an off the ball elbow. Alex Ferguson and Man Utd were so vocal in their support of Rooney that the Premier League didn’t dare do anything.
In contrast Pardew now spends his life teetering on egg shells trying to keep the professional and the enthusiastic amateur critics off his back. Good performances are apparently in spite of him but poor ones all his fault. He is also somehow answerable for the same regime that is making his job so difficult – little wonder that he lashes out from time to time.
The problem we have is that too many people have barely hidden agendas when it comes to attacking Alan Pardew and anything that happens on Mike Ashley’s watch at St James’ Park and as a consequence their testimony should be considered worthless. Yet we are forced to endure it and as a consequence I find myself sticking up for both of them despite my frustration with Pardew’s inability to cope with a derby or cup match and Ashley’s refusal to run our club properly. I simply can’t abide the injustice, which is one of the reasons I live in Norfolk now. I’m not entirely convinced about either our manager or owner but I know we are better off with them in charge than someone like me. If circumstance had led to me being responsible for the club statement after Hull it would have simply read; “If a member of the opposition enters the NUFC technical area during any match they must do so respectfully or we will f*** them up like a car crash.” Then I would have turned every seat in the entire press box over to some oppressed minorities.
I started with a question and I’ll end with another; what are we going to do if Newcastle play really well without a manager for the next 3 games?

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Judging in Haste

Committing your thoughts to print is a treacherous business at the best of times, especially if those opinions concern Newcastle United FC and I grow increasingly wary of it. The internet is awash with reactionary piffle, why add to it or try to argue with it when whatever anyone says, Newcastle United with their wilfully unpredictable, chaotic and random nature, will doubtless prove everybody wrong anyway.
For example I had an idea for a blog blazing within my skull over Christmas entitled ‘Have the “Pardew Out” Mob Been Grown-up Enough to Admit They Were Horribly Mistaken Yet’ – after a series of cracking results, tactical master classes and focused intelligent performances from our manager’s expertly assembled team. However, drawing on a lifetime of experience, I considered it bordering on the stupid to expect any lasting consistency of performance, pleasure or satisfaction from my team. More importantly I had an episode of Game of Thrones and a bottle of wine to consider, so off I went to Winterfell instead.

Winter is Coming


I like Mr Pardew, I really do, more than most managers in my lifetime when I think about it, he has done his job with dignity in trying circumstances. Kevin Keegan would have undoubtedly stropped off at least four times rather than stick around and deal with some of the crap Pardew has navigated his way through. However, his attitude towards, and record in, the FA Cup has been reprehensible since taking over at St James’ Park and it really needs to be addressed. I mean here we are again in January with the season ruined when a week ago it was still buzzing with promise and potential.
Newcastle’s record under Pardew in the FA Cup can no longer be considered bad luck or the result of an unfortunate turn of events, after losing to Brighton twice, Stevenage and at home to an under strength Cardiff whose attention really should have been elsewhere. By crediting Pardew with great footballing intelligence the other edge of the same sword is that he might be doing this shit on purpose.
Perhaps I’m wrong, maybe the modern game now dictates that all teams have games where they simply don’t turn up and all fans of all clubs have to deal with it accordingly: for example, off the top of my head this season alone we must consider Man City losing to Sunderland, Spurs annihilations against Man City and Liverpool, Chelsea at Newcastle, Fulham’s 0-6 at Hull and Manchester United…er…pretty much all the time under David Moyes. Also if Newcastle, who can apparently beat anybody this season, do have a tactical weakness it is not being able to put sides away when we score early against them at home. Norwich we got away with it, Southampton and Hull we didn’t and Cardiff was more of the latter. This attitude comes from somewhere, where we finally break a team down, then sit back and allow them a foothold back into the game instead of beating them to a bloody mess. Oh and Stoke doesn’t count because we can’t wait for a team to be down to 9 men and coached by a useless gas-bag like Mark Hughes every other week. Or perhaps it is as straightforward as Newcastle United not being that good without Yohan Cabaye.
It actually makes no sense prioritising The FA Cup, The Times reported that Wigan only made about £4 million for winning it last year. Leaving aside the £65 million they lost following their and odious Chairman Dave Whelan’s welcome relegation, that is money that can be made by Newcastle simply by finishing 8th instead of 12th. I certainly have no problem with teams in The Champions League not wanting to get bogged down in a quest for Jackie Milburn’s old family poo-pot because that makes it a cup entirely winnable for the rest of us. We who would consider an FA Cup win to be a major highlight in our tragic and short lives and the manager and players of our team need to be forced to understand this because at the moment they clearly bloody don’t.
So today I am full or rage and disappointment. My enthusiasm for this season has all but evaporated and I’m only going to watch the FA Cup draw so I can swear about whoever Cardiff get. Perhaps I’ll feel different and wished I hadn’t bothered writing this in a week or two; until then I’m off to Winterfell.

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Some Numbers

I read the copy of the letter that Newcastle United Football Club sent to the Newcastle based regional newspapers and couldn’t help thinking that the club had a point when they talked about the disproportionate amount of coverage awarded to the recent anti-Ashley march. A generous estimation of the number of people on the march counting them, as I am, from a small village in Norfolk, is what… 500?
This next bit of mathematics is going to make me sound like a bitter old tosser but I can live with the accusation because the result is so f****ing hilarious:- So here goes; the first two Billy Furious books sold about 8,000 copies between them. Not as many as the younger me might have hoped but still 8,000 people, mostly Newcastle fans, showed enough active interest to at least buy a book, even if they only ever used it to fling at next door’s cat. 8,000 is a number 16 times larger than 500.
In the letter NUFC wrote they pointed out that the local press had devoted 17 full pages to the recent march. For the press to counter claim this wasn’t disproportionate they would have to point to the (16 x 17) 272 full pages they devoted to the release of my third book when it came out. Maybe they did, I don’t know, I was in Argentina at the time but I think somebody might have mentioned it. I think a closer estimate might be 0 pages.

A Bitter Old Tosser

I’m not taking up arms against the protesters or their motives, despite how painfully Utopian some of them sound. I like the idea of the fans running the club or at least having some input for the greater good. But we all know that if we fans arranged a meeting to discuss the width of the black and white stripes on our shirts, then six hours later, we would be wrestling each other, drunk and stubborn, in the car park. There would be carping, moaning, back biting and a separate committee set up with its own Facebook page within two days. Most of us know this which might explain why “most of us” chose not to go on the march. I also think it fair to say that anyone not going on the march has no business singing “get out of our club” at our owner the next time they think Newcastle are going to lose a football match.

For what it’s worth I also feel desperately sorry for the journos who cover NUFC for the local rags; for years it was OK to knock out a , “Player A calls for the team to play well against Team X” piece of a Thursday without the writer being trolled savagely by one of the perpetually pugnacious bores who haunt the paper’s message boards. However, invoking the Ghost of Saint Bobby Robson before the Chelsea match by putting one of his more beautiful quotes on the front of the Evening Chronicle, made me feel queasy. There is no mention of the press in that quote. Fans were presumably supposed to wave the paper at Mike Ashley with righteous indignation until he learnt the error of his ways and stopped expecting any of the money the club owes him back. The national media have jumped to the defence of the local, claiming an attack on the press is an attack on the fans. I don’t feel attacked and I can be proper bloody paranoid if my idiot brain isn’t kept pacified by drink, Game of Thrones, loud music and Playstation games.

The media carp like they have always treated Newcastle’s fans, team and staff fairly, like they don’t and haven’t committed acts of spiteful vengeance when they’ve had their feelings hurt. The media aren’t on my side and I don’t appreciate them trying to ingratiate themselves with me and mine when they feel they are being bullied.

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It’s A Trap!

Sometimes you just have to let situations play themselves out. This is partly why there hasn’t been a blog update on this website for months. The ongoing inactivity of Newcastle United in the transfer market might be irritating and frustrating but I refuse to join in with the minute by minute “Buy somebody! No not him!” hysteria being played out by my black and white family on Twitter. I’ll admit to hoping for QPR’s relegation last season entirely on the grounds of wanting Loic Remy to end up where he should have been before bloody Redknapp hijacked the deal in January. However, those waters have been considerably muddied by a legal issue that I’m not touching with another man’s barge pole.
The relentless tedium of the Suarez, Bale and Rooney speculation has made all football based newspapers and websites easily avoidable; suffice to say I hope all three are forced to remain at their present clubs in a state of bitter resentment. All my own present agitation and impatient rage is of no interest to anyone because it is based on selling one house and buying another house – a situation I swore never to repeat years ago.
However sometimes you look up, recognise that an extreme peril is about to crash into a blissfully unaware victim, and simply must shout a warning.

Greg Dyke, the new chairman of the FA, has been in the papers and on TV and radio all weekend saying the World Cup in Qatar 2022 can’t be played in the summer because of the extreme heat. “I don’t know how many people have been to Qatar in June,” he said, “I have. The one thing that I can tell you is you can’t play a football tournament in Qatar in June” (The Times 10/8/2013). Mr Dyke goes on to suggest that the tournament has to be moved to another place in geography or time. We of course knew all this just like we all suspect we know why and how this decision was reached in the first place.

However my own belief is that the international governing bodies have not only been greedy here but are in the process of deviously and fundamentally changing the very essence of European football and that some of our lives are in danger as a consequence: check this out from UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino (Mail online) talking about football being played in the winter, “You see people in the stadiums with hats and scarves. Why did England, who brought us this beautiful game, decide that football is for the winter and not for the summer? Cricket. The month of June, which is the most beautiful month to play football, is hardly ever used except for the Euros and the World Cup.”
Infantino is of course adding his unwelcome voice to FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA chief Michel Platini, who are to blame for the seemingly ding-bat decision to have the World Cup of 2022 played in Qatar in the first place. That’s Qatar; where the players and fans will burst into flames like vampires when exposed to the extreme summer sun. Where it is illegal to be homosexual and where you can be flogged for drinking alcohol.
FIFA / UEFA will ignore the gay issue because they clearly have no intention of joining the rest of us in the 21st century any time in the next 9 years and they will get a permit so fans can drink in stadiums (providing it is a named brand of a sponsor obviously) because the World Cup being in Qatar isn’t the real issue. These f***ers are serious about shifting the entire footballing calendar so the World Cup can be played in a slightly less scorchy time in Qatar – our winter. So obviously our domestic leagues here in Europe would have to be played in the summer. Which might be a laugh as a one off, except Infantino and Platini seem to want the shift to be more permanent and are keen on blaming England for what has, it turns out, been a terrible inconvenience to the rest of the world for over 100 years.
Damn right we play football in the winter, damn right we watch football in the winter; that way we don’t kill ourselves with drink, drugs and boredom in the winter. Why do you think we invented football (and Christmas) in the first place? People moan about the gap between football seasons being too long now. Can you imagine if the three months between football seasons were December, January and February? I seriously doubt that some of us would make it to Spring. Wimbledon, sitting outside pubs, cricket, music festivals and motorcycle racing may not mean much to some football supporters but compared to “nothing at all” they all certainly help.
In my less than humble opinion that’s what FIFA are trying to do here; they are trying to make football a summer sport– and they are hoping we all sleepwalk right into it.

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Better Off Out Of It

Two years ago Wifey and I gave up our jobs in Newcastle to travel the world with open minds to the possibility of living somewhere other than Tyneside. I think I had a vague notion of a beach house in Costa Rica or an apartment in Rome or Auckland – for reasons that I won’t bore you with I write this from a small rented house in Norwich.
In May of last year I wrote a blog called “Repenting at Leisure” where I rather grandly compared my decision to quit work and travel to Newcastle United’s forthcoming Europa League campaign. Apart from a frighteningly prophetic aside that this adventure might lead to us losing to sunderland on a Sunday lunchtime, the gist was “life is for the living – get on with it and damn the consequences.”
For better or worse both adventures are well over and we all have to keep living with the ramifications.

Me not writing a blog


For my own part I haven’t written a blog for 4 months; this has been for a lot of sound reasons some of which are not drinking too much and jumping out of a tree with a tomahawk while playing Assassin’s Creed 3. One of the better reasons was my being conscious of becoming another voice from the south offering opinion on Newcastle United on the basis of only having seen the team play twice all season – opinion that I always considered entirely unwelcome when on Tyneside.
Consequently I have failed to leap to the defence of Alan Pardew in the face of mounting criticism of him from those of a black and white hue. When Martin O’Neil was sacked someone on Twitter asked how this could happen and Pardew could stay in his job what with both North East clubs being in a similar position? I didn’t write; “because one of them was always a media constructed gas-bag who won ugly at Leicester and Celtic before spending tens of millions of pounds at Aston Villa while accomplishing nothing but a dwindling list of season ticket holders – and the other one is the reigning LMA manager of the year, in the quarter finals of a European Competition, managing an increasingly impressive squad of players through a hideous injury crisis. Roberto Mancini recently stated that Manchester City couldn’t be expected to maintain a challenge for the League while missing Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Augero for so much of the season – those three players combined have missed 15 games. Newcastle haven’t suffered “one or two injuries” like Alan Hansen said on Match of the Day. One or two injuries would have been Harris Vuckic and Ryan Taylor being out for nearly the entire season – at times we have had an entire team missing. All our best players have missed significant chunks of the season.” – I didn’t write any of that.
Probably just as well after the hideous catastrophe that was losing to sunderland the pitiful surrender against Liverpool and the predictable defeat against Arsenal. Speaking to friends with season tickets recently they all thought Pardew should go with the sensible detail (that we often seem to forget) “providing we get some one better.”
To which end I have taken to print only to extend my own metaphor comparing my not being in Newcastle to Newcastle United being in Europe. Hence the title “Better Off Out of It” – I positively look forward to a season free of the chore of Europe because we have serious business to attend to at home. And I was never more grateful to not be in Newcastle than the week after the derby because the only abuse I got at work was someone chastising me for one of our tribe punching a horse. Because horses are not for punching – they are for mincing up and jamming into a Findus Crispy pancake, either that or we can force the buggers to jump over fences until they die because we are proper animal lovers in the this country aren’t we for fuxsake.
Why don’t we all just admit that the 2012/13 season was a diabolical abomination and spend as much of the summer as we can forgetting about it. And when I say “we” I don’t just mean Newcastle fans because the whole season was rubbish for everybody. Look at every team in the Premiership and with the possible exception of Swansea (who fell away and have got Cardiff coming to dinner next season) they must all look back on the last campaign with, at least, disappointment and , at worst, undisguised loathing: Man Utd won at a canter with a mostly un-exceptional team and now have to face life without Sir Alex and his magic watch, every other team in the top eight fell short of their ambition. West Brom fans know that they only stayed out of the relegation struggle the rest of the League enjoyed because they had a ringer in from Chelsea and the rest of us were pitiful. Norwich may have finished 11th but I can assure you that apart from a few freak results they didn’t have much fun doing so.
Wigan won the FA Cup but got relegated and Chelsea players and fans pretending they were glad to win their European trophy was so disingenuous as to defy belief. They didn’t want to be in it and they had no business being in it. So The League was rubbish, the cups were rubbish and Europe was rubbish. England were rubbish, even Barcelona, so long an oasis of joy, ended up dogged by regret. Roma, my own traditional bolt hole from a crap season, lost to bloody Lazio in the Italian Cup final so even that was rubbish.
The 2012/13 season was rubbish for everybody it was an utter waste of time and effort – we are all better off out of it.

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“What Happened”

The best thing to happen in the world of football this week was Manchester City sending back 900 unsold tickets to Arsenal, it was a brilliant thing and credit to the City fans who would have travelled to The Emirates but on seeing the £62 ticket price refused. The media sat up and paid attention, granted some of them got the issue all wrong by talking about the price of football generally, but it made the news and this issue has to keep making the news for something to be done about it. The price of football generally isn’t the issue because most home fans have season tickets and you pay for your season ticket like you pay your car insurance or TV licence and the money goes to your club. The price of a pie is also irrelevant because if you can’t go 90 minutes without some dinner, that’s your problem, not football’s.
No, the specific issue is the treatment of away fans who are exploited and treated as a nuisance at too many grounds despite the fact that they are vital. If you have ever been to a match where there was no away support, for whatever reason, you will know the atmosphere is always funereal. Arsene Wenger can quack on about how his football club needs to charge what it does but the money coming in from away fans is at best tens of thousands and Arsenal are hauling in tens of millions.
It was £45 for Newcastle fans to get into Carrow Road on Saturday (with a £1 booking fee) and if, for the sake of argument, we say that is £10 too much and that there were 2,000 of us – Norwich fleeced us for £20,000 more than they should have done. To a Premier League club £20,000 is an irrelevant amount of money so there was no excuse for us to be charged that much.

£46 that view cost


No need to be charged that much for a game where nothing happened at all. I can’t remember going to a game where nothing happened at all before. Norwich hit the post, but Krul had it covered, the ball went near our goal after the ball bounced off the back of Grant Holt’s head and Obertan and Coloccini scooped a couple of shots over the bar but they were barely chances at all. Match of the Day would have been well within their rights not to show any of it. Gary Lineker could have said, “We are a highlights show – there were no highlights available, now here’s the League table.” Nobody would have complained.
Newcastle at Norwich is rarely a highlight of any season anyway; Newcastle haven’t won at Norwich since the 93/94 season when The Honourable Lord Beardsley and Andy Cole scored in a 2-1 win. A game where both sides were so intent on playing neat attacking football that there were, if memory serves, something like three fouls and five throw-ins in the entire game. I personally haven’t been since Mirandinha’s debut in 1987 which makes me feel very old. I met the guy who gave me a lift to that game for a pint on Saturday and he isn’t allowed to drink anymore for medical reasons which makes me feel very grateful.
So I say nothing happened and for most people who saw that game this is true. But for me it was magical; I haven’t seen Newcastle play live since the monumentally annoying 3-3 draw with West Brom at the end of the season before last. A year away travelling the world and now living in Norwich hasn’t stopped me seeing most of the games and nearly all the goals but being in with the tribe with all the sights and smells of Newcastle United was exhilarating. Yohan Cabaye came on and I felt, A, dizzy with joy and B. Sorry for Wifey who made a stand against the pricing by not going.
Better still I bumped into some lads I have known for years but haven’t seen for ages; fans who would still be on the long drive back to Newcastle long after I had gone to bed. These are the people the game has a duty to look after, not part-time Johnnies like me. So we need price capping on tickets for away fans and a cut-off point where games cannot be moved for television (pointless getting cut-price train fares if they’re going to be invalid by the time TV has its way). Thanks to the stand made by those Manchester City fans we are in a position to demand it now.

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What Are You Going To Do About It?

I’m all for national public outrage and the public have been given plenty to be outraged about in recent years. Executives at banks awarding themselves fat bonuses, elements of the government and the police colluding with the press to cover up stuff (e.g.Hillsbough/phone hacking) , institutions such as the BBC and the Catholic Church, at best, turning a blind eye to child abuse, greedy football clubs over charging away supporters and vast multi-national companies avoiding paying millions of pounds of UK tax.

better coffee and they pay their taxes

But it is what happens after the outrage that is more interesting and more important. As splendid American comic Doug Stanhope says on the subject, “What, you just notice? That’s good enough for you? I want someone dead.”
So splendid work, Hacked Off for keeping the heat turned up on the obnoxious bullies in the press after David Cameron’s decision to ignore the central and entirely sensible conclusion of the Leveson Inquiry. (Link to Hacked Off’s very interesting website; http://goo.gl/r1qjC )
But here’s a thing: the “well, the government should do something about it” line isn’t enough because it abdicates personal responsibility. People have to be called to account for banking with Barclays, patronising Starbucks, signing up with Vodaphone and buying overpriced tickets for football matches. For example, how anybody who calls themselves a decent human being can hand over their own money for a copy of The Daily Express or The Daily Star after owner Richard Desmond’s reptilian performance at Leveson is beyond my understanding.
We, the general public, have it in our power not only to call these people to account but to destroy them. We don’t need government intervention we just need to say no to these bastards in sufficient numbers to bring them to their knees.
Some banks don’t pay executives massive bonuses and the coffee at Costa and Café Nero is nicer than at Starbucks anyway, so you have no business being in there at all unless it is to abuse their free Wi-fi for three hours. And no Starbucks throwing £20 million at HMRC like they were a disgruntled stripper won’t do, it won’t do at all.
Some newspapers are not owned and run by ruthless scum-bags: The Independent for example didn’t get hauled over the coals at Leveson and it was The Guardian who uncovered the phone hacking cover-up scandal. Although the latter’s treatment of Newcastle United means I still won’t buy it I do read it online.
I’m letting Amazon off by the way because they seem to pass a lot of the benefit of their off-shore tax avoidance on to their customers by keeping their prices low. CDs are half the price they were ten years ago and you will have to prise my Kindle out of my cold dead fingers.
Now for the hard bit: As you may or may not know, I am currently living and working in Norwich. Somebody on Twitter asked me why and my reply was so long that I didn’t bother giving it. The shortened answer is: “Because they have great pubs here and I just do. OK”. But I should add that the recent census results report Norwich as the most Godless city in the UK (43% stating ‘no religion’), which is something to be chuffed about, given that it is also the most civil city I have ever visited. I nearly collided with a pedestrian while cycling last week and we argued over who was at fault, both claiming to be in the wrong. If God had got involved one of us would doubtless have ended up throwing a petrol bomb at a police car.

...or should I go?


Anyway Newcastle play at Carrow Road in January and I could walk there in half an hour from this very keyboard. However the tickets are going to be £45 each which means I will be spending the fat end of a hundred pounds to see a game I can watch for considerably less in a pub. Wifey and I stopped going to Newcastle away games years ago. A regular away traveller took myself and (another former Mag writer) Chris Tait to task over this absence from the away end and we both laughed in his face. Because going away in The Premier League is a mug’s game, we Newcastle fans are overcharged, not because our team is a big draw for the home fans but because we will pay. I love away games, even those in Middlesbrough, but I was sick of being treated like a sucker. You can argue that I have a duty to support my team but the away end at Norwich will doubtless sell out and the support will be formidable with or without me.
So what am I going to do about it? I have taken my money out of Barclays, replaced my Vodafone, not been in a Starbucks for months and will glare at anyone holding a copy of the Daily Express. Do I try and get tickets for Norwich?
Am I even allowed to go to Norwich? So many people pointed out how well Newcastle did in our absence last season that I vowed to stay away until our form nosedived so as not to get the blame for any slump. It looks to me like we are riding on the crest of a slump right now, so I reckon it’s safe to sneak back.

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