“Why don’t you write about Newcastle United anymore?” virtually nobody ever asks me. The main reason is I don’t feel qualified. As a season ticket holder and regular writer on all matters Newcastle I didn’t want to hear the opinions of somebody who didn’t even go to the matches so why should I think anybody cares what I think when I live in rural Norfolk? I know I’m unqualified and probably wrong about what is going on in Newcastle and even if I’m not I’m reluctant to get caught up in the fractious social media snarling that accompanies anybody expressing an opinion.
However, I am well qualified to talk about boycotting Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United because I’ve been doing it since 2011. So what advice would I give to a fledgling boycotter?
The main thing I have learned during the last 8 years of (mostly) non-attendance at SJP, much like the ten years that I spent as a vegetarian or a lifetime recycling, is that it has made absolutely no discernible difference to anything. I also assumed that by now I wouldn’t care as much, that I wouldn’t let the whirlwind of catastrophe that is Newcastle United bother me, keep me awake and make me difficult to work with on a Monday morning. Nope, all that is still there I just get to miss the pre-match drinking with my tribe, the post-match trench humour and that giddy joy that comes with knocking off work before a mid-week game. If you boycott – that could be you.
I am such a hardcore boycotter that I had to take myself out of Newcastle altogether and Newcastle is my favourite place in the world. I tried to stay in Newcastle and not go to the match anymore. I went to St James’s Park to ask what would happen to our membership points if we didn’t renew our season tickets. They told me we would lose them all and at that exact moment the Sky TV in the ticket office announced that Sir Bobby Robson had died and the lass behind the counter burst into tears. Emotionally distraught and assuming the Footballing Gods were trying to tell me something, I renewed both our tickets on the spot. Wifey was livid – then came with me to every game. So, we couldn’t be trusted to live in Newcastle and not go to the match, so we drifted around the world, ended up in rural Norfolk and now we sometimes feel like we don’t really belong anywhere. If you boycott – that could be you.
At this point I need to point out that the “But if everybody boycotted it would send a message” argument doesn’t fly because “if everybody…” is ever invoked in any argument you have instantly lost because everybody bloody doesn’t anything. If everybody was a vegetarian there would be enough food for all the people on the planet, if everybody didn’t have kids the human race would die out and if everybody went to the match dressed as The Punisher it would look mint. All brilliant ideas but it ain’t happening, especially in Newcastle where everybody (wonderfully and beautifully) hates being told what to do.
We were in Newcastle for the Leicester match last season, we were bored after 12 minutes and it never, never improved. No energy, no urgency, no enthusiasm just a calm, well organised group of men shuffling sideways. The memorable thing for us is that after an hour me and the lad to my right realised we knew each other. Not just vaguely, we were mates, we played football together for years. Not recognising your own friends, if you boycott – that could be you.
And on the good days, on those exceptionally, mad and glorious days, like when Jonas scored to keep us up, like when we came from 1-3 down to beat Norwich in injury time, like the epic wins against Man Utd and City………. No, actually it’s worse than that…… Every time Newcastle win or even score a goal, a tiny part of you feels sad that you weren’t there to see it. A Newcastle player scores and runs to celebrate with the fans he’s not including you. If you boycott – that’s going to be you.
On the other hand, in the eight years since I stopped wasting my time and money following a half-arsed excuse for a football team around the country, a team that has spent far too much time being useless or stupid or boring or all of those things at once I have: travelled around Italy, Mexico, Cuba, North, South & Central America, Australia, South East Asia and New Zealand. I have seen plays, exhibitions, films, motorcycle racing and I have spent countless blissful Saturday afternoons with hilarious, fun people where Newcastle United didn’t even come up in the conversations. If you boycott – that could be you.
Now if you’re going to the match at Norwich, I’ll be the numpty dressed like The Punisher.