Newcastle United's Darkest Days

Patrick Johnston@PJSoccerJunkieCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2009

Dark Days on Tyneside

I am just going to come out and say it: I support Newcastle.  I am not a Geordie and do not like Newcastle Brown Ale, but I am an exiled wannabe member of the Toon Army and have been for a very long time.  You will have to know me well to ask why, but nonetheless, there you have it. 

On every trip I take to England, there is always a day or two to head up to Tyneside and see the Magpies at St. James’ Park.   If there is not a home fixture, one can safely bet that I will find my way to wherever the Black and White are playing.

Being a fan of the English version of the Chicago Cubs has always carried a certain amount of dignity and respect. 

A significant reason for this inner peace is due to the sheer amount of comradeship and intensity with which the Toon Army carry on. The passion and eternal hope of this group of fans has always been infectious and even enviable at times. 

But one of England’s most recognized and best supported clubs is starting to experience something it has not seen for quite a while, and that's something very dangerous indeed. 

The drama, the losing, and the managerial turnstile are problems that run off the Toon like the proverbial water off the duck’s back.  But something is surfacing and its insidious tendrils could spell doom for an EPL establishment. 

Apathy is starting to infect the Toon Army.

If there was one thing that was certain when I walked up the Gallowgate to enter St. James’ or went to my local pub with fellow soldiers of the Toon, it was this: There was passion all around and within. 

Even more important than the fact that next year would bring a new season, was that today was a fresh match for the lads to put on a show to entertain and thrill us and make us go home happy with smiles on our faces.  Sure there would be disappointments (many of course), but every now and then the magic would surface and all would be right. 

We had to pinch ourselves when King Kev, Ginola, Shearer, and company were in full song and bringing us the goods faster than we could handle.  It was too good to be true and alas, the end came and we found that we were right—it was too good to be true. 

But we endured the sacking of our beloved King and Sir Bobby.  We endured the dark days of Souness, and the early sackings of Roeder and Big Sam.  We were saved when the King returned, only to abdicate with so much yet to be done. 

But then owner Mike Ashley made a huge mistake—he quit on the Toon.  He quit on the single most loyal and unflinching group of supporters that the league has ever seen. 

Perseverance is defined in Webster’s as “Toon Army.”  Go ahead and look it up. 

But next year’s version will be different.  The owner who quit has returned because he has no choice, no money, no will, and, more importantly, he has no buyers. 

What is the Toon to look forward to?  These are dark days indeed. Mike Ashley has taken away our hope.  St James’ is no longer a guaranteed sell out.  The only guaranteed sell out is the very owner of our proud club.

I have brought my 11-year-old son to St. James’ twice now and he has embraced the sins of his father. 

His first replica bore the No. 8 of Kieran Dyer.  I said that Dyer had been with the club a long time and was a good servant, so he followed my advice and selected Dyer as his favorite player.  Dyer then proceeded to move on to West Ham in the summer—so much for that! 

Now he wears the No. 9 of Obafemi Martins (No. 9 will always be Alan Shearer to me) and I can only say that Martins’ body language indicates that he might be gone sooner than Michael Owen. 

There was a time when I thought it was cool to see my son running around in the black and white.  Then I got apologetic to those who saw it, and now, worst of all, I don’t even care.


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