Supporting Newcastle United when I was a kid was easy.
Growing up on Tyneside the idea of supporting any other team was a bizarre concept.
You had the odd weirdo who ‘supported’ Liverpool but they tended to be the ones who didn’t play football and who were always the last pick when they were pressed into making up the numbers in the schoolyard.
We all ‘liked’ certain other teams and players but it was a very different thing to supporting them, in those days you rarely saw much of Newcastle United on Match of The Day and so it was just common sense that you talked about what you saw on TV, as well as at St James Park.
The thing is as well, when I was a teenager, I was either at the match watching NUFC, or else I was playing football with my mates thinking about Newcastle United.
After all, there was nothing else to do. Yes I had a record player but listening to records was what you did when you went home after playing or watching football, it wasn’t instead of. Indeed, it was only if (really bad) weather stopped play, that you might end up in somebody’s house playing Monopoly, Mousetrap etc until the rain stopped.
Today’s kids, as we know, have it all.
When I say all, I mean they have all kinds of alternatives now to Newcastle United and indeed football.
There are after school clubs for all kinds of other sports and activities, with also outside of school all kinds of opportunities to play other sports. Plus of course, the powerful (evil?) of our time, technology that allows/encourages kids to stay in their houses using whatever device. Instead of playing football, playing football manager, FIFA etc etc.
As for Newcastle United, not just because of the lack of alternative activities, it was easy to actively support NUFC.
It was exciting.
Even in the darkest days, which were probably after relegation in 1978 and before Kevin Keegan came to save us (the first time), when crowds fell to their lowest levels, it was still class on the terraces.
No matter how small the crowds became at St James Park, those who wanted to sing and have a good time regardless, would still cram together and have a laugh/create an atmosphere.
Just compare that to today.
Even when Newcastle have done relatively well at times in the Mike Ashley era, the atmosphere is still rubbish, at least compared to what we had on the terraces. So then I look at teenagers going now and I wonder what they do get out of it?
The football is rubbish for the vast majority of the time and I guess for most of the NUFC youth it is about having a laugh/day out with their mates, before they can then graduate to doing the same but with alcohol involved.
We all know that all seaters have been a massive negative but under Mike Ashley he has done everything else on top of that to ensure the atmosphere is so terrible.
To give 10,000 free season tickets away is just embarrassing but to then give them away to people who are already season ticket holders, to give them to their vaguely interested (if free) family and friends to go, makes it all the more worse.
Why not give them away to teenagers, especially those who might not have much money, after all the NUFC Foundation works with thousands of them and so would have a ready database on who to give them to.
Encourage them to get involved in supporting Newcastle United, indeed create a 14-18 or 14-21 area where thousands of them can all get together and have a laugh, maybe even create a bit of atmosphere. Get them off their mobile phones and singing instead.
Back in the day we would show our displeasure when relegation happened or the dark dark days when the old Leazes was pulled down. However, the politics of the club wasn’t at the forefront of our minds, it was all about the experience of going to St James Park and then eventually adding away matches to that. Those who ran the club might have been incompetent but they were doing their best, we might not have liked them but we understood these were local small businessmen who couldn’t magically make things happen.
Today is very different, teenagers can’t avoid the politics, Mike Ashley has made absolutely sure of that.
They have seen how he has treated club legends such as Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer.
They have seen the complete lack of ambition and the disgraceful way he went on with Rafa Benitez, not to mention Jonas Gutierrez and so many others.
They see the kind of people who Mike Ashley prefers and who he wants around him…the likes of Dennis Wise, JFK, Alan Pardew and so on.
Rather than local businessmen with a few quid more than us, Mike Ashley is a billionaire who chooses to use the club simply to make him and his retail empire richer, he has zero ambition to make Newcastle United a success on or off the pitch.
If I was a teenager now, would I have started actively (going to games) supporting Newcastle United and kept on going?
It’s a tough call.