We are approaching the "most wonderful time of the year", that time when gifts are obligatory and incumbent upon the receiver to decide exactly what form they should take. While groups of fans aren't ever really gifted anything by their teams or whomever else could give them something which would bring great joy. As Newcastle fans, there are many things that we could put on such a list. Some would probably head a Christmas list with "a true holding midfielder who is not on the downhill slide in his career" or the similar "a central midfielder that can play through the middle of the park instead of needing to be bypassed". "A competent left back" is another one that would be prevalent on if you examined everyone's lists.
You could go in a much less tangible direction and not miss by far. There's certainly plenty of gift ideas that you can't put your hand on physically but would bring lots of joy to the Newcastle United fans. Better form would be one of those. You know, the kind of form that wouldn't have you toward the bottom of the all-league table as we've found ourselves from time to time in recent memory. Getting our players to play up to their potential, perhaps. Perhaps you put all of the ideas together in hopes of a bigger gift. A Cup championship. A return to the Champions League. Hell... a top half finish. Just being clear of the relegation zone by a match or two. The ability to beat the 20th place team in the league, maybe.
Newcastle fans don't have any visions of grandeur. Many lists would probably skew to the latter items in that last list. We have been atrocious in 2015. We were better, but not by much in 2014. That one time, Alan Pardew guided us on one of those improbable Premier League seasons that are all the rage these days. You know, the kind where an unfancied team finds a supposedly impossible vein of form to challenge the Sky 6 for a slice of that tasty European pie. Beyond that, we have been bad for years. Relegation bad. Relegation fight after relegation fight. That famous banner from the end of last season says it all:
(Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
That's how far we've fallen from those halcyon days of the Entertainers and Wor Bob and that ever so brief period of time in our history when we came close to being again what we once were so many years before Keegan and Sir Bobby. Champions.
Now we are expected to accept years of mediocrity (or worse!) from a manager because he once got us into the Europa League. Never mind all that other losing nonsense and relegation fights and such. Why can't you just be happy about that? Fickle Geordies.
There is a double standard about who has a right to complain and who doesn't. Today's news is alight with footage of Louis van Gaal's press conference where he "stormed" out after the "embattled coach" dared to put a face on the reporting that is happening around Manchester United these days. Manchester United – who haven't won the Premier League title since 2012-13 – have the right to voice their concerns! They're only in fifth place in the League! They've lost two matches in a row! Can you imagine if they were to lose three in a row? Or four out of five like Newcastle have already done this year? Can you imagine if they were to ever lose 8 matches in a row? They'd be through 3 managers and the national press and Manchester reporters would defend the fans to the death for wanting it that way. They would never be called fickle. Because Manchester United fans deserve better.
Newcastle United have not won any sort of major honor since the 1960s. And yet the Toon Army still flocks to St. James' Park in droves. Year after miserable year, the fans keep coming. They support their team vociferously even through times in which the club gifts them 3 victories over the course of 5 months. And yet when times are bad and the Toon Army deign to say "we deserve better!" we become targets. We were one of Alan Pardew's favorite targets. We urged the team on too hard and cost them points. We didn't urge them on enough. We draw the derision of the national media. "Hahaha those Geordies really got what was coming to them when they chased off Alan Pardew, didn't they? hahaha (of course spoken through the "He got them to Europe that one time" goggles)" It's even starting with Steve McClaren. He tries to skirt it, but his comments at this week's press conference suggest that he could well be on the same path already. "The fans were great against Aston Villa... for the most part".
Where is this all going, you ask? I thought we were talking about Christmas?! We are, and here is my Christmas wish for you. I wish that as the days pass, the target on your collective back will be removed. That you will be seen and appreciated for what you are... the most ardent, faithful, resilient group of supporters out there. My wish for you is that in the New Year, someone will look at things with true objectivity and finally say "You know, what? The Toon Army are right. Things should be better. Because Newcastle United fans deserve better."
Merry/Happy Christmas and/or Happy holidays to you all. We'll see you on Boxing Day.