On a wet and gloomy Saturday, Newcastle fans were hoping their side would brighten their afternoon with a good performance against West Ham. It was anything but a good performance from Rafael Benitez’s side.
Newcastle had won their previous three games, they had a great chance of keeping their momentum going. In truth, the Magpies never really got going. They looked a shadow of the side that had played so well over the last few weeks. Benitez had opted to go with Javier Manquillo at left back, which was harsh on Ciaran Clark, who delivered one of his best performances in a Newcastle shirt against Burnley last Monday night.
Newcastle fans stepped up their protests against owner Mike Ashley, with an eleven minute walk in. That coincidentally came at the same time as West Ham’s first, the mood inside St James’ Park was very toxic, perhaps the worst it’s been since Newcastle played Hull during the 2008/09 season. Fans who decided to take their seat at kick off were booing those who took part in the eleventh minute walk in, that is not what is needed at all. Fans should be united against the owner, instead of turning on each other. The West Ham goal undoubtedly sparked anger in the stands. Perhaps if that didn’t happen at the same time as the walk in, those already in their seats would not have reacted in the way they did. Either way, it was an unacceptable reaction to a group of people trying to make a change at St James’ Park.
For all the efforts of the singing section to crank up the atmosphere, it remained toxic throughout. The substitution of Ayoze Perez summed the atmosphere and mood up. Some fans cheered Perez off the pitch, which won’t do his confidence any good. The Spaniard was guilty of missing a great chance with a header, however, for some supporters to react the way they did when Perez was substituted was horrible.
Last season, Newcastle fans were all in it together, united behind the players and Benitez. This season, with protests causing divisions in the fan base, there’s toxicity in the air that has made it’s way into St James’ Park. Benitez has worked so hard to united Newcastle fans, his message has always been to support the team. Cheering players off the pitch is not supporting the team, no matter how bad the performance, a player should not receive that reaction from his own fans.
There are so many opinions flying around, fans have to do what they believe is right, not what anybody else thinks. Fans do not have the right to tell other fans what they can and can’t do. If a fan wants to attend the next home game against Wolves, that does not mean they are in the wrong. It’s exactly the same for those choosing to boycott the Wolves game, they are not in the wrong for taking action and trying to make a change. Whatever the view, fans should stay united and support each other. Otherwise, the atmosphere inside St James’ Park will become more toxic.
Turning attention back to the game, West Ham’s quality told in the end. The Hammers spent a lot of money in the summer, in fact Felipe Anderson cost more than Newcastle’s starting eleven. That puts the ambitions of both clubs into perspective. West Ham have owners that want to take the club forward, whereas Newcastle have an owner that is happy to gamble on the clubs future. Ashley merely wants the club to survive in the Premier League, never spending large amounts in the transfer window and relying on a world class manager to work miracles. That world class manager could well be gone in the summer and Newcastle’s hope of a brighter future will be up in smoke. Benitez is vital to Newcastle’s future, it’s high time Ashley realises that.