Since lockdown began, roughly coinciding with the payment of deposit from the would-be new owners of our beloved club, Newcastle United fans have studied Arabic, developed radar and flight tracking skills, researched geopolitics and human rights issues in the Middle East, found a way to view courtrooms online and slid into the DMs of at least one Saudi bot. She said she loved me!
Such has been the intense thirst for knowledge of the unknowable that even Steve Wraith, a man whose livelihood depends on promotion, was forced to take a break from the self-promotion hub that is Twitter to escape the incessant bombardment of the increasingly-needy. George Caulkin allegedly now has several hundred restraining orders sitting on the desk of a furloughed clerk at Newcastle Crown Court and Chris Waugh is, well, still engaging politely with everyone. Maybe he’s a bot?
On the subject of journalists, it’s been a rough ride for many of them. Previously respected and undoubtedly connected men such as Luke Edwards have been rejected in favour of someone called TWONSAANK. A man, maybe, who only existed as of March 2020 as the offspring of a can of Monster and a Rustlers quarter pounder conceived in their Mam’s spare bedroom. At least they don’t sound a bit Southern and prefer wine over cans, eh? A desire to be told what you want to hear rather than the truth has long been a feature of the emotionally fragile but when the truth provides a lack of certainty, it is discarded in favour of fanciful claims. ‘ITK’ is undeniably the new ‘Y2K’. Yes, you think it could be something worth looking into but then one of the 86 billion neurons (for that’s all it should take) in your brain kicks in and you realise TWONSAANK spelled backwards is KNAAS NOWT!
It is unfortunate that there seems to be an endless supply of people willing to capitalise on the desperation of Newcastle United fans for the Mike Ashley era to be over. Such is the desire to break out of the Sports Direct bag for life, that a vulnerable group has been left exposed to the predators of temporary popularity. Perhaps pre-lockdown, when our minds were otherwise occupied, claims from a random social media account that they knew someone involved in the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund would have been laughed out of town. However, with little else to distract the majority of fans, cabin fever has led to convincing oneself that maybe TOONINSIDER69 did once work as a well-informed cleaner for the House of Saud.
The problem is that as these frauds collect their followers and likes to virtually feed their fragile egos, there are victims on the other side of their fictitious tweets. Regardless of what those removed from such a deep emotional investment think, there has undoubtedly been a substantial toll on the mental health of the Toon Army throughout this process. Even those who aim to provide caution, reason and information have often been caught in the crossfire of realisation that not everything you read on the internet is true.
While career journalists are scrutinised over semantics, NUFCINSIDER1892 is retweeted 1000 times before anyone pauses to ask a question. This is the problem with social media, nobody knows your credentials and expertise unless they ask, and you are truthful. You can claim to be whoever you want to be and claim to know whatever they want you to know. Critical analysis is the most effective weapon against this but unfortunately it is not one in everyone’s armoury and people are having to learn the hard way, through believing and being let down time after time. This has led to a section of fans becoming so exasperated with the situation that they no longer feel the excitement, replaced by a weary wish to have the matter resolved regardless of the outcome so that they can move on with their lives. Hang on in there.
My personal view, without any claim to know anything more than any man who can read or listen, has not changed throughout this process. My personal view is that the Premier League’s overriding ambition is to consolidate and expand on their position as the biggest football league in the world. The Premier League is a global brand and that brand is built on money. The TV rights, the prize money and the transfer fees are what fundamentally separates the Premier League from the rest. If I was running such an organisation and there was a bid for one of the twenty teams currently in my league from a prospective owner richer than the other nineteen combined, who could expand my global brand into the relatively untapped Middle Eastern market, then I would overlook anything I could legally overlook in order to accept them.
The Premier League, UEFA, FIFA and any other national or international governing body has rarely concerned itself with ethical and moral issues at the expense of expansion and profit (see Qatar 2022). I do not see why that would change now, in an unprecedented era of financial uncertainty when commitment to substantial and sustained investment has rarely been more required. Unfortunately, Newcastle United as a club and fan base are suffering from uncertainty as this process goes on but I disagree with a growing opinion that the Premier League is responsible to end this by expediting their final decision. We still have an owner and he is the man responsible for a dereliction of duty, allowing Newcastle United to sleepwalk further into a catatonic state. Just because you’re selling your house, you don’t allow the bathroom sink to overflow and bring down the living room ceiling and, if you did, it would not be the fault of the estate agent for taking their time with the paper work.
The one benefit of this extended period of uncertainty has been that the disaster capitalists of Twitter have exposed themselves with their ‘click-bait’, ‘sources’ and ‘announcements’. Now they are out in the open you must ruthlessly unfollow them, mute them and block them. They are the payday loan company of social media, thriving on the short-term need of the despairing while demanding a level of interest they do not deserve. They have redefined ‘exclusive’ to mean little more than copy and paste. It’s on, it’s off, green light, red flag, new hope, fresh doubt, they all know nowt. Lawyers and dentists are tagged in every post for their opinion and even Dominic Raab has provided an unexpected lifeboat just as some were drowning in an increasingly salty sea of Delaney’s tears. Filter your feed going forward to block out whatever and whoever has caused you angst or false hope over this grueling process. It is time to get smart as a fan base.
If you’re wise enough to now realise what click-bait looks like and wise enough to dismiss sensationalist headlines as rehashed stories from the previous week, then be wise enough to know that in an era of the loud you will find peace where it is quiet. In an age of CAPS LOCK and shouting, of extreme language and controversy, those with little to say will make the most noise as it is only attention that they crave. This is the dawn of the dumb. The truth is found when you find those who have nothing to gain from deviating from it. Ask yourself, ‘Why would they lie?’ and if you cannot think of a reason then they are who to follow. If they repeatedly bait you, do not bite but throw them in the sea. It’s getting very, very salty.
Keep the faith, keep the cans chilled and look after your mental health. Please. Howay the lads.