I have been watching football for as long as I can remember. Turning on the TV with my uncle and brother in 2002 early, and I mean early morning, I remember watching Brazil wreak havoc in the World Cup. I remember those days as vividly as I remember Germany’s 7-1 win over Brazil. Over these past eighteen years, I would like to think I have learned a thing or two about the realm of football. According to the dichotomous key that I have created over the years, there are three types of shockers in football.
The first kind is the one that everyone struggles to anticipate. Think Leicester’s title-winning run in 2016; there were 5000 to 1 odds of that happening. These can otherwise be classed the miracles.
The second kind is the one that everyone except for the involved team’s fans can anticipate. Think Liverpool’s failed title run in 2014 that culminated in Gerrard slipping one match and Suarez crying head in hands as he walked off the pitch the next match. That Liverpool team shipped in goals like it was nobody’s business, so there were always doubts from neutral and rival spectators about their ability to go all the way.
The last kind is the one that just about everyone anticipates, but the sheer shock factor involved is just so overwhelmingly difficult to comprehend. Germany’s 7-1 win over Brazil likely falls in this category as does Bayern’s demolition against Barca last week. Neymar was out with a back injury, so Brazil’s chances with *checks notes* Fred, Hulk, Oscar, and Bernard leading the line always looked slim. Onto the second example, Barcelona looked frail all season, so it couldn’t have been wise to think they’d edge out Bayern. I like to relate this type of shocker to the “our expectations for you were low but holy ****” meme that has done the numbers on twitter an endless amount of times or this.
For us Newcastle fans, I’d say the majority of the shockers that we have experienced fall into the second and third categories. I have always been a pretty optimistic person, but over the years, it’s gotten really hard to not be cynical about Newcastle United. I have transitioned from the second category to the third category. The list of transgressions that have set me on this path is extensive, and I won’t bore you with regurgitating them here. The point to be made here is that the unbridled hope I started my fandom of Newcastle United with has slowly deteriorated into cautious optimism which has then slowly transitioned into cynicism.
Entering the PIF takeover saga, the vast majority of fans approached with such cautious optimism. As the fans of rival teams put Newcastle fans in their cross-hairs and betting companies slashed the odds of Mbappe to Newcastle, most of us sat tight knowing better than to expect anything other than failure. Still, as the deal very publicly progressed, we were lulled with a sense of security and hope. The ultimate result was devastation (see category three above if necessary).
With the Staveley takeover just about dead in the water and Newcastle fumbling over its feet in the transfer window, it’s worth taking a moment to be introspective about your status as a Newcastle fan.
Speaking for myself, as a fan from overseas, I don’t have the sturdy bonds to the club that many can count upon. While local fans are able to count upon the fond memory of setting foot in St. James’ Park or listening to a Newcastle match on the radio for the first time, all I have to remember is the first Newcastle match I watched on TV as a fan. Sure, it was that famed Tyne-Wear Derby match where Ryan Taylor curled one past Mignolet to give Newcastle the edge, but that memory isn’t quite as substantial. My gravitation towards Newcastle was merely set in motion by a certain Cheick Tiote left-footed volley and a comparatively enjoyable FIFA 11 Newcastle Manager Mode.
This initial inclination might have been based on a bit of whim, but my bond to Newcastle eventually grew as I started drawing parallels between the club and myself. Like Newcastle, I came to see myself as a sleeping giant, capable of greatness yet undone by a few flaws. Coincidentally, one of the most devastating personal lows I experienced in recent years occurred within minutes of Sunderland scoring three past Everton to officially relegate Newcastle in 2016. That was a sad day for me personally, but it was actually a bit comforting to know that Newcastle was in the same boat as me. Of course, I would have preferred to see Newcastle stay in the PL in that 2016 season, but it was nice knowing I wasn’t alone.
For a long time, the hope was that Newcastle and I would both work to address our respective flaws to eventually reach our true potentials. I have made great strides to be a better version of myself, and it saddens me to see that Newcastle hasn’t done the same.
As another long and grueling season approaches, I can’t help but hear the timer going off in my head. It’s getting harder to shake the feeling that I have outgrown the Newcastle United that I once followed so optimistically. I need Newcastle to match my growth, and I don’t know how many more false dawns I will be able to endure.
So uhh... Newcastle United, if you are out there listening, can you let me know when you’ll be ready? ...because I am just about hanging on by a thread right now.