The Death of Hope

Throughout it all, when our directors abused the fans and needlessly insulted smaller clubs, when they trousered pile after pile of our money in dodgy deals and shameless larceny.

When we signed Lee fu**ing Bowyer and showed we stood for nothing, when we allowed Paul Stretford to have an office at our home ground, even when we hired Graeme Souness in the worst executive decision of all time.

I could console myself that it wouldn’t always be so. Shepherd and the idiot son were not our club. They may have spread their filth everywhere, but some values remained. And one day circumstances would change, and we would be allowed to realise our potential, and live up to our glorious history.

The revolution came. Shepherd, Souness et al have remained out of jail, but you never know what might emerge eventually. They rot as the non-entities that they are, in any case. A new board took power, with a new chairman who spoke articulately of the need to change the ethos of those in paid employment at the club, to restore it as an institution worthy of respect and loyalty.

My mind whirled with the notion of the community club, a force for overt good in its region, an inspiration for naïve youth, a passion for the dedicated matchgoers, an old and trusted companion for the more battle-hardened among us. I imagined how kids would be desperate to play for us.

How parents would talk excitedly to their neighbours about such a possibility. How the players would belong to the fans who knew them intimately, and would in turn be rewarded with total support. How we would never have a Barton or a Bowyer on our books.

How it would always be said: “Newcastle players don’t dive.” We wouldn’t need a Russian sugar-daddy or an American corporation to give us our identity. From the bottom up, we would be Newcastle United, and anybody who didn’t like it, well they could sling their hook.

One problem remained from the old regime. A brutish hangover by the name of Allardyce. A limited man, not without some qualities, but manifestly the wrong man for the job of ending the hegemony of the agents, opening up the institution to the community, and playing a bit of fear-free football.

His bluster and oafishness had no place in the hopeful new world. There can be no “safe areas” at St James’ Park. The chairman and owner were seen wearily shaking their heads as he bawled at professional footballers to lump it into the corners.

And now they have acted, as we knew they must, at the considerable disdain and glee of the know-nothings, the Big Sam brigade in the media, the purveyors of clichés, the wind-up merchants, and the deep, ignorant mass of the English football establishment. We stand poised for glory.

Will we appoint a dignified winner? A man of gravity who will cost the earth for three, four, five years, but will deliver in the first XI, while the work of club-building goes on around him? A Capello, a Lippi, a Mourinho? Or will we find an acorn, someone to oversee every aspect of our institutional growth, to delegate and cajole, to inspire, to live and breathe and bleed black-and-white? The new Wenger?

Neither, it seems. We seem cursed to relive past sins. We covet the latest media-mated English top dog. We go cap in hand to a man who despises us. A man with his own Panorama issues. A man who will build Paul Stretford a bigger office. We will throw some money around.

Some of it will even end up on the pitch. We will be the shiny new plaything with the rotten English core. Do we hate all those new Chelsea fans talking up their wonderful history of being one of the biggest clubs in Europe for almost four and a half years? That will be us, but crappier, more desperate.

Players will come and go, and kiss the badge even as they laugh in our faces. We will get more hysterical. We are the laughable collection of gullible provincial fools that others try to paint us as. We’re shit, and I’m sick of it.

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