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Magpie Hoping To Keep His Shirt For Burnley On Sunday



It’s been a very frustrating time for Matt Ritchie over the past few seasons at Newcastle. The 31-year-old has endured two seasons in which he’s missed a massive chunk due to a serious injury. He’s also had issues getting on the pitch after being an ever-present figure over his first three seasons on Tyneside.

Ritchie suffered a serious ankle injury early last season that kept him out for four months. Though he did return to play in all but 2 league games, 11 of which he started. However, this season has been quite different for the fiery winger.

It started with Ritchie being linked with a return to Bournemouth. The move never materialized but Ritchie was only on the bench during our first two league matches. Then Matt suffered a shoulder injury in his first league start which sidelined him for two months.

When he returned, he made 5 starts in December and January but Newcastle were in the midst of a torrid run. Steve Bruce refused to let Ritchie rejoin Bournemouth during the winter window and from mid-January to the 1-1 draw against Wolves, Ritchie didn’t get on the pitch for 8 matches.


Bruce brought Ritchie on as a substitute against Wolves. The head coach decided to switch the system and sent Matt on with instructions. However, Wolves quickly equalized soon after the change. After the match, Bruce unwisely blurted out that Ritchie hadn’t got his instructions on quick enough.

What happened in training the next week has been well documented as the two had a bust-up. Ritchie hadn’t made an appearance since until Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Tottenham where he put in a monstrous performance on the left.

Bruce brought Ritchie back in as he shifted to a 5-3-2. It worked wonders as both Ritchie and Jacob Murphy, playing on the right, got down the flanks to get balls into the box.

Ritchie has given an interview to NUFC TV today in which he was asked about Sunday’s draw and the rest of the season.

This was Ritchie’s response when asked if Sunday was a step forward:

“I think so. I think it was a good performance. Obviously, a change of system suited us against a very good team.

“It was a good performance and a point. Hopefully, it’s a good point.”

Newcastle did enough to win the match against a Spurs side who weren’t at their best. Except for the spell following Joelinton’s goal where Harry Kane grabbed two quick goals, Newcastle were in the ascendancy for much of the match.

Ritchie played a big part in both goals. For the first, he intercepted a poor pass from the back and got the ball to Sean Longstaff. The midfielder played a superb pass to Joelinton, who put it in the back of the net.

For the second, it was Ritchie’s deep cross that Joelinton headed back across the box which eventually Joe Willock blasted off the underside of the crossbar for the dramatic equalizer.


The overall performance was a stark cry for the one at Brighton just two weeks before. Ritchie was asked about the difference in mentality between the two matches but he preferred to concentrate on the positives from Spurs saying the following:

“They were different games. I don’t think you can compare them to one another.

“I think we played with intensity. What we did do well was we pressed and played with intensity when we had the ball. I thought we played with real purpose.”

It was Ritchie’s first start since early January. He benefitted from the change of system to include wing-backs. It’ll be very interesting to see if Bruce keeps with the formation this weekend.

Ritchie had the following response when asked about getting back into the team:

“Of course, I’ve been chomping at the bit to get back in. Worked hard in training and lucky enough got back in the team.

“Now I have to try and keep my shirt and perform. It’s the business end of the season now so performances need to be high.

“Hopefully, we can pick up points.”

To continue to pick up points, Newcastle need to cut out the drastic dips in performances like at Brighton. This inconsistency has plagued the team this season. Ritchie said the following about keeping a certain standard:

“The bare minimum every week is to work hard, play with desire and the mentality to win the game.

“As we found out, in the Premier League if you don’t do that and don’t have the quality as well then you won’t get results. I don’t think that is in question with the lads. We give everything week in week out. We’ve fallen short with the results.

“Hopefully, as I say, it’s the business end of the season and we can pick up some points on the run in over the next few weeks.”

Next on the docket is a trip to Turf Moor to take on Burnley. Newcastle won the home fixture 3-1 in early October, which Ritchie missed with his shoulder injury. That match saw a brace from Callum Wilson and a goal from Allan Saint-Maximin.

Allan returned against Spurs to spark the late rally. However, Wilson’s availability for Sunday is still unclear as he’s just returned to full training this week. It would be some boost to slot Wilson back in the upfront.

Ritchie was finally asked about the mood this week after the positive result over the weekend. The performance seems to have given the squad a lift as they prepare for Burnley on Sunday.

Here is Ritchie’s response about the current mood in the team:

“Of course it’s good. The performance was good at the weekend.

“We now look towards Burnley who we know are a good team. They have their philosophy, have their style. We’ll look to implement our style on them.”

How Will Newcastle Fare At Burnley On Sunday?

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280 comments so far

  • cleveleysbob

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:42 AM

    Comment #241

    GT that’s a significant start in just 40minutes.

    I thought the account didn’t open until tomorrow? Must have misread that bit.

    1
  • captainmarvel

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:47 AM

    Comment #242

    It will be very interesting what the consortium think of this idea..It may, just may, help get their bid over the line if they accept the NUST idea?
    Personally it does not worry me at all, I will contribute, if it does not happen charities will benefit..I cannot see a problem with that.

    2
  • geordietom

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:48 AM

    Comment #243

    cleveleysbob…

    are you taking the michael 😀

    0
  • kimbo

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:48 AM

    Comment #244

    With regards the buying of a share in NUFC, why not aim high and get 10k people to give £30K each to buy the club?
    My middle name is Rio!!!!!

    1
  • cleveleysbob

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:49 AM

    Comment #245

    Also, the minimum pledge is £1/month, I don’t think anyone on here can’t afford that.

    Plus, if you don’t want to make a monthly/annual commitment, you can make a single payment of whatever you deem appropriate to your own financial situation.

    This is not a mugging, it’s an opportunity and a bloody good one. With a positive outcome we could have a say in how the clubs ran in the future, something we’ve not had in

    5
  • geordietom

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:50 AM

    Comment #246

    captainmarvel…

    Well said mate love the bit about charities will benefit…

    2
  • cleveleysbob

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:50 AM

    Comment #247

    129 years

    Got excited, hit submit too soon!

    A bit of premature submission going on 😉

    5
  • captainmarvel

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:51 AM

    Comment #248

    In fact this idea puts pressure on the Premier league more than anything else as it gives albeit a small say in the running of football clubs..

    4
  • Adamn_92

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:51 AM

    Comment #249

    Be interesting to know who they’ve spoken to, have they spoken to Ashley or to the consortium? Ashley would likely refuse to sell them anything, the consortium I imagine can’t guarantee anything until they know if they’ll actually be successful in buying the club. So at this point in time I would guess they have no assurances at being able to buy any shares at all, even any future owners would have to agree to it which again wouldn’t be a guarantee. Even if pledges fail to result in a stake though, it’d be a good donation to charities so win win I suppose.

    2
  • kimbo

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:53 AM

    Comment #250

    If the NUST want to have a bigger say in the club, a fans boycott of season ticket renewal would be more effective.

    3
  • simon376

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:55 AM

    Comment #251

    Adamn
    Exactly, suppose just got to hope, but at least being involved even just in a small way is better than it is now

    0
  • Mund

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:55 AM

    Comment #252

    They even ran it by Staveley and the big hitters are very big hitters

    2
  • cleveleysbob

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:55 AM

    Comment #253

    GT , no 😉

    I read the bit about “official launch @ 7pm tomorrow” and thought that meant for the fund.

    Current amount £1877

    3
  • Mund

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:55 AM

    Comment #254

    I hope we don’t have some fans on here trying to make it into a negative.

    3
  • DubaiMicky

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:56 AM

    Comment #256

    Who in the pledge group would be put up for the O and D test?

    3
  • onmeedsun

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:58 AM

    Comment #257

    Mund
    I’m all for it but would pledge more if I knew for sure it would achieve its objective or failing that return the funds.

    0
  • cleveleysbob

    Apr 8, 2021 at 10:59 AM

    Comment #258

    We need a few Geordie big hitters to stick some significant amounts in, so that us ordinary folk can get some encouragement from the numbers rising.

    1
  • Adamn_92

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:00 AM

    Comment #259

    They may have ran it by Staveley but that would still rely on the takeover happening first. No guarantee of that yet which means they would stand no chance with Ashley and it’d be a guessing game as to who any potential future owner(s) would be and if they’d agree to it. Not being negative about it, think it’s a great idea and the worst scenario is a big charity donation so can’t lose really. Just comes with potential problems as expected. But like I say, worst case scenario is still a good thing anyway.

    5
  • carltoon

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:01 AM

    Comment #260

    Well definitely a great idea for me I’ll put my pledge in. It gives a chance to the whole fan base all over the world to do something POSITIVE.

    2
  • Mund

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:02 AM

    Comment #261

    onmeedsun

    That’s fair mate as it’s all pretty recent and I guess we need to understand a lot more before fully committing to anything.

    1
  • cleveleysbob

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:04 AM

    Comment #262

    Onmeedson- it’s your decision, but you have to be prepared to write off whatever you put in.

    Either it’s going towards us owning a say in our club or it’s likely going to charity.

    Either way you won’t see it again, any contribution has to given with that in mind. It’s more likely you will not see it again than you will, you just have to know that and only submit what you can afford to lose.

    Personally, I think it’s bloody great news and an opportunity we’d be mugs to miss out on.

    4
  • cleveleysbob

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:05 AM

    Comment #263

    Well said Carltoon, 100% agree.

    1
  • DubaiMicky

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:06 AM

    Comment #264

    Maybe this will help?

    https://theathletic.com/2500929/2021/04/08/explained-newcastle-united-fans-launch-bid-to-own-share-of-the-club/

    Explained: Newcastle United fans launch bid to own share of the club
    By Chris Waugh 1h ago

    Throughout Mike Ashley’s 14 years of ownership, Newcastle United fans have furiously debated how they can best influence decision-making at their club.

    Over the past 12 months, that sense of helplessness has only intensified as the prospective takeover has stalled, the team have plummeted down the Premier League table, and the club has become stuck in damaging purgatory.

    Now, the Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) believes it has come up with an idea to increase fan representation. It has launched an ambitious new supporter-funded scheme called the 1892 Pledge, the first of its kind to be proposed by fans of a Premier League outfit, to offer a pathway towards potential part-ownership of their beloved football team.

    But what is the idea? And is purchasing a stake in the club really realistic?

    What’s the big plan?

    “This club is our club.” That is the tagline being used by the NUST to launch this initiative — and the idea is to try to raise enough funds so that supporters can eventually buy a stake in Newcastle United.

    “The club belongs to the fans,” says Alex Hurst, an NUST board member who has worked on the pledge with Norman Watson, its secretary, since 2018. “It’s time that, as a fanbase, we organise ourselves so that we can be heard by future owners of the football club, as part-owners ourselves, even if it’s of a very small percentage of the club.”

    The NUST, which has more than 14,000 members, is a democratic, fan-run organisation, whose board has voted unanimously in favour of pursuing a long-term strategy to raise funds to try to one day ensure supporter representation at Newcastle United.

    “The Trust exists to have all Newcastle United supporters involved in the ownership of this great club,” the pledge’s mission statement reads. “We believe that through fan ownership, we will be able to secure the future of NUFC for all time. We want the club to operate with integrity and transparency and have a clear strategy for success, on and off the pitch.”

    As Ian Mearns, MP for Gateshead, a St James’ Park season-ticket holder and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Football Supporters, says, “This is fans working together to safeguard the interest of fans, who are not only the paying customers of Newcastle United but also its beating heart.”

    Is the NUST trying to buy the club?

    No. This is certainly not an NUST-fronted takeover attempt set to rival the Amanda Staveley-led consortium’s pursuit of the club.

    “This is not an intention for the Trust to buy the club from Mike Ashley,” Hurst says. “That’s not realistic, because of the figures he wants. This is so that, when the club does change hands — and we hope it will, preferably soon, but whenever it does — we can sit down as a Trust, with new owners, and ask for a share in the club, relative to what we raise.

    “We want supporter influence, at the very least, in how the club is run. Rather than what we have now, which is to go through the fan-engagement process at Newcastle, which has led to promises being made and rarely ever delivered upon. I don’t want to get to the stage with new owners where we’re relying solely on their interests of goodwill when it comes to listening to what supporters think. We want to be at the table, with a stake.”

    There is an element of future-proofing about this scheme, too.

    Although the NUST wants to buy a small stake if Newcastle remains a Premier League club, it also wants to have funds ready to call upon should they tumble down the divisions. Sunderland, Portsmouth and Wigan Athletic are just some recent examples of clubs sold from one unpopular owner to another.

    “Fans in almost all those circumstances tried to raise money to help their clubs,” says Warren Barton, the former Newcastle defender and a guardian of the pledge. “We want to be proactive, not reactive, and make sure the money is there, ready, in case that eventually happens.”

    Is it realistic for them to ever buy Newcastle?

    As a Premier League club? Almost certainly not.

    Ashley has agreed a £305 million deal with Staveley’s consortium and, in the short-to-medium term, the NUST is highly unlikely to raise anything close to that amount of money.

    But the goal, for now at least, is not to own 100 per cent of Newcastle United, or even a majority stake. They hope to raise funds to buy a single-digit percentage share in the club, which could be increased over time.

    Should Newcastle be relegated and Ashley, or any future owner, accept a lower figure for the club, however, then the NUST may be in a position to bid for a greater stake.

    “It’s important people realise that supporter-owned doesn’t mean supporter-run,” says Hurst. “This isn’t a case of the NUST board thinking they know how to run a football club. Far from it. We want talented and experienced people from within the football industry employed to run the club, so it can be the best it can be as a sporting entity.

    “The club is (currently) a million miles from that and we believe supporter influence is key to ensure the club is being run for the supporters, who are the ones who matter most.”

    How much will it cost?

    That is a difficult question to answer.

    There is no set target amount, and no timescale for it to be raised, although ideally, the NUST would like to own at least a one per cent stake at some stage. Given Ashley’s current valuation, that would work out at £3.05 million, but that figure would decrease significantly if Newcastle slipped out of the Premier League.

    If the NUST can raise greater funds, however, then they would look to buy a larger stake in the club.

    Have any other clubs ever done anything similar? And did it work?

    There are examples, yes, although not at Premier League level.

    But the NUST has sought advice from supporters of clubs who have attempted fan-ownership models elsewhere, including consulting with members of the Foundation Of Hearts (FoH), who raised funds via a pledge to rescue leading Scottish club Hearts from administration in 2014.

    “If the Foundation Of Hearts hadn’t set up a year before we went into administration, then Hearts would no longer be here,” says Garry Halliday of FoH. “My advice to Newcastle is: Be ready for any eventuality and get prepared.”

    More than 8,000 Hearts fans have donated a total of almost £12 million over eight years, an average of £16 a month each. And, later this year, once Hearts owner Ann Budge hands over her shares to the FoH, supporters will have a 76 per cent stake in the Edinburgh side.

    “It was initially a back-of-cigarette packet idea but, over time, we formalised things,” Halliday says. “When Vladimir Romanov was owner, we tried to negotiate to buy the club, and he was quoting us stupid prices like £50 million-plus, which we could never have afforded but, once the club went into administration, supporters mobilised and raised the money we needed.”

    Although Halliday expected “pledge fatigue” to set in, the opposite has happened, and supporters contribute between £1.4 million and £1.5 million a year to what has become an “additional revenue stream”.

    “So many people thought we were crazy when we first started,” says Halliday. “But we’ve shown it can work. If you mobilise fans, anything is possible.”

    Over in Glasgow, Rangers fans are also seeking part-ownership of the new Scottish champions, and Club 1872, who own 4.9 per cent of shares already, are hoping to increase their stake beyond 25 per cent within three years, at a cost of £13.3 million.

    The model has not become as widespread in England, although Portsmouth were run by the Pompey Supporters’ Trust for four years after they rescued the club from administration.

    At Premier League level, however, there is no precedent for what the NUST is attempting.

    “The Hearts model is great and has worked well, but we’ve got extra zeros involved at Newcastle and that’s my concern,” says Kieran Maguire, a lecturer in football finance and author of The Price Of Football. “It’s a huge challenge at Newcastle because it’s on a different scale to anything we’ve seen before. I’m all for more fan representation, but raising the money is always the issue. And in the Premier League, the costs involved are so much higher.”

    What are supporters being asked to do?

    The Trust has set up a website — 1892pledge.co.uk — where fans who are interested can set up an account that will allow them to either give a one-off pledge or establish a monthly one.

    There is no set amount that supporters must give. It is entirely voluntary, with a minimum of £1 a time and fans can increase or decrease their pledge donations at any point.

    “We want fans to be in complete control of how much money they want, and can afford, to donate,” Hurst says. “Whether it’s a quid, £20, or £100, on a one-off or monthly basis, it’s entirely up to you.”

    What happens to the donated money?

    The money will be held in a secure account and can only be used for two purposes.

    “We can be completely up front with supporters that the money will only be used for two things,” Hurst says. “No 1, to buy shares in Newcastle United. Or, if we fail in that endeavour, then, No 2, it will be donated to local charities.”

    To ensure the fund is protected, four “guardians” have been appointed to oversee how it is spent: Mearns, Barton, the former Newcastle defender, George Caulkin, a writer for The Athletic, and Lee Humble, a chartered accountant.

    The funds can only be spent if and when the membership of the NUST vote for them to be. The NUST also operates a strict “one member, one vote” policy, regardless of how much an individual has pledged.

    But the money cannot be returned to supporters, all donations are final. If the scheme does not grow by more than 10 per cent, year on year, the guardians will vote on whether to continue the fundraising or donate the money to charity, a decision that would then be ratified by NUST members.

    “This money will not be wasted. It is Newcastle fans’ money and they will be the ones who decide where it goes,” says Barton. “If we don’t think it becomes realistic to buy a stake in the club, the money won’t just sit there. This money can only benefit either Newcastle United, the local area, or both.”

    Are Newcastle United and Mike Ashley involved?

    No. The NUST is an independent, fan-run organisation and the pledge has nothing to do with the club.

    “No one at the Trust has ever spoken to, or had any correspondence with, the current owner,” the Trust says.

    Is this just a reaction to poor results this season? Or to Rio Ferdinand’s comments?

    TV pundit and former England defender Ferdinand said last month that Geordies should “round your money up and take over the club” if they want rid of Ashley, but Hurst says the plan has been in the works long before then.

    “The catalyst for this was when a planned ‘walk-in’ from supporters against West Ham in December 2018 fell flat and I realised something had to change,” he says.

    “We started planning this when we assumed Rafa Benitez was still going to be at the club, so this is not a reaction to Steve Bruce or recent results. It’s a long-term plan because the long-term problems at Newcastle United are not just unique to the club in terms of a lack of fan influence, but we think they’re worse than anywhere else.”

    Discussions started among NUST board members in 2017 and this launch has been years in the making, including research trips to Edinburgh to garner information from Hearts supporters.

    “It’s got to the stage where sitting back and doing nothing is no longer an option,” Mearns says. “We still hope for the best when it comes to a takeover, but we’ve got to prepare for the worst. We need to try and buy a stake so fans can be heard. Having a fanbase working together, through the NUST’s pledge, would be a powerful tool to have when negotiating with any potential new owner.”

    Does it affect the prospective takeover? Were the buyers already aware of these plans?

    No, it does not affect the prospective takeover, but the NUST has made the would-be buyers aware of their plans, and they have been received positively.

    “The Trust is always going to be positive towards new ownership and we want to work with them for the best of the supporters, and to help them,” Hurst says. “But we don’t want it to be solely down to a new owner and what they decide. Let’s be at the table with the only thing that matters in football these days: money.”

    Last summer, Hurst and the Trust spoke with Staveley and, during their conversations, they discussed the need for greater fan representation in the future. Although no promises were made, Hurst was encouraged by the tone of the response.

    Would a fan-owned club in the modern, money-dominated football world actually be a good idea?

    That’s an unanswerable question because it’s not been attempted in the Premier League — yet.

    “Hearts (currently well on their way to promotion back to the Premiership as Championship title winners) are about to become the biggest fan-owned club in the UK,” Halliday says. “It’s an idea which has worked, but Newcastle would be the biggest club yet to do it.”

    This is unchartered territory, and those behind the scheme admit they have no idea whether it will succeed.

    “It’s certainly worth a try,” says Mearns. “Fans get taken for granted and that’s got to stop. There’s no other customer-focused business that I can think of that treats its own customer-base as badly as football treats fans.”

    The NUST says it is not trying to buy Newcastle and then expect to compete financially with other Premier League owners, it merely wants a minority stake in the club, certainly to begin with.

    And, at a time when “Project Big Picture” and controversial Champions League reforms are being proposed by a handful of wealthy owners, supporters are desperately attempting to find ways to exert some sort of influence over decision-making within the game.

    But, while Maguire has offered advice to the NUST and supports the scheme, he believes there is “good and bad to it”.

    “I’m hugely in favour of fan representation but owning shares is not necessarily the best vehicle through which it can be delivered,” says Maguire. “As we’ve seen previously at Arsenal, with Stan Kroenke having around 65 per cent of the shares and (Alisher) Usmanov 35 per cent, Kroenke still didn’t give Usmanov a place on the board.

    “This doesn’t guarantee you representation, because with a minority stake you’re still the tail and you’re not wagging the dog. From a PR point of view, new owners would be stupid not to offer representation, but buying a few per cent stake doesn’t guarantee it.

    “Still, the scheme is good in theory, and there are parallels with Rangers. Rangers are looking to raise around £15 million for a 25 per cent share, which is a big ask, even with all the best intentions in the world. For Newcastle, the task is even bigger and we’ve never seen it before on this scale.”

    The architects behind the scheme recognise that what they are attempting is unprecedented, and accept their goals may not prove attainable.

    “We’re not guaranteeing anything in terms of what can be achieved,” Hurst says, “and we’re not selling anything here, apart from hope.”

    So, is this all just pie in the sky?

    The Trust says not.

    “I’d agree that it’s very, very ambitious,” says Hurst. “And I’d also agree there’s a chance it might not happen. But I’d much rather give it a go and, worst-case scenario, raise some money for charity rather than be looking back in two, three or four years, if the club falls down the leagues, and wishing we had started this sooner. I actually wish I’d done something like this 10 years ago, so that we’d be ready now to sit around the table with prospective new owners and ask to buy a stake.”

    Hearts fans were mocked when they first proposed their scheme and, although the figures involved are vastly different, Halliday believes the model can be replicated over the border in the Premier League.

    “I cannot tell you how many times I was told to give up because we’d never succeed,” he says. “I used to hand leaflets out next to (Hearts’ stadium) Tynecastle and thousands of times I was told to stick them where the sun doesn’t shine. But eventually, we won them round.

    “At Hearts, we were born out of crisis and Newcastle are in a similar boat. The passion among a football support is unbelievable and Newcastle is a massive, massive club. It’s about getting the ball rolling and, once it picks up speed, you’ll be amazed by how it grows.”

    “This is about having something optimistic to get behind,” Barton says. “We haven’t had a feel-good factor in recent years but, when that fanbase gets mobilised, I’ve seen the power of what it can achieve. It is a special club and a special fanbase.”

    “We’re not guaranteeing anything but, if Hearts fans can raise nearly £12 million, we have global support and are one of the biggest football clubs in the world, so what can we achieve?” Hurst says. “We’re keen to find out what the limit of our ambition is as a support, and whether we can make a real difference to the future of this club.”

    3
  • cleveleysbob

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:06 AM

    Comment #265

    £2244

    1
  • cleveleysbob

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:17 AM

    Comment #266

    £2562

    1
  • geordietom

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:21 AM

    Comment #267

    wheres STING when we need him ? …

    1
  • cleveleysbob

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:22 AM

    Comment #268

    £2930

    Come on fellow bloggers let’s get behind this, it’s rolling now.

    https://1892pledge.co.uk/?mc_cid=693444ee38&mc_eid=de229b1001

    1
  • DubaiMicky

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:23 AM

    Comment #269

    And now George Caulkin

    The last year has shown how football needs its fans – so how how do they reclaim power?

    To witness pandemic football in person remains a strange form of privilege, even now, one lost year in. To be here is the thing, or so I always thought, but when I look around this cavernous stadium, at 11 men sweating ineffectually in the mid-distance, the emotional instincts are gone. A club — any club — is a collection of people brought together for a common cause and, it turns out, I love people. For an antisocial bastard, this is an entirely devastating realisation.

    I understand it better now. For a quarter of a decade, wrestling with newspaper deadlines, my responses were dictated by a crowd; the noise swelled and I glanced up from my laptop. The explosions of fury, the jittery quiet, that sullen tension and those brief, nothing-else moments of lose-yourself glee were the bits that mattered, the bits that informed what I wrote. Now? I see a hole and hear silence. I feel numb.

    It’s funny; pre-COVID-19, the bit about Saturday I loved most was an hour or so before kick-off. I would arrive at St James’ Park and head straight towards the pitch. They would be testing the tannoy, the stewards would be bunched together, getting their orders. You could look around and the emptiness throbbed, about to be filled. And for this small time, in spite of it all, anything seemed possible. A human drama in waiting, just add humans.

    None of this, by the way, is meant to exclude those who offer support from afar. You can be a rabid Newcastle United fan in Portland, Oregon (AJ, my younger brother, is precisely that), just as you can in Wallsend. But whoever and wherever we are, for football to work, there must be a collective buying into something; history or family or place or chance or one great player or just a feeling. To be the member of a club, for it to represent you… somehow, you have to invest belief.

    You would like to think that when proper football eventually returns, however it returns, there would be a recalibration back towards people and the atmosphere they generate. You would like to think so, but the signs are not auspicious. Project Big Picture, proposals for a European Super League, demonstrate that the richer you are, the more money you crave. They want to carve it up, make it less competitive and less accessible.

    And then the inevitable questions: what are we supposed to do about it? What can we do?

    When 10,000 supporters walked away from Newcastle in the summer of 2019, disillusioned by the departure of Rafa Benitez as manager and the long, wearing nature of Mike Ashley’s ownership, the club responded by giving away part season tickets. It might have been a mirage, but the stadium stayed full. For the past 12 months — here and everywhere — we have seen what emptiness truly means. Without people, the notion of a club withers.

    So, to put that a different way, Ashley’s name may be on the deeds to the building or on the salient documents at Companies House, but with no people inside St James’ Park, this idea of Newcastle United blurs. United in what? United, but apart? United in silence? Power is felt in its absence. It is a perversity and a cause of upset, but by not being there, supporters have shown an unwilling strength.

    “What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.”

    These are the words of Sir Bobby Robson, taken from his final book. They have been romanticised to the point of cliche, but I make no apology for the quotation. I helped Bobby write that book and I’m beyond proud of it. They describe Sir Bobby’s introduction to Newcastle and to football and they were mine, too. In his version of a club — one that has been increasingly difficult to hold onto — nothing matters as much as us.

    This week, the Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) launch their 1892 Pledge. This is its answer to the questions: what are we supposed to do about it? What can we do? This is its attempt at reclamation, to redefine what a club is and should be. This is its attempt to harness your power, to start the process of helping a club feel like a club again. It is a mass fundraising plan aimed at ownership, or a bit of it.

    As the Trust says, “We want to change the future of Newcastle United. We want to buy a share of Newcastle United to belong to supporters. When the club is sold we want to be at the negotiating table to give fans a voice in how the club is run. If the club falls through the divisions we want to be ready to save it. We want to be proactive, not reactive. We want to be ready to act. Supporters already put tens of millions of pounds into the club. We think we need to put aside a small portion of that to give fans a stake in their own club.”

    Elsewhere, my colleague, Chris Waugh, examines the details of the pledge and puts it into context. This is my own rambling explanation, because along with three other people, the Trust has asked me to act as a Guardian for the money it raises, ensuring it is not misspent. It is an honour to have this responsibility, to share it with Warren Barton, the former Newcastle player, Ian Mearns, the Labour MP for Gateshead and Lee Humble, a chartered accountant.

    It is a project long in the planning — way before the coronavirus — and yet the moment feels right, in both a narrow and a wider sense. If football without fans means less, then this pared-down, stripped-back, cold and aloof Newcastle have already blazed an inglorious trail. Emptiness is engrained. When they don’t care about you, robbed of ambition, scraping along and barely ticking over, how do you care about them? Or, like the 10,000, do you stop and walk away?

    If your first response to fan ownership is to dismiss it as fantasy, then fair enough. Mine was, too, and I believe in it. I believe that our clubs should be enshrined as community assets and protected in the same way that we protect listed buildings and if I don’t have a joined-up way of reaching that point, then I’m sorry. In the Premier League, with Ashley looking to sell Newcastle for £305 million, all this stuff feels so distant, so remote, so expensive, so out of reach.

    Yet Newcastle under Ashley has not always been worth that much. In 2009, he came close to selling to Barry Moat, a local businessman, for £80 million. It makes you wonder. And should Newcastle get relegated this season, at least £100 million would be, by common consent, wiped from their value. And what if they were to follow the route of Sunderland and plenty of other big clubs and land in League One. What if it’s worse? And what if fans were prepared for it?

    Initially, the Trust is not talking about full custody. It is about raising enough for a small stake in the club, enough to be heard. That entails an ownership willing to listen, which Ashley seldom has, but others may take a different view and this is not a project which can be judged over days or weeks. It will take years of patience and commitment and effort. Even then, it might not bear fruit (in which case, charities in the north east will benefit).

    For me, it’s about meaning. It’s also about having a go. Doing something is always more difficult than doing nothing (see also: changing managers at Newcastle), but having criticised Ashley’s running of the club for so long and taking it personally, I want to be part of something positive, to feel there is an alternative. To feel, full stop. The Trust, the pledge, is another version of Newcastle. It is people. A club. And I’m happy to be part of it, to belong. Maybe it will work. Maybe other fans, other clubs, will follow.

    As well as my role as Guardian, I’ll be contributing every month to the scheme. For the past couple of years, I’ve had a relationship with my local gym — in return for a regular fee, I choose not to go. This tells me a couple of things. I should probably do something else with the money and I can probably afford to. It also makes me lucky. Not everybody will want to do it. Not everybody will be able to, particularly when they already pay for tickets, for Sky or BT Sport. And we are not advising that people should. I can and will.

    We have all lost something to the coronavirus. We have lost people and our proximity to people. We took our presence in football for granted and we accepted our lack of power as read, but so did football and so did the Premier League. In losing one, we should question the other. Without us, these are not clubs. They are television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments. They are buildings and directors, empty shirts and shells. We fill them. We make them.

    This column is the writer’s own view and not an endorsement by The Athletic Media Company.

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  • cleveleysbob

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:23 AM

    Comment #270

    Mark Knopfler

    Ant and Dec

    Alan Shearer

    Come on, you know you want to. 🙂

    1
  • geordietom

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:26 AM

    Comment #271

    Rowan Atkinson he’s a a Consett lad…

    1
  • DONEGAL NUFC IRL

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:26 AM

    Comment #272

    My wee 20 euro not make much difference, but nust can have it.

    5
  • geordietom

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:27 AM

    Comment #273

    JIMMY NAIL …

    1
  • geordietom

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:28 AM

    Comment #274

    Atkinson now lives mostly at his £4.65 million London home with his actress girlfriend, Louise Ford, 32. looks like he’s not short of a few bob …

    1
  • cleveleysbob

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:29 AM

    Comment #275

    GT, send him the link 🙂

    1
  • geordietom

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:33 AM

    Comment #276

    just checked to see how much he’s worth 125 million …

    0
  • geordietom

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:35 AM

    Comment #277

    STINGS worth 400 million …

    1
  • geordietom

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:36 AM

    Comment #278

    thats dollars …

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  • geordietom

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:37 AM

    Comment #279

    Ant, 44, and Dec, 45, have a current net worth of around £62 million each

    1
  • geordietom

    Apr 8, 2021 at 11:38 AM

    Comment #280

    How much is Alan Shearer Worth? Alan Shearer net worth: Alan Shearer is an English retired soccer player who has a net worth of $52.5 million.

    0
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