Imagine wanting your own team to lose. Imagine wanting the opposition to score. Imagine cursing a last minute equaliser for your side, or being nonplussed by a well-timed tackle. It’s contradictory to the very nature of “support” but it’s a position I now find myself in due to the staggering ineptitude of Alan Pardew. My desire to see him removed from his post has superseded my natural instincts to be a supporter – at least to be a supporter in an orthodox sense.
Newcastle United has always been a constant in my life around ever changing circumstances. I would be hopelessly devoted to every result, every goal, every tackle, corner or substitution. If we lost I’d be in a sombre mood until the next game, if we won I’d be high on the promise of more to come.
It’s with a heavy heart that I now look at my team with an emotional distance. I don’t feel like celebrating the goals. The charlatan in charge has steadily eroded my love for the team. There are many things Pardew has done that are beyond reproach, but causing fans to support the opposition is by far the most heinous.
It’s hard to pinpoint where this first began. It would be remiss of me to say that I’ve always disliked Pardew and could see this happening from the start. Sure, like others I was hugely disappointed with his initial appointment, but like any manager I was willing to give him a chance. An oft-repeated rebuttal to my criticism of Pardew is “well what about when he got us 5th?”. That season was of course a good achievement, however there were certainly signs then that the football was unsustainable and predicated on one or two outstanding individual performances each week.
I’d lost patience with him some time during the start of the 2012/13 season. The displays the side were turning out were comfortably some of the worst I’ve seen (and I was at Villa Park when we went down). The management was bizarre to say the least, Ben Arfa was rarely used, Cisse shunted to right wing, counter productive substitutions, hopeful long balls, turgid defensive football. The list goes on. It was at this point that I picked up on Pardew’s propensity to blame all manner of things for our defeats. He would find a way to deflect the blame from falling on him through any means necessary. I wasn’t yet at the stage where I wanted us to lose, though, as of course nobody wants to be relegated.
The run up to the Cardiff game last season was really where I began to hope that we would lose, anything to avoid tantalisingly circling the drain without ever flushing, without any finality to this dry footballing existence. The performances were utterly shambolic, shipping goals for fun and not scoring any. The match was more a test of will than something to enjoy. How much can you suffer? Hatem Ben Arfa cut a forlorn figure on the bench, the one player who could create. Pardew saw it fit to leave him out, despite the fact we were crying out for a bit of ingenuity. Pardew was in self-preservation mode, blaming anyone and anything he could to try and preserve his position.
As luck would have it we beat Cardiff. Whether or not Pardew would have gone if we had lost, is up for debate. I can say that I’ve never been as disconnected from the team as I was that day. This is what it had come to, cheering against my own team.
I look at it now as a situation where a loss might see the back of him, and therefore bring back my passion. I will always love Newcastle United, it’s in my blood and I can’t change it. I wouldn’t want to. I’ve been gradually beaten down by the turgid football, the endless apportioning of blame, the exclusion of our flair players. This is not the Newcastle United you and I know. This is a soulless shell of what it used to be.
I remember St. James’ Park being a cauldron of noise and passion, a place opposition feared to tread. It’s different now, a hushed place, a result of the soul-destroying football we’ve all had to endure under this regime. Pardew has repeatedly told us that we can’t compete, that we are a “city that hurts itself” when it comes to football. This is categorically untrue. A manager of this football club should be able to harness the fanatical support and use it to our advantage. Keegan did. Robson did. It is what makes this club special and should be praised, not denigrated.
Pardew has turned football into something of a chore, a responsibility, a duty. It should be something you look forward to, where you take pride in your city and your identity. It is only without him that I feel that I may be able to bring back the love and passion I once felt watching the Toon.