A phrase that has been heard countless times under the reign of Mike Ashley is that Newcastle United are ‘sleepwalking towards relegation’.
Indeed, somnambulism seems to be a key part of their identity under the current owner. There’s no passion, no excitement, no drive to achieve more; simply put they are a side that just exists.
The squad’s performances this season under Steve Bruce stands as some of the most scared football witnessed. Their style has been so unattractive that long-time fans are no tuning out of games. The fans wanted a boycott of the stadium, now they are gradually, though involuntarily, boycotting televised games.
However, it is the actions of Newcastle United off the pitch that risk losing a future generation of adoring supporters. In a time where people are isolated, stuck working at home, it seems the club are doing their best to widen the gap.
Newcastle United Risk Losing Supporters in More than One Way Under Steve Bruce
Existence is Pain at Newcastle
It seems rather privileged to say that simply existing is not ambitious, given the number of Football League clubs at risk of disappearing. But it is not enough for a football club or its supporters. Football has firm roots in working-class society, and season ticket holders work hard to earn their weekend respite. Without the fans, clubs struggle, if anything the pandemic has shown that. The least clubs could do is return the favour.
For Newcastle United supporters, their existential pain is a long-term side-effect caused by Mike Ashley’s tenure. They have been subjected to dire performances on the pitch and two relegations. The players don’t seem interested anymore, and that is not the first time for this to happen at Newcastle. A plague of lethargy has spread from the ownership right through the players finally now reaching the fan base. It’s becoming harder and harder to watch and support like we used to.
Where’s the Wallies?
Now, with the club adopting its familiar crisis position, is a time for those high up to take responsibility. There is currently no accountability at the club for any of its shortcoming, whether that be results or lacking infrastructure. Pundits are the only people able to criticise the club at the moment, and even they are not doing enough (Alan Shearer aside). As for the fans, there is no opportunity to. Despite promising the contrary over a year ago, Lee Charnley has provided absolute radio silence for Newcastle United supporters.
A recent article in The Mag highlighted and queried Lee Charnley’s absence. Is he on furlough, or is he, seemingly like the rest of the club, taking a holiday until relegation is on the cards? His position is Managing Director for the club, and he does anything but manage or direct at all. His only feat is somehow managing to still be in a job in football. Sadly, this lack of ownership could have harmful knock-on effects down the line.
Bobby Robson’s quote about helplessly falling in love with football as a child are relatable to fans across the globe. Without that wave of excitement in the stadium, clubs have to do something else to bring fans closer to the club. Simply posting throwback videos of days gone by only reminds fans that the club is a shell of its former self. Now, more than ever, people are spending hours on their phones, scrolling through Facebook feeds. Newcastle United, as a club, are not doing enough to engage their supporters, online or on the pitch.
Supporters Need to be Given Sign
It is fair to say that, while the club is for sale, there will always be an even greater lack of engagement. The owner wants out, the fans want the owner out; therefore it makes sense to focus attentions of an exit strategy. But, takeover rumours have teased fans for over three years now, with no clear end in sight.
Until something materialises, the club has a duty to at least dialogue with fans. The silence is as deafening as ever, the club’s inner running remains a clouded mystery. If you listen closely, you might just be able to hear Lee Charnley et al. twiddling their thumbs.