While I can understand the deep frustration and sense of despair many supporters now feel, it is wrong to throw up our hands in frustration and say that we can’t do anything. Tactics, so vitally important on the pitch, have an equally compelling place among our support as we seek to make a principled stand. Do not despair; if we supporters work together, we are no longer weak, isolated voices crying in the wilderness; we will be strong, coherent, effective and we will be listened to. However, and this is of the utmost importance, we must work together; egos, personal spats and historic feuds, need to be put to one side and every concerned Newcastle United fan, whether they are in the NUFC Fans United and toon talk camp, on the fence with Black & White Daft and nufc.com or failing to grasp the nettle with The Mag and the painfully ineffectual and utterly discredited NUST, or even if they’re unaligned and railing in fury and impotent anger on message boards, Twitter or blogs, has to come together as a broad and inclusive alliance, formed from the grassroots up, with the intention of reclaiming our club from the clutches of evil, rapacious capitalists who seek to serve only their own interests at every possible opportunity. What has gone on in the past must remain there; again, the time is right for all supporters to work together to express our collective fury and contempt at this decision and, hopefully, the desire to move the club forward by taking control of it ourselves.
However, it is abundantly clear to me that any supporter-led organisation needs to be very clear about principles and tactics from the outset. WB Yeats claimed The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity; while I do not necessarily accept this to be the case with our fans, it is of paramount importance that the Newcastle United support transforms itself in to a mass, democratic movement of all supporters, based on unshakeable principles and clear tactics, rather than being born of high minded intentions, but degenerating in to a shouty self-perpetuating vanguard of opportunists with little knowledge of and even less affection for Newcastle United. The danger of the future potential primacy of a cadre of inflexible ideologues using the travails of Newcastle United as a Trojan horse for their own ends, is that our fans will see through this and, rather than being inspired by their rhetoric or empowered to argue their own case, assume once again the depressing cloak of cynicism and the embittered shrug that is the keynote of so much of our recent history and attempts at engaging supporters for change. Were that to be the case, all motivation and enthusiasm for change will be lost.
As an example, look at the scorn and abuse NUFC Fans United engendered for being involved in the replacement of the Leazes gates. Yes I know they weren’t the iconic Gallowgate gates and it was a disgrace they’d somehow ended in possession of Wynyard Hall, like so much that belonged to the club in the 1990s, but surely denigrating the efforts of those who acted in the best interests of supporters to have a small slice of history replaced was not the conduct of self-serving egotists or people with a personal agenda to pursue. As supporters, we need to get over this and we need to work together.
It is my fervent and unshakeable belief that what needs to happen to Newcastle United is that the club is eventually owned 100% by supporters of the team, whether they be born within a goal kick of the Gallowgate End or whether they are part of the worldwide Geordie diaspora and run in the interests of the support, the community and the good of the game as a whole. Am I talking the FC United of Manchester model? Indeed I am. Am I talking the FC Barcelona model? Indeed I am. Whether Newcastle United compete at Northern Premier or Champions League level is, in a sense, immaterial; what matters more than anything else is that the club is run on open, democratic, accountable and honourable lines. Of course I accept that there is a debate to be had and an argument to be won that playing football at six levels lower than we are now is good for Newcastle United, but I relish the challenge of making that case. Repeatedly.
For the moment, the important thing is to start the debate. There is a conduit for anger and for a meeting of all interested parties to try and find a way to work through this. NUFC Fans United have organised a meeting at the Labour Club on Monday 24th June, 6.00pm-8.30; if you care about your club, please make every effort to attend.