So why did I say, in hindsight? Because I think I (and here I do mean me personally rather than the group) underestimated the level of anger that exists because of the Joe Kinnear appointment. Or maybe, more accurately the anger that still exists at the ownership of the Club.
You see the thing is I WAS very unhappy post KK, at Hull, post relegation, post Sports Direct Arena, post Chris Hughton etc etc etc. I’ve never been involved in any fans’ groups at all - like many I joined the Trust, but when I felt it stopped “listening to us” I lost interest. Then after reading two articles - one George Caulkin’s magnificent “Mike Ashley Must Go” and something posted by True Faith I decided something had to be done.
Originally NUFC Fans United was set up by two of us with the stated aim of “providing a hub for all anti-Ashley groups”. The thing with any group is that to be effective you need “critical mass” otherwise you end us looking like that famous Monty Python skit from the “Life of Brian” which I see is doing the rounds again this morning. Once more and more people got involved I saw it as a natural progression to move from being purely ant-Ashley to being more about engaging with his regime. I am a ranter you see, but I’m also a pragmatist - and the way I see it is, at the moment we’re “stuck” with Mike Ashley; so what do we do? Do we continue to rabble-rouse and call for boycotts and protests - or do we try and engage? The pragmatist is me, says engage.
Now comes the tricky part - and when I go off script… as a fan, I don’t want to organise meetings and have dialogue with press officers - I want to be the “silent” (but cheering my wildly successful team) majority. I have two kids, I run my own business - I don’t need to spend my weekends collating questions for meetings with my Club. It’s the off-season FFS… I want to watch baseball and read about the exciting players we are signing. But I’m a Newcastle United fan - and that aint gonna happen (not for a while anyway) - so as someone who believes that communication is as much about listening as it is about talking/ shouting/ ranting, I worked with the others to provide a platform for individual fans to have their say to the Club. Which brings us to last night…
Last night was either a farce or a success depending on how you look at it. If you wanted a formal minuted meeting where Club reps gave answers to all sorts of questions and a fellow fan (friend of Joe Kinnear, Eddie McIntyre) wasn’t heckled - then yes it was a disaster. If however you wanted to provide a platform for fans to express their feelings, be heard, have a rant and start to see the power of their voice(s) then it was a resounding success. I have no idea how many people showed up - 300+ though would be my guess - think about it. It’s a Monday in the off-season, on a night when “The Man With 10 Stone Testicles” is on TV and we had a packed out meeting in the centre of Newcastle. Yes there was ranting, yes there was shouting and yes there was heckling - BUT and this is KEY - there was passion, there was eloquence and there was listening and that is DEMOCRACY.
It amazes me how many people complain about lack of communication between the Club and Fans and then want to censor the message going one way! That’s not communication that’s propaganda. It would’ve been great if Lee and Wendy had addressed the crowd, but they felt it would be inappropriate to do so - they did however turn up and 4:30 and they didn’t leave until 10:00 - and spoke to many attendees on an individual basis - that shows commitment, if nothing else. The aforementioned, Eddie, much to his credit did the same; listening and talking to fans with dignity and respect long after “the final whistle”.
I’d like to thank all those fans who sent in questions and statements and in particular those who took the time to speak last night, it took great courage to address what was a very angry crowd. Yes it was heated and while I personally don’t agree with many of those opinions - it’s not my job to stifle debate.
Yes there was a motion passed for a protest, but that was called for by one of our member organisations - not us. Back to hindsight, perhaps we should have had a counter motion - but we didn’t. Does that mean NUFC Fans United has gone back to its Anti-Ashley roots? Not at all - this is bigger than that. As Bobby Robson famously said
"What is a club? Not the buildings, directors or people who are paid to represent it, the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It's the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, It's a small boy 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."
That’s what was on display last night “the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging” - I admit I hadn’t understood quite how angry people are, and that’s mainly because my own feelings are so conflicted. BUT what I do know is this - giving people the floor, letting them see their own power, allowing them to show their passion and giving them a chance to be heard is something I’d do over and over and over again. This isn’t about Joe Kinnear, this isn’t about Mike Ashley - this is about us and our Club.
I totally admire those with the commitment to boycott and protest, but I can’t do that - a few good results and I’m back on the NUFC crackpipe; so although we provided a platform to allow the Mike Ashley campaign to call for a protest and it passed (by a resounding majority) that doesn’t mean we as a group change direction - it means we continue to provide the platform and encourage alternative views to be spoken too. If you expect easy answers and cliched platitudes from NUFC Fans United or to be told what you should or shouldn’t say or think, then you’ve come to the wrong place. Our job isn’t to tell you what to think, it’s to listen to what you think. Is that naive? Possibly. Is it idealistic? Definitely. But that doesn’t mean we’re doomed to failure, because unlike Newcastle United, real life isn’t black and white.