For those of you at the end of their tether at Saints current predicament (Relegation zone, Rupert in charge, unheard of managerial team etc), it might help to find solace in the fact that there is indeed another club in English football likely to induce equally record-breaking levels of stress amongst fans and hilarity amongst outsiders. Although, unlike Saints, their fans are part of the problem.
I speak of course about Newcastle FC, a club whose supporters seem to operate in some sort of parallel universe where Joey Barton is "alright once you get to know him" and Kevin Keegan is Jesus Christ with a poodle perm. While I generally look upon attacks upon other clubs and their supporters as not only bad form, but more usually unjustified, the juxtaposition of what is expected and what occurs on Tyneside seems particularly worthy of comment. And given Saints recent form, it seems only to be the Toon Army at whom we can laugh without opening ourselves up to accusations of hypocrisy.
The last few years have hardly proved to be glorious for Saints, with Nathan Dyer and Bradley Wright-Phillip's evasion of a custodial sentence being the closest the club has come to some form of success. The return to the club of the Most Hated Man on the South Coast, combined with the side's failure to look capable of escape to the Premiership have meant times have been rocky at St Marys.
But I'd much rather be a Saint that a Tyne. Newcastle fans have endured misery upon misery in recent seasons, with cash splashed out on a series of underperforming and unloved stars by a legion of dodgy managers, failures compounded by the Toon Army's unrealistic expectations and the ease with which their anger has turned to hate.
Witness the last week's activities on Tyneside, the most recent expression of the supporters' inability to support. The witch-hunt directed at Mike Ashley in the wake of Kevin Keegan's departure was befuddling to all those living south of the Tyne. They should be lucky to have a man (alright, a prat, but a rich prat) who was willing to plough hundreds of millions into the club. Kevin Keegan? After juggling balls for three years, he was hardly going to march Newcastle into the top four. Ashley's continental set-up was hardly going to help, but, come on, KK is no messiah. His reaction to instructions of a tight wage bill (a wish-list including Frank Lampard and David Beckham) was laughably infantile.
And all the while myth continues. Newcastle are wonderful supporters and deserve better. There is something "different about Newcastle." Northerners (in the words of Kevin Keegan) like to be entertained on a Saturday, while Southerners go to the theatre. Well, there is about as much tragedy going on on Tyneside as in any adaptation of Romeo and Juliet I have seen, as much comedy as in As You Like It too. What goes on at St James' Park on a Saturday afternoon entertains just about everyone except those in the stands. Though, as Martin Samuel highlights, there is always someone else to blame. And as Matthew Syed points out, their support has been less than, er, steadfast in the past.
In our present situation we can be grateful for one thing. At least we don't support Newcastle.
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