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Author Topic: It's all about our club  (Read 676 times)

Online dave.woodhall

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It's all about our club
« on: May 24, 2020, 03:59:51 PM »
As I write, our friends in the north-east have been/are being//will be bought tomorrow by the Saudi government masquerading as a financial investment company. Cue joy unbridled as the last of the cockney carpet-baggers may finally be out.

I certainly do not blame them for celebrating that, but I have slight misgivings over the many ‘we’ve got/will get our club back’ online hopefuls. If that simply means Ashley has gone and good riddance then fair enough, but if it suggests a more cuddly chairman whose priority in life is to put Gallowgate opinion at the head of club strategic development discussions, well, I am not sure…

As sensible supporters elsewhere know, the move only cloaks a Saudi charm offensive. No doubt the new regime will do good things like buying spectacularly overpriced foreigners (nothing new on Tyneside there) and replacing their current manager with a middle-aged European tourist but does anyone seriously imagine that a regime whose human rights record is at best - er - patchy will remotely entertain the idea of doing anything more democratically radical than allowing women into St James Park?

As we well know, "having your club back" is not the same as influencing which players it buys and how it plays football nor does it reduce the asset-stripping. What is really meant is regaining the warm feeling of emotional connectivity: Like us in the afterglow of last year’s play-offs, and as our current owners have given us back our rightful place in the sun, no worries. That is, as long as we can retain it. Relegation may throw up a different narrative.

Our people have also given us the priceless advantage (at least at time of writing) of a local manager and captain, both of whom have supported us all their lives, and thus the strongest emotional attachment to our team than for some years.

But in the early days of the game a local team for local folk was a given. A group of blokes who lived near each other had a regular kick-about on a local patch and then bonded a bit more by forming a club and dressing up in a favourite colour scheme. They then joined other like- minded groups in the wider area and played for bragging-rights ‘challenge’ trophies often donated by Lord Mayors. The better teams would get a lot a decent publicity for their ‘end’ and the tribal pride pulled in spectators who could be persuaded to donate a few pence in return for the entertainment and reflected glory.

What we in B6 have never forgotten is that one of our own then established football as the dominant national game. As all the Midlands or northern outfits who joined the League were firmly based within downtrodden urban areas of Victorian England it is no surprise that a great many people began to look to their local club to raise their area’s  standing in the national consciousness. How else could places like Accrington or West Bromwich get any positive press?

At first, players would be predominantly local or incomers looking for work in the area and some of them hung around afterwards to help run things, the most notable anywhere being our own Scottish immigrant George Ramsay. Under his coaching, selectorial and secretarial guidance we won six FA Cups plus six League championships and six second places. If that wasn’t putting well-deserved and well-publicised pride into the local community, nothing was.

The word ‘Aston’ went hand in glove with the words ‘quality’ and ‘success’ and that early legacy went through many hands into the 1960s when Chris Buckley, one of Ramsay’s pre-1914 favourites, was chairman. But things changed a bit in 1968 when most of us felt the club had simply drifted away from us and supporter-power (thankfully) reared its head.

It is ironic that the ousting of Buckley’s benign generation of local directors, marked perhaps the last-ever successful outbreak of supporter unrest we will see. It remains a topic of debate whether fan unrest eventually saw off Doug, but I personally doubt it; it was more likely a dressing room revolt that did for O’Blarney and fan power failed to block Alex McLeish’s appointment. Doubtless, opposition to McLeish proved to Randy Lerner that his star was waning but he may have already settled on going.

In the palmy days of shareholders meetings there have been other successful ‘revolts’ against sitting directors. These occurred in 1893 and 1925, however they were not essentially fan revolts but internecine power struggles with some directors taking the moral high ground of ‘representing’ supporter opinion about overspending in order to lever out enemies on the board. Though more complex, the Ellis-Bendall civil wars of the 1970’s were also power battles, though fought out against a background of feisty public meetings.
In these days of private ownership it will come down not to internal power struggles but to ownership boredom, the prospect of assisting Interpol with their enquiries or how well the sums are adding up before owner (s) voluntarily take to the hills. Or to the South China Sea.

Back in the 1880’s, it had quickly become apparent that a club was going to be very lucky indeed to win cups and leagues using only whatever talent the immediate locality could throw up. When Celtic won the European Cup in 1967 it was famously with eleven players born within twenty miles or so of Parkhead. Even fifty-odd years ago that was not only unusual, it was unique in Europe. Today, many Premier League clubs can hardly field a team in which one player is English-born, never mind from round the corner.

Like everyone, we take the chance that each new signing will buy into the bond the fans crave with the players. A great many do and even nomads often cite their time with us as the best they knew. A special affection is always retained for anyone who, however brief their stay, is seen as having bought into that special relationship with fans which identifies them as one of us. Sometimes we even genuinely wish a favoured son well in his move elsewhere - contrast the reception always given to James Milner with that received by his playing contemporary Stewart Downing. But if both of our local talismen are soon to be off, the owners will find it difficult to replace the present emotional link.

There are other factors which remain constant in allowing us to recognise ‘our’ club, and in fairness these are shared by Newcastle and by other senior clubs. The most important by far is that the ground has remained firmly within the community it was originally meant for; it has not been relocated to the edge of a retail park nor been designed by a Danish toy company, nor has it sold its soul with sponsorship renaming.

That the largest stand is named after a local family or a boozer (whichever you prefer) is also a factor, and those who have season tickets in there believe, with good reason, in the reality - not just the dream - of emotional ownership. Even in a relegation dogfight, the many matchday songs that start on the Holte always give us that tingling and powerful sense of owning our tradition. On the right day the twelfth man is not a figment of anyone’s imagination.

We can also be grateful that, at home anyway, we play in the only colours that any living supporter can remember (note to CEO - green is not an ‘iconic’ colour). Into the bargain, we can credit the way we have currently been continuing to show our well-established community credentials, and long may that continue.

Meanwhile, in a far-away galaxy, I do own a football club. For £12 a year I have a part-share in Chester FC. You may call it highway robbery, but for the price of five cups of tea in the Witton Lower I get to do what the shareholders of old did at Villa and annually vote board members in or out. I also get asked to put my four penn'orth into the annual strategic review ("your views are essential to our progress") and during the present crisis a bloke from the club phoned up offering to go to Aldi for me. Wonder if the Saudis will be looking into that model? 

Colin Brown

Offline SaddVillan

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Re: It's all about our club
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2020, 04:22:46 PM »
Eloquent and apposite.

Offline tony scott

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Re: It's all about our club
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2020, 04:06:19 AM »
Nice read


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