Supporting a football club should be easy. You watch football on a match day and then spend the rest of the week in the build up to the following game going about your normal business. But here it isn’t. That’s because for the remaining 6 days of the week we analyse, question, pontificate and generally continuing to be absorbed by and caught up in the maelstrom that is Newcastle United Football Club.

Every word draws you in.  Every decision seems to affect you. On match day you wake up tense; you head to the ground gripped by a mix of hope and apprehension. You kick and head every ball. A win brings out emotions that you would normally share only with an immediate family member (usually your husband or wife); defeat can deflate you to a point of despair.

It is little wonder therefore that events off the pitch impact upon supporters as much as those on the pitch. They are intrinsically linked. Why? Because as supporters we care that’s why. And that’s why, when events spiral in a manner that makes no sense, supporters see the need to call for change.  For many, that point was reached this summer and they believe the time for that change is now.

Those calling for change are normal rank and file supporters. Decent, hard working, honest people. Supporters taking action born out of frustration for what has gone on in the past and as their poster says, they’re marching for ambition. 

This is why we support #Time4Change.  

 
 
The situation that we now find ourselves in is all Mike Ashley’s making. He chose to appoint Joe Kinnear; he allowed Kinnear free reign to make the announcement without notifying anyone at the club; he allowed Kinnear to go back on Talksport and continue to release information about his appointment, his position within the club and the imminent change of job description of the MD Derek Llambias. He also allowed Kinnear to explain the new transfer policy that the club would adopt; everything going through Kinnear himself.
 
Throughout his time at NE1 Ashley has never publicly uttered a single word about his plans for the club; instead choosing to speak through first Chris Mort and then Derek Llambias. His inner sanctum of advisors has fluctuated between the very public (Wise, Jiminez) to the very private. He has sacked or lost 5 managers (Allardyce, Keegan, Kinnear, Houghton, Shearer), paid millions in compensation to managers and back room staff; taken platitudes and stick in unequal proportion; had the club dragged through the courts; seen us relegated from and promoted back to the Premier League; taken us on a European journey that was long on enjoyment but ultimately impacted on our fight for Premier League survival by a failure to provide his manager with a squad capable of competing on both domestic and European fronts. We have seen sponsors come and go. More go, if utterances about our commercial position are anything to go by. We’ve had the fuss concerning the ground name; the new club shirt sponsors, transfer policy, ticketing arrangements for away travel, the ban on watching training sessions and reserve fixtures, the abandonment of L7 signing section, heavy handed stewarding, issues concerning standing in the Gallowgate Corner and a general perception that some at the club simply enjoy rubbing our noses in the dirt.

We have been told that we are following the Arsenal model (16 consecutive seasons in the Champions' League), the Aston Villa model (a youth policy based on Academy A status); the Liverpool model (is there such a thing?). Thankfully we have never been informed that we are following the Sunderland model !

We have been left sometimes dazed, sometimes confused; sometimes ecstatic and at other times bereft of an understanding of where we are heading. We have praised, we have berated, we’ve screamed and we’ve at times protested but as supporters we have continued to support the team as we always have and always will; loyalty comes as part of our birthright; we are born into it and we carry it with dignity and pride in equal measure.

We have supporters who simply want to attend on match days. We have others who see results as the be all and end all of everything. Some attend religiously home and away, never missing a game. Others just do home games and some simply dip in and dip out when the desire of finances allow. Some no longer attend; be it for work, family, financial or personal reasons but each and every one of them remain supporters; carrying with them the passion during 90 minutes with the same strength of belonging as the next man.

That is the beauty of being a Geordie; being a Newcastle Supporter. Being part of something collective. We feed off the oxygen of the club; eat sleep and drink its movements, utterances, publicity, products, success and failure. We talk football incessantly; we talk Newcastle United even more. And when our club is wounded we feel wounded too. When it doesn’t talk to us we feel rebuked; when it is successful we feel buoyed and we buzz. Success being measured in victories not trophies, obviously.

But because Mike Ashley hasn’t uttered a single word to supporters in six years and hasn’t explained a single decision that he has made for the “benefit and stability” of the club, many feel angry; take it personal and start to question motives. A void is created and without the oxygen of communication the void starts to get filled for many with a fear, a loathing and a desire to seek answers; a desire for change.

The change that NUFCFANS UNITED seeks is a change in attitude; a removal of the mistrust that exists between Mike Ashley and supporters; a desire to help the club realize the importance of direct and positive communication and a desire to see success. That’s why we set the group up; convinced by Malcolm Dix that in the long term, club and supporter needed to listen to each other.

The recent appointment of a fans' liaison officer was a great start and Lee Marshall, with the backing of Derek Llambias (now departed) and the support of PR officer Wendy Taylor.  Lee is doing a great job building a set up based on trust and a sound understanding how important communication is. Indeed, Derek himself was working his way slowly into the task and in recent months was pulling in the right direction; engaging once more with supporters with grace and courtesy; and having met with him I warmed to his change of approach. Don’t get me wrong; he was no saint and I’m sure that his single minded approach to some issues would have remained and would not necessarily have been for the good for the club (my opinion). But with commercial finances starting to come into to the club I think he was finally being released from the shackles that Mike Ashley’s business plan held him to.

We know Derek’s departure was not anticipated by either himself or his staff and his successor needs to build on the important work that Lee and Wendy were implementing through fan liaison; ensuring that supporters views are taken as of paramount importance in decision making in the future for the benefit of everyone associated with Newcastle United.

NUFC FANS UNITED hold monthly meetings. Our meetings are open to anyone to attend; we have an agenda that lays down topics for discussion; we don’t shape or develop opinion; we simply provide the vehicle for supporters to come together to discuss issues or concerns; listen to opinions and see those opinions, concerns and issues fed back to the club for consideration. We ask people to join as “members” simply so that we can e mail them and invite them to bring forward agenda points before each meeting. Our last meeting saw an abundance of opinion put forward with various levels of passion; none more so than by the MAOC group. The meeting provided them with a platform and they put forward a motion to those attending that endorsed their own opinion on Mike Ashley’s Suitability to be the custodian of Newcastle United. Many in the room agreed and their motion was passed on a show of hands. That group will no doubt now carry on with its campaigning in whatever manner they see fit; good luck to them.  They’ve started the debate and already social networks will be fuelling that debate as we crawl towards the first fixtures of the season.  If there is such a thing as a Mike Ashley In Campaign (MAIC) then they too will be given the same opportunity as MOAC if they so wish; come along; talk, be listened too and run their counter campaign. That’s what NUFC FANS UNITED is all about; providing supporters with a vehicle to have their opinion heard and listened to by the club and if anyone has a problem with that then there is probably little we can say or do that will be of benefit to them.

NUFC FANS UNITED won’t run campaigns for change; we won’t be holding protest rallies and we won’t be calling for anyone’s head; that’s not our purpose. But we will continue to provide fans with a platform for their concerns to be presented to the club and help their fans' liaison team in the best way we can.

 

Steve H

NUFC FANS UNITED
 
 
Written by Chris Webb, the chair of the Argyle Trust - posted on the PASOTI forum this evening.

"We understand that Paul Stapleton, Tony Wrathall and Phil Gil have been making contact with Lombard to make an offer on the debt owed on the principal basis that it would protect the money that messrs Stapleton and Wrathall may lose as guarantors of the Lombard loan through the Brent bid. 

This development is unsettling a key stakeholder at a time when the Club sits on a cliff edge. 

The players, staff and fans of Argyle can not accept anymore game playing. Too many people have been loyal for too long to see our Club fall into the wrong hands. 

We will not accept the involvement of any of the M7 in our Club. We have made that clear from the start and will not be changing this position. 

We are currently obtaining the emails of the individuals involved in this saga. They will be published asap and we will call on supporters to bombard them asking all three to stay away from our Club. 

These individuals are putting personal finance above the future of the Club. This cannot be tolerated by any of us. 

Any further delays will kill Plymouth Argyle. 

If by the close of play on Sunday we have not received confirmation of their withdrawal from the process / contact with Lombard then protests will be called at strategic targets. 

We have come too far now to throw it all away. We are on the brink of a new dawn as a Club. 

Mr Stapleton, Mr Wrathall and Mr Gill; Please leave our Club alone."


For those who are not up to date with the situation at Argyle: Members of the old board are attemtping to derail the current takeover bid, any delay in finalising the current deal means a huge risk of liquidation.

And just a reminder as to why we feel the need to stand in solidarity with PAFC.

   

 
 
Written by Dan Greet 3rd September 2011
As I am sure anyone with more than a passing interest in football is aware, Plymouth Argyle are in trouble. Real trouble. The imminent danger of liquidation is all so prominent these days at Home Park. Stories of players not being paid, staff being paid by the manager out of his own pocket, administration, debt and the delays securing the new owners have dominated all news relating to Argyle since March of this year. This nearly came to a head this week when there was talk of the players and staff going on strike and refusing to play today's game at Burton. Fortunately strike action was averted when the players and staff agreed to receive 40% of owed wages now and the remainder on completion of the long overdue takeover by Bishop International Ltd on the understanding that the takeover will be completed by the 31st August 2011. Troubling times indeed for a club who just two short seasons ago were playing in the Championship having steadily increased league position including two promotions between 2000 and 2008.

Enter Brighton and Hove Albion. Back in 1997 Brighton were at their lowest ebb due to the shameful asset stripping of the club by Bill Archer and David Belloti. The club was run into the ground and evicted from its Goldstone Ground home (where they had played since 1902 and is famous for being the stadium where David Beckham made his Manchester United début as a substitute in 1992). The atmosphere at Brighton games during this period was less than warm and  protests and pitch invasions were commonplace. A protest during the Lincoln City game on 1st October 1996 resulted in a two point deduction given by the football league in December. Relegation looked likely at this point and the fan forum (www.northstandchat.com) was overrun with anger directed at the Belloti, Archer and particularly the FA due to their perceived lack of support during this period. Fans of other clubs left messages of support on the forum but none resonated more than a post from a 14 year old boy named Richard Vaughan – a fan of Plymouth Argyle. His post was as follows:

I see the scum FA have now taken 2 points who do they think they are they wouldn’t do this to Man United. It makes me sick what is happening to your club and it’s an insult to your fans. I’m a Plymouth fan and I think that one week when we’re away I`m going to come up and support your protest. I think it would be a good idea if LOADS of fans from different clubs turned up at Brighton (with their shirts on) and joined in it would show that we’re all behind you 100%

The passionate post from the young man brought Albion fans and campaigners against Albion's treatment together and a date was set for the 8th February 1997 for the Hartlepool United game to be the first ever Fans United day. From the previous foggy and anarchic atmosphere that had dogged Brighton games all season came a revelation as thousands of fans from all over the country (and a party from the German club Eintracht Frankfurt) joined together to cheer on the Albion and provide a wonderful atmosphere that helped propel the players to a 5-0 win. Albion went on to survive relegation on goal difference by three goals. How different things might have been should Fans United had never happened! Fourteen years on Albion played Argyle in League One this past February and whilst Richard Vaughan was not able to attend the game, he managed to send Brighton a message which was read out at half time and was very warmly received by both sets of supporters. 

Brighton has always felt a debt of gratitude to Argyle due to the snowball effect caused by young Richard's post and now in an attempt to repay them for the help they provided to Albion at their lowest point they are attempting to return the favour. In the last 24 hours on the very same forum where it all started 14 years ago, Fans Reunited has been born. A grass-roots uprising started by forum member Woodchip has become something of a phenomenon. In just 24 hours, 121 fans have already agreed to make the trip down to Home Park on the 24th September to cheer on Argyle in their match with Macclesfield. And with three weeks to go and the campaign only just getting started and spreading with social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter the number can only multiply. In the day and age where the internet, and more importantly social media, has become an integral part of everyday life the message has a chance to surpass the impact it had all those years ago.

The knock on effect caused by the potential liquidation of Plymouth Argyle through football as a whole could be catastrophic. In an age where footballers earn huge wages and command bigger transfer fees than ever before, a domino effect for lower league sides is a strong possibility. Therefore, as football fans, we need to make this day the biggest event that we can to not only support Plymouth Argyle but also to support the beautiful game as a whole. No club with a history as long as Argyle's have been liquidated before and, whilst other teams have come close (notably Brighton's rival Crystal Palace last year), this would be and could become the first of many. We need to act now to ensure this doesn't happen.

So I implore you, if you are a fan of our great sport, please head down to Home Park, Plymouth on the 24th September wearing the shirt of your preferred team and lets show football that we still care.

To find out more please visit us on Facebook.
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Remember how good Plymouth Argyle where to us when we were promoted?
 
 
I was in Odessa on the night of April 19th 2010 and so, like the video, most of what I can remember of the game itself comes from YouTube links. The euphoric, guttural roar from the away end at the final whistle, bodies streaming on to the pitch, players mobbed, ‘I get knocked down but I get up again’ blasting out over the Home Park tannoy.  Before the game a group of Plymouth fans had unveiled a banner congratulating Newcastle on their promotion.  Now, the club’s PA system belted out ‘Local Hero’ and ‘Blaydon Races’.  What made the gestures even more remarkable was the fact that Newcastle’s 2-0 win simultaneously confirmed Plymouth’s relegation.   “Fantastic hosts,” goalkeeper Steve Harper said. “They played their parts and it was just a fantastic place to be at the end of the game.” Newcastle fans agreed – “We’ll never forget” was just one of many posts on the Argyle message board the next day.
We haven’t.  There are a surprising number of bonds between Newcastle and Plymouth, geographically remote one-club cities with fanatical local support and a history of underachievement. Scottish striker Jack Peddie, whose goals helped Newcastle United to their first ever promotion, later played for Plymouth in their first season as a professional club. Bobby Moncur, the last Newcastle captain to lift a major trophy, managed Argyle in the early 1980s.  John Carver, assistant to Sir Bobby Robson and now Alan Pardew, was on the Home Park staff last year.  Dan Gosling made his first Plymouth appearance against Hull City at the age of 16.

Despite the sacking of Chris Hughton and the lack of an adequate replacement for Andy Carroll – whose season in the Championship propelled him from reserve forward to England international – Newcastle have since consolidated their place in the Premier League.  For Plymouth, who survived two winding-up orders before they entered administration in the first week of March, the season culminated in a home defeat to Southampton and a second successive relegation.  Around 50 members of staff have been working without salary since January. Despite the Argyle Supporters’ Trust helping to raise money towards a hardship fund, many are now in debt and struggling to afford even the petrol to get them into work.  There are real fears that Plymouth Argyle Football Club may not survive at all.

The video made by Newcastle Fans United nearly didn’t happen at all.  Together with FNA Films I first approached Sky TV about footage “for a short 30 second video to try and raise funds for Plymouth Argyle”.  They passed us on to another company who, like Sky, said they would be happy to help but didn’t own the rights to the pictures from the game.  We were passed on again, explained the situation – and were told we would have to pay £800.  “It’s a short, non-commercial video to help a football club that might go out of business,” we explained. “Our rates are £800 per minute,” was all we received in reply.  We tried YouTube, but most of the footage was shaky and blurred.  One – from a Newcastle fan who was at the game - was better than the rest. “Can we use your video?” we asked. Ten minutes later we got a reply. “No problem.  Anything I can do to help.”  Compare and contrast with the (unnamed) TV company.

The video went live last night and will be plugged on Newcastle United blogs and websites.  It’s a small gesture but one we hope will remind Plymouth fans that they do not stand alone. I urge all football fans to contribute whatever they can towards helping the Argyle Supporters’ Trust keep their club alive.

Special thanks go to www.phil.im for the footage we used in the video.