Newcastle’s entire season can be best be summed up in this 8 second video:
The clip is of John Cleese in Clockwise; a film in which Cleese’s character Brian Stimpson finds things consistently going wrong for him despite his best efforts. Stimpson is helpless to change his fortunes. He is little more than a spectator in his own life as the world transpires against him.
“It’s not the despair Laura; I can stand the despair . . . It’s the Hope!”
Struggle we can deal with. We know how to struggle. Struggle is constant. You’ve just got to accept your struggle and keep at it.
But hope, hope hurts. Hope allows you to believe that things may get better. We invest in hope. It consumes us. And when our hope is invariable dashed the fall is much the greater. The low is always lower than the high that hope allowed us.
And there has been a lot of reason to hope at St. James’ Park recently.
First there was Andy Carroll. And then there was Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye. There was the rise of Tim Krul and Fabricio Coloccini, and the fall of Joey Barton. There was the 2011/12 Manager of the Season and the 2011/12 Goal of the Season. There was the 11-game unbeaten run only ended away by Manchester City.
There was even European football.
But then came the fall. And the fall was tough.
Struggling to fight the good fight on four fronts lead to a season of strife. But there was an acceptance that the 2012/13 season was never going to be as easy as the previous, and everyone knew deep down that the team wasn’t as bad as the table suggested.
It was a struggle, but a struggle with pride. Struggle is something they can do at Newcastle. They’re used to struggle.
But the worst was yet to come.
Worse than selling your local lad to Liverpool. Worse than fighting against relegation when it was supposed to be ‘your season’. Worse than losing 3-0 at home to Sunderland.
There was mediocrity.
The mid-table of the Premier League can be a tragic place. Some are happy to be here, but this happiness is only fleeting. The inevitable demands for European football come a calling. And with European football, the fall back to mid-table mediocrity.
At the top you can win. At the bottom you can survive. But in the middle; in the middle you can only be forgotten.
Nothing happens in the middle. The middle is made up of nowhere men.
This may sound alright to some. It may even sound appealing. None of this messing around with highs and lows, give me a safe slice of the middle.
But anyone who’s spent anytime here will know different.
We watch football for the excitement. We watch football for the fun.
But there’s nothing fun about knowing that if any of your team’s players actually turn out to be good, they will inevitably be sold. There’s nothing fun about winning seven out of 10 games between November and December, hoping that this time might be different, only to see your team then give up. There’s nothing fun about having nothing to gain, nothing to lose, about knowing your season is essentially pointless.
It would have been easier without the hope. Despair may seem like the worst possible outcome, but those familiar both know that it’s the hope that really hurts.