John Gibson looks at how Newcastle United fans have a history of rebelling against the club's hierarchy, and with good cause
When so many give so much and receive so little in return then they walk upon fertile ground for rebellion.
Newcastle, always a club with a passionate following but an honours board bare these last 46 years, have been ready-made for revolution down the ages.
As certain fan groups urge a boycott of Sunday’s home Premier League match with Spurs, it would appear to the casual outsider looking in Mike Ashley has been the consistent target of most unrest.
There was, after all, the 2008 protest sparked by Kevin Keegan’s resignation over transfer interference only eight months after his emotional return which was followed by regular outpourings.
The backlash to the intended renaming of St James’ Park after more than a century of worship, the open-topped bus organised in 2014 for the dissatisfied, the mass walkout planned for the 69th minute of a home game against Cardiff which fell somewhat flat and the “Sack Pardew” banners carried on to the terraces in September of last year.
However, while the Ashley regime may have sparked much of the recent unrest, the Toon Army of its era has united in the past to demand a shift in company policy.
Perhaps the biggest, and most successful, protest against authority came as the eighties were being played out.
The significant difference was these protestors were not just the rank and file fans but those of business and industry who packed significant financial clout - including box holders within St James’ Park.
They demanded change, big change, and urged Sir John Hall to be their catalyst.
He formed the Magpie Group and a bloody two-year war against the board of directors ensued during which vast swathes of shares were bought and sold at hugely-inflated prices.
However, the outcome was truly significant - a complete clear-out of United’s power base.
Sir John was swept into the boardroom, Kevin Keegan was appointed manager and the Entertainers were born.
Such a revolution could not be launched at Newcastle nowadays because there are no shareholders to be divided and picked off.
There is but one solitary owner who can only be removed if he allows himself to be bought out.
KK was always liable to disappear in a cloud of exhaust fumes if he did not get his way, of course and he famously fronted up fans on the steps of St James’ Park after selling Andy Cole to Manchester United.
It was hardly a turnout of the masses but the group did reflect the general unease at a relentless goalscorer leaving.
Keegan asked them to trust him, which they did, and he later brought in both Les Ferdinand and Alan Shearer which was not a bad response!
Mass protest is normally triggered by a rapid downward spiral of results but one of the most furious came with United riding high during the five-year period in the fifties when they gloriously brought the FA Cup home three times.
Chairman Stan Seymour, owner of one corner shop, threw out Frank Brennan after it became clear United’s Rock of Gibraltar was opening his own establishment.
United fans were outraged. The Evening Chronicle was deluged by letters backing Brennan and in February of 1955 more than two thousand Geordies crammed into the City Hall to pass a vote of no confidence in the board.
However, despite people power and a speech by Jimmy Guthrie of the Association of Football Players and Trainers Union at the Trades Union Congress highlighting the “slavery” of footballers Big Frank was banished to non-league football with North Shields.
Just before the Magpie Group’s assault on power Jack Charlton, a Geordie World Cup winner with England, dquit after only a year as Newcastle manager following the verbal protests of fans at a pre-season friendly before the 1985 campaign began. Chris Waddle had been sold (Beardsley and Gazza were to follow) and Big Jack, always a ‘I will do it my way’ kind of manager, had told supporters they had better get used to his policy of not buying big-name players.
The terracing was next to empty when Sheffield United arrived for a warm-up but those present made their voices heard and Charlton, angered by their stance, took to the toes at the end of the game never to be seen again.
If Keegan’s Entertainers had been warmly welcomed then Sir Bobby Robson’s Champions Leaguers were too but the sacking of Uncle Bob brought a feeling of unease which manifested itself in the November of 2006 when fans held a protest following a home defeat against Sheffield United with relegation looming on the horizon.
Peaceful protest is of course a fundamental right of the people in any walk of life even if it is an emotive subject.
Can it do more harm than good? Does it do any good? Can it be successful?
The answer to whether such a stance should be taken lies within the conscience of every individual because they must answer to themselves.