Anger was the overriding emotion of the first coming together of Newcastle United supporters since the shock appointment of Joe Kinnear.
Fury, in fact, which is hardly surprising given the way United’s good name has been dragged through the proverbial hedge over the past eight days. Last night’s numbers were an impressive testament to NUFC Fans United’s ability to mobilise supporters but for something more constructive to emerge, there is probably an acknowledgement that the anger must first subside and more of a consensus must grow.
There was much to get heartened about here: not least the genuine passion and the years of loyal support that collected under one roof in the heart of Newcastle. This club means so much to so many that there is an energy and passion that will be powerful when it is finally channeled in one direction. That, undoubtedly, will take time.
There could be no getting away from it: there were heated arguments and raised voices as NUFC Fans United attempted to draw together the disparate elements of the United support in the wake of a tumultuous week. Of the 300 fans in attendance, a few rogue elements let the side down with heckling of Kinnear’s close friend Eddie MacIntyre – himself a United season ticket holder.
That was wrong, although MacIntyre – who ended his short speech on behalf of Kinnear with a passionate appeal to give the new director of football a chance – has probably heard worse in his previous life as a lawyer and Mirandinha’s agent.
From that anger, the challenge is now to build something more lasting. For those in the meeting who yearned for something constructive, there was hope among the raised voices.
A motion calling for a vote of no confidence in the ownership of Mike Ashley – proposed by the Mike Ashley Out Campaign – was passed at the end of the hour and a half meeting. In it, there was the demand for Ashley to “sell up and get out now”.
Among those who attended, it was a popular sentiment.
There was certainly a genuine resolve among many of those who made it to the Labour Club in the shadow of St James’ Park to unify supporters behind a common goal. Among the shouting and the obvious anger, there were appeals to maintain the attendance at the meetings in the coming weeks. For NUFC Fans United have always said that their main goal is to increase communication between the club and its supporters.
They have made little steps forward – getting the St James’ Park gates back, for instance – but they need more support to open up communication channels to the boardroom.
It must also be acknowledged that while this is a coalition, there are other strong voices among the supporter base who weren’t there last night and seem to favour another way forward. The Newcastle United Supporters Trust, for one.
No doubt they will have their own take on the situation which we will hear in due course. The meeting itself was a beginning: a drawing together of hundreds fans who were in equal measure furious, passionate and determined to make a different.
To start, supporting statements were read out from Pavel Srnicek and Brian Oliver – who both criticised the ownership of Ashley. Applause welled up from the floor.
Then fans took to the stage to make their points forcefully.
Two members of the Newcastle United press team – Wendy Taylor and Lee Marshall – listened with the assurance that they would take the concerns back to the club’s board next week.
MacIntyre was next up to explain why Kinnear wasn’t there. He said that he would come in the future, but was away on club business.
“You are asking why Joe Kinnear didn’t come here. He was going to come,” he said.
“Since Joe was appointed, he has never had a day off. He was going to come up on Sunday night and going to come here.
“I spoke to Joe Kinnear this morning.
“He was waiting to be picked up by Graham Carr, who lives in Northampton. He was picking Joe up in Mill Hill and they were having a business lunch, which will go on tomorrow. That’s the reason Joe hasn’t been able to come. He regrets, naturally, what has happened over the last week. But Joe Kinnear will be here some time in the future.”
There was heckling and MacIntyre ended by saying Kinnear should be given a chance. That didn’t go down well.
At the end of the night fans milled around to talk one-on-one with club officials, MacIntyre and members of the various groups. With the heat taken out of the meeting, there was more constructive talk about moving forward, making more connections and trying to channel the anger into a positive.
It is a very big challenge, which is the main point that came out of last night.
But it has to start somewhere.