There was something in the air in Newcastle yesterday. A police helicopter hovered above the city centre, and there were police vans blocking off Blackett Street – and mounted police horses clopping down towards Grey's Monument. "Shame on you!" came the chant from a group of protestors, some 200 strong.
But these were not mutinous foot soldiers from the Toon Army. They were students. "All we want for Christmas is an education," one placard read. The last thing followers of Newcastle United wanted for Christmas was the sack for Chris Hughton, the manager who saved their soap opera of a football club. The second last thing they wanted was the unveiling of a new manager who was deemed surplus to requirements by Southampton at the start of the season.
Yesterday the apathy was evident as Alan Pardew was unveiled at a press conference in the media room at St James'. At the bottom of the steps outside – where, once upon a Tyne, Kevin Keegan had ventured out to explain to a disgruntled mob the reasoning behind the sale of Andy Cole to Manchester United – there was a gathering of just three supporters to mark the new era at Newcastle United.
None bore placards, but their sentiments were clear. "None of us are fans of his," John Shearer said, unable to bring himself to mention the name of the new Newcastle manager. "Nobody wants him here. He knows that. It stinks now and it'll stink till he walks out."
A full-time carer from Byker, Shearer has been a follower of the black and whites since 1966 and claims to be a relative of the Shearer who drew a crowd of some 15,000 to the club car park when he was unveiled as a £15m signing in the summer of 1996. There was a 200-strong media throng at St James' that day, including reporters from Moscow and Tunis.
In the absence of any major silverware since 1969, the parading of trophy players and managers has become a major event at Newcastle United over the years. It started in 1982 when Keegan was signed from Southampton. He was presented at a grand press conference at the Gosforth Park Hotel, Russell Cushing, the club's secretary at the time, proclaiming: "We've got Kevin and we're in heaven". To which one great wit in the North-east press corps memorably responded: "Well, it's a good job you didn't sign Richie Pitt, then."
Standing 11th in the Premier League, Newcastle are a long way from being in anything that might rhyme with the name of a former Sunderland centre-half. They have a set of greatly disgruntled supporters, though, who have turned up their noses at what is the eighth managerial change at the club in five-and-a-half years.
"Aye, there's only the three of us here now," John Shearer said, "but there'll be 50,000 of us at the Liverpool match on Saturday. None of us are happy."Reuse content