Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Feelgood TV

There just aren't enough references to classics of European cinema on Black & White & Read All Over. Just as well, then, that Jonathan's on hand to give his reflections on Joey Barton's latest outpourings...

* * * * *

On the same day that Joey Barton used an interview with the Independent to lambast the support for its negative mentality, I decided that tuning into 'Match Of The Day' in order to catch the highlights of a 3-1 defeat to Blackburn might be just too depressing, and instead slotted in a rental DVD of Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Through A Glass Darkly’ - a work which even its most cheerful reviewer describes as "a stark, unflinching portrayal of the effects of schizophrenia".

As anyone unfortunate enough to remember the mercifully brief black and white careers of Frank Pingel and Jon Dahl Tomasson will be able to confirm, this is by no means the first time that elements of the Geordie diaspora have been exposed to journeys deep into the dark heart of the human soul in the company of a misunderstood Scandinavian auteurs. However we must concede that matters have taken a bleak turn indeed. With the Premiership table showing Allardyce’s men hovering a mere seven points above the drop zone, Barton’s interview - which at a more secure time we might choose to disgregard as the ill-advised rantings of a career motormouth - perhaps merits a moment of sober reflection.

It is easy to pick holes in the midfielder’s arguments - so let’s start by doing just that. So Kluivert, Jenas and Parker were destroyed by a crowd "vicious enough to eat players up"? To my recollection the latter two were Premiership journeymen whose unremarkable contributions over a pair of seasons were met, on the whole, with nothing more vicious than morose disillusion. Only Kluivert was picked out for anything approaching stern treatment by the Gallowgate - and it might be argued that the boo boys had a point, given that the Robson signing’s single worthwhile contribution in a black and white shirt - the exemplary leading of the line in a quarter-final FA Cup victory over nine-man Chelsea - must be viewed against a backdrop of performances lacklustre enough to give strength to persistent Tyneside rumours that our Dutch starlet spent harder nights down the Quayside than he ever put days in at the training ground.

In other words, the boy was found to be taking the piss - and this is one digression that fans as passionate as ours will find hard to forgive. As Barton points out elsewhere in the article however, passion cuts both ways - when a vociferous crowd gets behind their team it can feel like that team has a twelfth player on the pitch. But this does not just happen; the players need to earn the respect of the crowd. Curiously, a start in this respect seems to have been made on Saturday afternoon at Ewood Park - accounts of the game are unanimous in admiring the visitors’ combativity, with the display of delirious unity between away end and team (with Barton to the fore) following Martins’s opening strike picked out for particular attention.

There are testing times ahead, sure enough - already, the Third Round cup tie at Stoke looks like make-or-break time for the beleagured Allardyce. But maybe what we saw on Saturday could be the start of a long, much-needed recovery. Maybe when we lift the Cup in May we will look back with fondness on the harsh but prophetic words of Joey Barton which stung us all into midwinter action. It’s equally possible, of course, that the boy is talking through his arse, we’ll get knocked out 5-1 again by lower-league opposition in front of the cameras, the manager will be out of job by February, and we’ll finish seventeenth. Who knows?

One thing is for sure. If matters don’t take a turn for the better pretty damn soon then I’ll be spending more Saturday evenings than is possibly good for me acquainting myself with the oeuvre of Ingmar Bergman. Only the Newcastle United squad has it in its power to deliver me from this bleak midwinter prospect - let’s hope, for my sake and everyone else’s that they can handle the pressure, because I’m not sure that I can.


Post a Comment

<< Home