Many people and players have an opinion of Newcastle United being a ‘goldfish bowl’ type of environment, and in a way they are correct.
It was Jermaine Jenas who made the goldfish bowl saying famous, but a former team-mate of his, Gary Speed R.I.P, once said; “You have to be a special kind of player to play for the club, to be able to handle the pressure and appreciate what it’s all about.”
He’s correct of course because by becoming a part of the club, you become a part of the fans lives and with the club being the main stand out talking point amongst the general public you can see how the pressure can build. Any player that comes to this club and makes a name for himself immediately comes under the fan and media spotlight, sometimes so much so that some cannot handle the pressure of being in this goldfish bowl type of environment where it seems every aspect of their life is under the microscope.
Some players can handle this and accept it as part and parcel of being at a club like Newcastle and some actually thrive on it. One person who seems to thrive on this is Fabricio Coloccini, who at first was probably in the ‘cannot handle the pressure’ bracket because, as we know, he didn’t exactly start off as a fans favourite did he? However he has turned it all around and is probably playing the best football of his life – something that was obviously seen in him when he was first signed.
It can be argued that all players are under pressure when signing for their respective clubs and I suppose that’s true, but it isn’t a goldfish bowl for most in my opinion. Newcastle United seem to have this air about it for me. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, I don’t know.
I think there’s a collective amount of things that makes this club stand out as to why it seems to have a sort of stigma attached to it, as though you have to have that X-Factor type attitude to succeed here.
Firstly, the fans knowledge of the club and game stands out, plus the sheer fanaticism and their undying, unconditional love for the club probably stands out as a main focus for any new signing in that they don’t actually understand just what kind of a club they have signed into but realise, quite quickly, once they get their head around the full set up, right up to making their debut at home in front of what can only be described as “fantastic” support and also the fact that they are mobbed and idolised if they perform to the expectations of those fans.
The thing is though, although some players revel in that kind of environment, other players probably put too much pressure on themselves in not letting down those fans especially in the trying stakes because they soon find out that hero to zero can come about quite quickly for failure to do the required amount on the pitch.
Naturally, we always seem to be one step away from some kind of controversy or another, whether it’s a player leaving or dealings within the club which naturally puts the players at the mercy of a media feeding frenzy, which then reaches the fans who then decide on the appropriate action on the terraces and also on the street, which can be positive or negative depending on the seriousness of what the media make it out to be.
I think Joey Barton has had his fair share of this goldfish bowl scenario and probably knows better than anyone about dealing with the pressure on and off the field. In his early days at the club he looked like he struggled to deal with it all because in his own mind he will have known that the fans were split down the middle about having him here at all. He didn’t exactly repel the attention away from himself or the club did he? And to be fair it was mostly negative attention.
He did knuckle down and put a few of his demons to bed and actually got the fans on his side, which is no mean feat with Newcastle fans is it? But in the back of my mind I had this dread of the proverbial s**t hitting the the fan with him and in that respect, I think players like Joey actually plant themselves into that goldfish bowl either by want or previous.
Anyway I actually agree with the comments made by former players that it really does take a special kind of player to be able to perform to the standards this club and the fans require and is probably the reason why we haven’t quite managed to actually achieve what we have threatened to achieve over the years.
I feel now though, that, although it is still a pressure pot for new signings, that the club are now vetting the players mental ability as well as their skill and physicality to be able to do the job required of them.
I probably appear all gobbledygook in trying to explain what I’m actually talking about but in my own mind I understand in a way what players mean by this goldfish bowl. Naturally it’s all just my opinion and you’d be surprised what’s jumbling about in my head. Or not…
What is your idea of this goldfish bowl stigma?