Just over thirty thousand fans made the trip to St James’ Park on Saturday, watching the lads graft their way to a 2-1 FA Cup victory over struggling Blackburn Rovers and chalk up their second home victory in the space of four days.
The attendance, considerably lower than it was when the Champions were in town last Wednesday night, did not take away from the atmosphere. The Strawberry Corner was, as it has been all season, in good voice – well half of it was at least.
Though the home side for the most part dominated the opening period, the performance seemed to displease a certain section of our supporters. Boos rang out from the all across the ground as the referee blew for half time. The derision not only appalled me, but for the first time in my life I actually felt slightly embarrassed to be wearing the black and white stripes.
I sat back in my seat, practically shocked into silence – unlike the woman sat in front of me, who decided to turn and face the entire south east stand so that she could tell them (in words too choice for the public domain) that they were not real fans. There were a few murmurs of agreement from those sat close enough to hear, but most simply laughed and hurried off to relieve/skint themselves at the toilets and bars respectively.
Fifteen or so minutes passed and the lads were cheered back onto the pitch for the second half, with the songs beginning again soon after. I enjoyed hearing a few of the older songs brought out, but I couldn’t seem to shake the nagging feeling of annoyance that only grew during the interval. It would only get worse when the fourth official raised the numbers board to signal we’d seen the last of Gabriel Obertan for the afternoon.
The cheers that we ought to have heard at half time rang out at the announcement of the substitution and Obertan was forced to leave the pitch being mocked by his own team’s supporters. Now, I’m trying to stay objective here, and I realise that a fan that has paid for his ticket has the right to express displeasure at any given time, but surely this is bordering on madness? If not mad, then counterproductive at least. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty certain that no good can come from booing anyone wearing our colours. There seem to be thousands upon thousands who wait with baited breathe every time the young French winger gets the ball, waiting to pounce upon any mistake he might make.
Remember when Tottenham first signed Heurelho Gomes? He dropped a huge clanger, and the Spurs fans reminded him of it for weeks on end, cheering ironically every time he caught the ball. What followed was a string of unsteady performances and a hit and miss time as their first choice goalkeeper. Is that what we really want for Obertan, to consign him to the bench, for him to fail?
Us Geordies have often been branded fickle and ignorant, something we’ve always laughed off. Yet we were coming off the back of a 3-0 schooling of the Premier League champions when we faced Blackburn, is four days really a long enough period of time for some people to forget about that?
One thing I will say (as my friend said it to me when I had this moan at him) is that cup games tend to attract groups of younger fans who may not get the chance to come to the match a lot, and Saturday was no exception. One kid boos at half time because we’re losing, the rest join in? Maybe. But it doesn’t disguise the fact that people have been on top of Obertan from the word go.
So he wasn’t good enough for Manchester United, not many are. Ferguson has let more than one player go only to see them shine elsewhere. Rossi, Pique, and Veron all spring to mind. Even Tevez was deemed surplus to requirements, but moved on to success anyway. Wouldn’t we all love to add Gabriel Obertan to that list?
We show up every week, we don’t care about much else, we love the highs of the Geordie roller coaster, but – as the best fans in the land – we need to stick with the team through the lows as well, and when Gabby pulls on the black and white he is as much a part of the team as anyone. #SupportObertan