Have You Ever Seen A Mackem Punch A Horse?

Stu Forster

No media outlet has tried to convince the public that a Mackem has indeed punched a horse yet, but there have been some attempts to deflect attention from violence caused by Newcastle fans and to bring our name into matters where it does not belong.

I woke up yesterday morning with a huge grin on my face. It was my first day back at work after Sunday's magnificent dismantling of Newcastle United and I was going to enjoy it. Then I turned on the television...

I was greeted by BBC News clearly misrepresenting the scenes of fan violence that marred Sunday's Tyne-Wear Derby clash. As the now all too familiar images were shown, it was described as the act of Sunderland and Newcastle fans, which we of course know to be untrue. Those fans shown throwing bottles and attacking police were all Newcastle supporters and after evidently receiving contact from annoyed viewers, BBC presenters issued an apology and correction.

All well and good you might think but in many ways the damage was already done. Sunderland's name had unfairly been dragged through the mud and on national television. A quick note of apology is unlikely to wipe that from much of the breakfast eating public's mind.

At least this was merely a mistake; inexcusably poor journalism given then size of the BBC, but an error nonetheless. Some of the local media representation of Sunday's events has, however, been simply incorrect.

The BBC has been at the forefront of this. There appeared to be an attempt to drop the name Newcastle from some reports of "fans" causing destruction and mayhem, cutting a section of an interview with a police officer so that the name of the club was omitted.

On Monday evening's Look North, a local police official described how the result of the derby affects people's reaction, citing Newcastle's 5-1 defeat of the Lads and the 49 arrests made, emphasising the majority of them were our support, before saying much fewer were made after last season's 1-1 draw.

Fair enough you might think, there is a correlation and an admission that the majority of Sunday's 29 arrests were people of a Newcastle persuasion followed, with more arrests likely to be made once evidence has been collected.

However, what narked me about the reportage, granted not the BBC's fault on this occasion - they can't put words into an interviewee's mouth after all - was the desire to even mention these previous occurrences. Why were they needed? What was the agenda behind contextualising the proceedings in this fashion?

All that needed to be reported were the facts, which were plain for all to see. What was conveyed was a desire to in some way deflect from the idea that any one side was to blame. I certainly do not remember this being the case on previous derby occasions but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

What followed was a story about a young Newcastle supporter who had been struck by a flare thrown from the upper tier occupied by Sunderland fans. Hopefully he is not seriously injured and the person responsible for throwing the flare could yet be reprimanded for their actions.

Rightly so too, it was an act of extreme stupidity. However, it seems more likely to have been a regrettable, spontaneous action rather than a malicious attempt to harm. The upper tier was a sea of red caused by various flares and smoke bombs prior to kick off and at various points during the half and this minor injury mercifully appears to have been an isolated incident.

While I don't have a problem with the story per se, as it is clearly report worthy, I do take issue with the fact other instances involving Newcastle fans and smoke bombs and other assorted fireworks have been ignored. As the police escort took us toward St James' Park countless objects of this nature were thrown into the relatively compact area between the lines of officers where Sunderland fans were located.

I did not witness any of those items strike our fans, but that is not to say people were not hit by them or that distress was not caused at other points of the escort away from my view. I also remember flares being thrown by Middlesbrough fans into sections of the Sunderland support at the Stadium of Light earlier in the season, which went largely unreported in the press. There is a distinct lack of balance here.

Of course, Newcastle have had to deal with the deplorable behaviour of a significant minority of their support after the match and this has been widely covered, but that does not excuse the lack of coverage of events prior to the game.

Then there has been the insistence that all of those involved in the aforementioned post match disorder were not present at St James' Park. The previously referred to police official was also on hand to readily explain how Newcastle fans had left the stadium within six or seven minutes and as such, to his mind, were not those involved in the pitched battles that occurred sometime later.

There is every chance that he is correct. It is not his conclusion I take issue with, it is the way he arrived at it. Just because the fans left rapidly does not mean they could not be involved in fights that happened away from the ground some time later. On the contrary, it would give ample time to anyone who had left the ground to take up position along the escort route or arrive at the train station well in advance of Sunderland fans and thus prepare an assault. Whatever the reason, there was an apparent desire to absolve the match going public of any blame.

Incidentally, that is not to criticise the actual policing of the escort. On the day, the police did their job brilliantly and we were generally very well looked after.

This is not a specifically local issue either. It appears that certain stories fit a particular narrative and the media pick up on those and not others. Whilst it is a positive that Milwall fans involved in ugly scenes on Saturday have been widely condemned for their behaviour, it is both surprising and in many ways shocking that a stabbing which occurred at another game on the same day appears to have generally been ignored.

An Everton supporter came away from his side's game against QPR with a punctured lung after being stabbed. Big news you would have thought but I only discovered this story after talking to Everton supporters and reading a piece in the local media on Merseyside. There appears to be some debate as to whether the stabbing was carried out by a QPR supporter or one of his fellow Evertonians, not that you'd know that from the national media, who seem to have completely overlooked the story.

The media have the power to shape stories or even just ignore them. It often seems to be the case that Sunderland are on the receiving end of a local and national media whipping in the aftermath of derbies due to supporter misbehaviour. On this occasion it is Newcastle who must take the brunt of the responsibility. Despite some of the excuse making and deflection in the media, we know that we can all answer no to this question with a clear conscience; "have you ever seen a Mackem punch a horse?"

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