Being a Queenslander, I can identify with both the Geordies and the Mackems in terms of being a long way from the rest of organised civilisation.
IMHO, Brisbane is a well-balanced city. It is big enough to have most anything you could want from a city but small enough so that it still has that ‘big country town’ feel. At any rate, we often get teased/razzed by the southerners about being hillbillies though most us have never known anything apart from an urban/suburban existence. Sometimes we play up to it a bit, when it suits us. Some of our politicians certainly don’t dispel the notion that we are hillbillies.
One key difference is the passion for our sporting teams. We love our sport up here but we just don’t get as fired up about it as the Geordies do. My working theory is that it has something to do with the cold and having nothing else to do. I’m not saying Queenslanders aren’t passionate about sport. Anyone who has seen a State of Origin knows that Queenslanders dine out on those three matches for pretty much the whole year. Broncos games aren’t nearly as passionate. And don’t even get me started on Sydney. Apart from Sydney FC vs West Sydney Wanderers, Sydney is worse than Brisbane.
I equate the passion shown by those from North-East England, with Melbourne which is our closest equivalent. Those from Melbourne live and breathe Aussie Rules. They pack out the MCG most weeks. They do nothing else but talk Aussie Rules. They wear their scarves out to breakfast and on the tram to work. Though I’ve never been to North-East England, I’m sure the region is the same about Newcastle United and Sunderland A.F.C.
In sharp contrast, I’ve followed sport all my life, watch a game on TV every weekend but rarely go to games. It is not that I don’t enjoy it (I love me a good hot dog as much as the next man) but there are so many other things to do. A couple of weekends ago, I went to the Sunshine Coast in the middle of autumn, rode 55km on a bike and then went for a swim at the beach. We are outdoors the whole year. We swim, we bushwalk, we ride, we have BBQs and we go on picnics. We watch sport when we aren’t doing something else outside.
This is an extraordinarily long way of saying, the Geordies had an amazing season, in direct contrast to the Mackems, but no sooner had the final cork been popped on the champagne bottle, Geordie former players, fans and media immediately started speculating towards the next EPL season and how badly they will recruit and subsequently play. Expectations surely must be managed but such hand wringing only days into the off season? Given the seasons leading up to relegation, I can certainly understand the rhetoric but at least wait until some transfers cross the books prior to entering a state of depressed panic. And the transfer speculation is pretty intense already and even less informed than usual. ‘A player is available in Europe but is in no way associated with your club’ doesn’t constitute transfer news.
Things could be worse. You could be Wearside!
The Mackems had made such a habit of pulling themselves out of the relegation zone after Christmas it almost seemed surreal when they went out without a whimper. Sunderland fans don’t need me to remind them of this, but since they were promoted to the EPL, their finishes have been as follows (with the margin from relegation zone in brackets):
2007/08 – 15th (3)
2008/09 – 16th (2)
2009/10 – 13th (14)
2010/11 – 10th (8)
2011/12 – 13th (9)
2012/13 – 17th (3)
2013/14 – 14th (5)
2014/15 – 16th (3)
2015/16 – 17th (2)
2016/17 – 20th (-14)
Unfortunately for Sunderland, it could be a long way down too. Not necessarily of the Leeds/Portsmouth variety but certainly less like the bounce back the Geordies recently experienced. The latest financial figures revealed they had made a loss of £33M during the year to 31 July 2016 as well. Could be a very long road indeed.
Next exciting episode will be on Friday, 2 June 2017 titled ‘Balancing the needs of the many with the needs of the few – Should the Australian cricketers go on strike?’