On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia will face South Korea at St James’ Park, days after losing 3-1 to Costa Rica at the same stadium. Tickets for the match are priced at just £5 for adults and £2 for concessions, with the hope obviously being that such low prices can attract people through the door.

Newcastle United fans who don’t usually get the chance to go to the stadium will have been a target market, with families able to take their children to the Magpies’ stadium. An experience which will often be out of financial reach for many, such is the pitiful state of the UK at the moment.

Despite that, the attendance was around 5,000, far less than Saudi Arabia will have hoped for, and the event would have come and gone without much attention had it not been for what happened outside. NUFC Fans Against Sportwashing arranged a protest, with fans encouraged to meet at the Alan Shearer statue.

The group’s points of protest related to the club’s ownership were multiple.

‘Don’t let the Saudi dictatorship use our city to divert attention away from their crimes’
‘Hundreds of migrants shot on Yemen border’
‘Man sentenced to death for 6 tweets’
‘Women jailed for decades for campaigning for women’s rights’
‘Minors on death row’

The situation is quite obviously horrific, many of us would be hung, drawn and quartered by Thursday if the UK went on a similar trend. Personally, I’ve been critical enough about my own country’s leadership to die a thousand times.

The group’s tweet advertising the event was met with criticism and insults from a handful of other Newcastle supporters. That’s been the theme for them, and they’ve admirably kept going despite the comments they often receive from fellow fans.

On Friday evening they were confronted by multiple people, with videos of the altercations since going viral. An ignorant boy shouting at an elderly man has brought anger even beyond football, it’s one of those things which manages to escape Football Twitter and go out into the wild.

An even younger boy was pictured holding a Saudi flag in the face of the same man, an image which feels iconic in a negative sense.

When the takeover attempt was launched and criticism started, this is exactly the kind of thing that many expected to happen. Indeed, the images, although shocking, can’t really have been a surprise for Newcastle supporters or others.

Whilst those involved in the video are a small minority, it would almost certainly be wrong to say the majority of Newcastle fans are against the ownership. Some feel that criticism of Saudi Arabia is by extension criticism of their side and of the one-club-city they’re so proud of. There’s a difficulty separating the two, because to do so, again for some, would question all the things they’ve already enjoyed and what will happen in the future… it would all be somewhat tainted.

What many outside of that circle would respond with is – Well, it is.

Fans can’t be expected to abandon a club they’ve deeply loved for their entire life and which has connections within their families going back generations. They can’t even be expected to not enjoy a goal scored by a record signing or a trophy won thanks to funding from Saudi’s PIF.

But they have to accept they’ll be questioned on that and that others will see any success as tainted. When this happens, many go on the defensive, partly because of the reasons mentioned above.

Of course a lot of this is on social media and whilst social media is not a complete reflection of life it does not exist in a vacuum. The Newcastle fans running around Twitter armed with whataboutery and a persecution complex are still Newcastle fans when they put their phone down.

Those youngsters outside the stadium may be a product of social media but they also exist outside of it, as they quite clearly demonstrated. The lines, especially for those local to the club – as this bunch were – are not becoming blurred but rather being erased.

The defensiveness from many Newcastle United fans and the support of Saudi Arabia by a smaller number of others is more than even that from Manchester City when their UAE takeover happened. But then that was in 2008, there were no fancams, no desperation from people wanting to be famous by going to extremes, no opportunity for a small number of idiots to go after the equivalent of Jamal Khashoggi’s widow.

The surety of success was also absent.

Banter Era Manchester City + UAE wasn’t a guarantee of top tier trophies. For every fan wrapping a literal tea towel around their head (and even offending their owners in the process), there will have been more who were half expecting it to all go wrong. That’s what so often happened with their club, it was City innit.

They succeeded and provided the blueprint for takeovers like Newcastle United, and therefore, especially given the way the game has changed since, Geordies knew that Saudi cash would almost certainly propel them to heights they haven’t seen for a long time… or ever.

A feeling of being ruined under Mike Ashley saw a victim mentality, and whilst some will take that as an insult, they would be wrong to do so. Many Manchester United fans feel the same under the Glazer ownership, and Newcastle United fans would likely scoff at that: You’ve had all the success you could desire, you spend a lot and yet you’re crying for more?

There are many Red Devils bursting with thirst for Qatar to buy their club, they feel an entitlement for that route to success… and they’re already defending the potential owners in ways which simply wouldn’t have been possible in 2008.

And, rightfully, they’re already being slammed for it by some.

In Newcastle, a proud one-club-city, the current echo chamber of opinions which is available to all clubs will be even more entrenched and especially because many feel they are unfairly treated. When some of the media surrounding the club often adopt that mentality too, it’s possible to live life through chosen perspectives and therefore become angry when others see a different reality.

Hence an eagerness from many to defend their club, and sometimes the owners, even when much of the criticism – although not all – is clearly on the side of reason.

Things seemed to change a little with that Saturday viral video and the accompanying images. Newcastle fans are pissed off.

Yet they don’t see it as an obvious result of everything that has happened, but as an embarrassment to their club which will provoke opinions which are unfair. Many of the comments from those angry fans have been clear and correct – “Embarrassing set of windmills” being my personal fave – but there’s still many running around Twitter unleashing their whataboutery and loose defence of Saudi Arabia because they feel their club is being attacked.

The key, and the hugely difficult task for fans, is nailing that separation and making sure they don’t slip into defence or endorsement of Saudi Arabia’s regime just because the country funds their football club and they’re irritated by criticism of that.

Because Newcastle United will almost certainly be here long after Saudi’s PIF has packed up and gone, even if that’s in 50 years, and the families who have been Magpies for generations will still be so.

The club is more than the current owners or success.

It is far more important than that.