So where will Newcastle United be in 5 years time? Some media pundits believe we will settle for nothing less than domestic and European domination with a rejuvenated Pele crossing for Messi to grab his 4th in a 12-0 demolition of Man City to make it 3 Premier Leagues in a row. Others continue to hope that moral and political pressure will eventually see the censorship and withdrawal of our owners and their funding stream.

Back on planet earth the mood amongst fans that I interact with is clear;  while silverware is important, there are other ways to measure success and the early signs are we have already have a good deal to celebrate.

Sat in a History lesson at Monkseaton High School in the mid-eighties, I was told that Stalin’s five year plan in 1928 aimed to take Russia from an inefficient, neglected and disconnected nation into a unified industrial powerhouse and create the foundation for decades of further growth.  His strategy focused on clear messaging and the development of group identity. However, I do remember asking my teacher if the mass starvation of his own people was the best way to “create buy in” who told me to “shut up and write this down” because one day  I’d need it for a an article in TRUE FAITH about about Newcastle United Football Club.

Eddie Howe has created a strong group identity, from his widespread use of posters and visual messages, to his insistence on a “character trumps ability” policy of recruitment. The desire of players to all join in goal celebrations and Eddie making it mandatory for players to applaud away fans has made us United again. Stalin’s description of Russia as “inefficient, neglected and disconnected” has an air of familiarity about it, but it’s been heartening to see how these problems have been attacked head on by all levels of the United hierarchy. Early plans for a state of the art training facility show that deep foundations are being laid for years of future growth; again, a pleasant change from the short-termist, reactive policies of Ashley and co.

United we stand (hopefully)

The recent announcement that safe standing will be permitted in PL and EFL grounds this season raised hopes that United will be part of this. Although the atmosphere since the New Year has been much improved and raucous at times, there are still many of us that relish the opportunity to stand and offer more active support (knees permitting). As an away day veteran I love the ability to literally rub shoulders with mates, whilst explaining to my sons that “this is still nowt like the Corner in the 80s mind”. Safe standing in the Strawberry corner seems a no-brainer, with other areas of the Gallowgate ripe for conversion.

However, I’d also spare a thought for safe standing in the Level 7 Milburn/Leazes corner where the old singing section was. Proximity to away fans should ensure a ready supply of lads and lasses who would take up the opportunity to provide vocal support from other parts of the ground. Such investment is essential if we are to remain a vibrant, active and passionate fan base. Much has been written about the emergence of “plastic fans” once a team is successful and there’s no doubt that increased global appeal will bring the day tripper contingent to SJP.

That’s why the next few years must mean serious conversations take place about extending SJP to accommodate a growing demand, but crucially this must never be at the risk of severing the connection between the existing fanbase and the club.

Tickets please

There has been much tweeted, written and argued about the sale of tickets recently.  Sidestepping  the suitability (or lack of) of the booking system and the increased prices for the home friendlies), I can see evidence of a 5 year mentality from our owners here.

By selling friendly tickets on a first come first served basis and also restricting the number of season tickets on sale, they are trying to create opportunities for some new/returning supporters to get a taste of the Newcastle United experience. Of course, this is not without its problems, with some ST holders unhappy that they couldn’t guarantee a seat next to them for their bairn.

However, I do think that the owners recognise that the Club must connect with the City and wider area and the sheer volume of interest in tickets and membership shows the connection has been made. (There were more people in the queue for season tickets than the capacity of Selhurst Park). Improvements to the fabric of SJP have continued, including the symbolic but vital relocation of Big Al to consecrated ground, overlooking “his” bar once again.

 Show me the money

In the two transfer windows since the takeover, United has exceeded the net spending of the previous 14 years, but it’s not as simple as splashing the cash. The quality of the players  we have signed (Bruno, Botman, Trippier) and the fact that links to Diaby  and Eriksen are no longer laughed off as ITK nonsense, shows how our pull has increased. In addition, the hardball played with Reims/Ekitike’s agent show we aren’t a ready cash cow for clubs to milk.

There will be a snowball effect too, with quality players keen to link up with other “stars” and I expect that our squad will continue to evolve and improve.

Overall, based on the impressive start that “Mandad” has made of their stewardship of Newcastle United, there would be disappointment if there is no significant silverware in the SJP trophy cabinet by 2027.

However, with an engaged and engaging ownership, a visionary and effective manager plus a vibrant and proud stadium, city and region, it feels like we can’t fail. “We don’t demand a team that wins, we just want a club that tries” read the banner and it’s clear that one half of this desire has now been met.

Now if we can just avoid Cambridge in the cup.

Mark Taylor