Newcastle United fans are known around the country, and even the world, as some of the best. Loyal, passionate and proud. The city of Newcastle itself is proud. Proud of being from the place they are and proud of all it offers, from the Tyne Bridge to the beaches to the rich history throughout the city centre and neighbouring towns. That pride also shone on Newcastle United, once upon a time.

Today’s era of Newcastle is a shell of what it once was. Today, we stand as a club that is disconnected from its fans and the city, which is something of an extreme rarity in these parts. The club used to stand as something that meant everything to the city and the people, something that we could be proud to represent and something we had a shared hope about. It connected Newcastle-upon-Tyne and it determined the mood across the whole city, which it still does to an extent. However, the soul of Newcastle United has been ripped from it and is now being used in a game of cards between multi-billionaires, league executives, Saudi Princes and the court. But the soul was leaving our body long before the arbitration.

As everyone is aware, Mike Ashley took over the club from majority owner Freddie Shepherd in 2007 and embarked on a 14 year (at the time of writing this, who knows when he will leave) tirade of neglect, exploitation and sheer ignorance at the hands of Newcastle United Football Club. We have seen two relegations under Ashley’s tenure, something we’d not seen for a long time before the fat man took the club over. We went from European football to Championship football in a very short space of time and this speaks volumes about the way the club has been running in recent times.

We have started the 21/22 season with two league losses against two teams we should be taking the game to. Following those two losses, we fall to Burnley in the League Cup on penalties following a dismal 0-0 draw where we controlled the game but couldn’t put them to the sword, which is something we tend to do quite often.

This sorry state for a football club is currently sucking the soul out of the city and its people. Any sense of belief or excitement has departed and the club is in a rut of mediocrity. Hell, it may even be less than mediocrity at this stage. The sad thing is, during this soul-destroying regime we’ve had glimmers of hope, glimmers of “what if”. Alan Pardew taking us to the Europa League, finishing 5th with a team stacked with talent like Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa. Champions League-winning manager Rafael Benitez joining the club, manoeuvring the club through the Championship and building the solid foundations for a club that can do something. And that is what makes it sad. Whilst these glimmers are beautiful, there is always the thought in the back of your mind that this is still Newcastle United, this will be over soon. As a devoted fan of the club, I have become accustomed to the sense that whilst something might be good, it isn’t going to last very long because this is Newcastle United.

My big questions are: where has the soul gone? Where has the belief disappeared to?

The answer? Mike Ashley’s pockets. The club is in a horrendous and quite frankly dangerous state of affairs. Due to the takeover court case, Ashley has somehow become less interested in running a football club than ever before. He has distanced himself from the club even further and is now letting it stagnate and start to decline.

Steve Bruce at the helm is a perfect representation of a club that has no ambition to become better, no ambition to compete. A manager with one of the worst records in league history taking control of your team has to give you some sort of heart-wrenching devastation, especially when that bloke has taken over from a manager that let you believe in becoming something for the first time in a while.

The hope, excitement and belief among fans that made Newcastle United so adored are disappearing. The increasing lack of interest fans have and the lower effect football has on the city. Certain signs are starting to show that Newcastle United are heading in a direction where the football doesn’t dictate the city, where life doesn’t revolve around the club. Unless something changes soon, we will see a depleted fanbase on its knees. The fans show such commitment to the team, supporting them through everything. However, this feels empty because those that run the club don’t repay the faith and replicate the belief. But the funny thing is, whilst all this is true, we will still continue to see a full St James’ Park week in, week out because whilst we are becoming more and more disconnected from the club in its current state, we are still deeply devoted fans who are being toyed with and exploited. And that is the heart-breaking thing.

We support you evermore.

Luke Taylor