by Rob Clothier | Thursday 11/06/2020

Hello all, welcome to my new regular column which will be out on Thursdays, discussing all sorts of Newcastle United related matters, past and present.  Hopefully moving forward there will be more positive articles than negative, which we have sadly become accustomed to over the majority of the last 13+ years of Mike Ashley’s tenure at the club.

A bit about me first of all (so you know what you’re dealing with).  I’m 37, Dad of two kids aged 8 & 11 and live in West Monkseaton, North Tyneside.  I’m part of the True Faith clan – a great group of lads and lasses who are as passionate about Newcastle United as anyone else I’ve ever met.  I joined True Faith back in the summer of 2018 after chatting with Alex Hurst via my old fan account which was called Total:NUFC (some of you may remember it?)  The ambition and passion which Alex and the others at TF had was clear to see, and when they asked me to come on board and join their team there was no way I could refuse.

True Faith has been a well respected fanzine since it was established in 1999.  And with the addition of the True Faith NUFC Podcast in 2014, it is a well rounded and highly regarded fan led organisation.

I fell in love with Newcastle United when I was 13, which was the 1995/96 season – what a time to be a teenager falling in love with a football club.  My parents and wider family have never been into football.  It was through school friends and playing football at junior level that I fell in love with the beautiful game.  Growing up in Monkseaton, North Tyneside, there was only ever going to be one club for me.  At school, we all loved NUFC (and called Sunderland worse than shit).  That’s the way its always been for me and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I have some wonderful memories of listening to Mick Lowes’ commentary on Newcastle matches, which I always listened to on my radio as we didn’t have Sky Sports in our house.  Back then I would also never miss an episode of Gazetta Football Italia on Channel 4.  I was obsessed with football, and still am!

My spot at St.James’ Park is in the Gallowgate, block M.  I live for matchdays.  The ritual you go through from waking up in the morning to making your way to the ground is one that we all go through in our own way.  Of course, sadly, this is something which many of our fans have decided to put a stop to, finally caving in to the persistent pressure of Mike Ashley’s atrocious manner of running our great club.  I personally found it so sad and depressing seeing tweets from people at the start of this season who had been season ticket holders (many as families) for decades in some cases, now deciding it was time to throw it all in.

This is where it gets really weird for me.  Because, believe it or not, 2019/20 was my first season as a season ticket holder.  Believe me, I’ve wanted one for a LONG time before this, but circumstances with work and family life have always prevented me from having one.  Instead, over the years I have purchased single tickets to games that I’ve been able to go to.  In many ways this has given me a good chance to make up my mind where I wanted to sit permanently in the stadium.  I’ve made sure to sit in all different parts of the ground over the last several seasons, sampling the different atmospheres and crowd dynamics that come with your location within St.James’ Park.  My best experiences were always in the Gallowgate.  I love the view, the noise, and the fact that we shoot towards that end when we win the coin toss.  And of course, its always great to be part of the Wor Flags displays, which we are all desperate to see return when things finally start looking up again.

More recently, in July 2019, I traveled over to China to watch us play in the PL Asia Trophy and report back for True Faith.  This was an opportunity of a lifetime and I have to thank everyone who supports TF by buying the fanzine and subscribing to our extra podcasts on Patreon (just £7 a month for 16-20 extra podcasts!) for making it possible to send a fan to Shanghai & Nanjing to report back on the Toon’s fortunes (and misfortunes).

Waiting for kickoff between Newcastle Utd & West Ham in the PL Asia Trophy at the Hongkou Stadium, Shanghai – July 2019

Onto current matters.  Do you really want me to talk about the takeover?  It seems everyone is having their say on it, so why not eh?  Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m not the most optimistic of people.  I’m a glass half empty kind of person.  But when it comes to the NUFC Takeover, you’ll find me on the glass almost full side of things.  Yes, its dragging on.  Yes, there’s been numerous media outlets and journalists throwing doubt around about the whole thing.  The truth is, the only people who know what’s really going on are the buyer’s side, seller’s side and the Premier League.  And as always, non-disclosure agreements mean that any accurate and reliable information about the deal should be hard to come by.

This is not a simple, straightforward, measly deal.  We are talking about £300m + being spent.  Its going to take time.  I do not claim for one second to be a business or legal expert, but anyone can surely understand that every single aspect of this deal needs to be examined in fine detail by all parties involved.  Throw in the disruption brought about by Covid-19 and that just slows everything down even more.

I have no doubts this deal will go through.  I understand everyone’s impatience.  I mean which NUFC fan or follower wouldn’t be in a hurry to see the back of Mike Ashley and his cronies?  The wait is agonising.  But as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait.

I’m not only excited by the prospect of having new, wealthy, ambitious owners; I am also interested in the method that they will use to inject some life and positivity back into Newcastle United.  What a huge project it is for any potential new custodians.

Off the top of my head, the to-do list would include: head coach and backroom staff, fan engagement and communication, training ground and facilities, stadium improvements and maintenance, playing squad, relations with the media and fan groups (such as Newcastle United Supporters Trust).  There will be many, many more that I haven’t mentioned.

There’s so many ‘quick wins’ new owners could implement.  Refund season ticket money.  Get club legends such as Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer involved with the club again (if they wish) in positions such as ambassadorial roles.  Appoint people to run the club who understand football and will make the right decisions to keep the club moving forward.  Basically, just do the opposite of what Mike Ashley has done to NUFC.  As fans, we just want to see the club TRY.  Try to be good, try to be responsible, try to achieve things, try to be better, the list goes on.  We want to be proud of our club again.  Though the love for it will never die, I’m sure there are few fans left nowadays who truly feel a sense of honour about what the club is doing in all aspects of its existence.

Given the objections that have been raised to the Premier League from other clubs in England’s top flight division, its clear that there are genuine concerns that we can pose a threat to the top teams vying for silverware domestically.  We are going to have to repair our disjointed and divided fanbase, into one that is United again.  There will be unprecedented levels of jealousy aimed at us from other fanbases if/when we start to make progress.  So instead of the in-fighting, we are going to have to stick together and fight our corner.

Post-takeover, I’m far from expecting us to start off by signing the likes of Mbappe, Messi, Ronaldo etc.  But that’s fine, because as long as we are behaving in a way that a properly run, ambitious and respected football club would, I will feel safe in the knowledge that at least we are moving forwards.