And breath… 

Phew!

The 7th of October 2021 will certainly be a day that will live long in the memory of every Newcastle United fan for years to come.

Mike Ashley’s reign of terror is over. The toxicity and stench of despair and stagnation that has been ascending on Tyneside for 14 and a half years has been washed away with a dazzling ray of sunshine, one filled with hope and ambition.

The scenes surrounding St. James’ Park were full of emotion, pure bliss, adrenaline, and relief. The frustration of a whole city had been vanquished and it was some sight to behold.

Mike Ashley’s tenure at Newcastle United was a dark one. The club had regressed from the entertaining and ambitious entity it had been in the 90s and early 00s, to a soulless shell of a football club that could barely keep its head above the lower echelons of inconsistent mediocrity.

The lack of investment in the playing squad over the past 14 years has been plain for all to see, but the lack of basic restoration of the club stadium, adequate upgrade of the training ground and facilities, a complete neglect of commercial revenue, and the treatment of club legends like Alan Shearer and Kevin Keegan made the running of Newcastle United by Mike Ashley verging on farcical, if not just that. Not to mention the renaming of St James’ Park to the Sports Direct Arena and the non-existent communication from the club to fans.

In a rare interview with Sky Sports in 2017 Mike Ashley said he didn’t have the financial clout to compete with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea. However, at no time were supporters of club suggesting Newcastle should be competing with the wealth of a sovereign state or a mega/rich Russian oligarch, but the club was getting out-muscled in the transfer market by newly promoted clubs. The lack of ambition was painful. Supporting Newcastle United was gradually becoming pointless. The club was being run incompetently, with virtually every other Premier League club, newly promoted or not, overtaking Newcastle on virtually every level.

In what is hopefully his last ever soundbite relating to Newcastle United, Mike Ashley suggested he should be applauded for leaving the club in a sound financial footing. Surely, this was the least he could do considering the miserable periods he has put the fans through. Keeping the club sustainable and making a slight year to year profit apparently deserves kudos. However, surely keeping your business out of the red is the most basic thing a businessman should strive for. The old infamous Chris Rock joke springs to mind.

Despite the club regressing, then stagnating, with the exception of a rare memorable season in 2012, fans kept on supporting their team on the pitch in hope of better days. No Toon fan had forgotten the potential of what their club could be.

Once news broke that the takeover was back on and closer than ever to being approved this time, the obvious jokes about Mbappe and Håland kitting out in the famous black and white have been appearing on Twitter since Wednesday with a brash satirical tone. Of course, no fan believes that this will be the case for quite a while yet, if ever.

What Newcastle fans are most looking forward to is the chance to be heard by their football club once again. To have that hope that the team can go into the transfer market and not automatically be reduced to bargain hunting or losing transfer wars with newly promoted clubs. They look forward to a time when they can be proud of their team again. Get up on a Saturday morning, put on the famous black and white stripes, and support their team with a smile on their face.

The issue surrounding human rights abuses is perhaps the most frustrating part of this takeover, with long suffering Newcastle fans becoming easy targets for accusations of supporting such an abhorrent regime from bitter rival fans and non-sports people.

How many migrant workers have died building stadiums for the Qatar WC that had been awarded to the state through bribery and deceit? How many sports journalists calling out the celebrations of Newcastle fans on the news of new wealthy owners as disgraceful will be travelling to Qatar to cover the 2022 World Cup?

Amnesty international has asked for a meeting with the Premier League in the aftermath of the takeover being passed. But why is there such an outcry when Newcastle United get taken over. Should they not be looking to sit down with Formula 1 bosses, boxing commissioners, FIFA, even the British government and monarch?

The ‘whatabouery’ argument have been labelled as lame, however, it must not be dismissed either. Are people who use Facebook, drink at Starbucks, use Uber, or watch Formula 1 and Boxing just as much supporting the Saudi regime as Newcastle United fans now?

Make no mistake, this is not a defence of the appalling human rights conditions that occur in Middle Eastern, oil rich countries, but rather a defence of simple football fans who just want to celebrate their football club’s newly found ambition.

The most exciting aspect of this takeover is the clean slate upon which to build brand new foundations of the club to replace the old, rotting ones. Organic growth, investment in the academy and training facilities, stadium restoration, investment in coaching and playing staff. The astonishment that Newcastle United can actually once again become a competently run football club.

Kevin Keegan once said, “Don’t ever give up on your club. Keep supporting it, it’s your club and, trust me, one day you will get your club back and it will be everything you wanted it to be”

That day finally came, after years of neglect and suffering. Newcastle United now have the richest owners in club football and have the potential to become one of the most successful clubs in England, in and for years to come.

Eoin McMahon