It is a common enough refrain, though one that has lost historical currency due to the passage of time that everyone could remember where they were when they heard the news President Kennedy had been assassinated in 1963. I couldn’t say I can remember. But I will take a guess it was in a pram somewhere in the NE8 post-code of Gateshead. Probably just off Coatesworth Rd or down Bensham bank via Dirty Water Road (aka Derwentwater Rd) in The Teams on Fleming St at the home of my maternal granny and a massive extended family.

Whilst I have little memory of one of the greatest events of the twentieth century, I can recall in detail where I was when news started breaking about the Newcastle United take-over.

I got wind of the takeover being back on, a few days before the 7/Oct/21 but to be honest, my scepticism was turned up to max so apologies for my world weariness to those keeping me in the loop.

We’d been here before only for something to go awry and plunged back into that half-dead zombie state that supporting Newcastle United had become.

But this started to become obvious it was different. Key journalists were in place … there were whispers of the Staveley group in Newcastle and then BANG, everything was dropping into place and stuff we’d sweated for months previously (CAT cases and Arbitration) didn’t matter. They dropped from public discussion immediately and without ceremony.

The game-changer was obviously, the diplomacy between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which none of us had a clue about.

Within that, the payment of $1Bn dollars by way of settlement over allegations of TV piracy within the KSA to Qatar’s broadcaster, BeIN removed what many considered the biggest obstacle. That obstacle wasn’t human rights, it wasn’t really a sovereign state owning a football club given the speed at which the PL accepted an assurance from the Saudi state about the separation between the government and PIF.

As with everything related to the Premier League, the concern was money. In hindsight, I don’t blame the PL. The modern game runs on TV revenue and piracy offers an existential threat to that – particularly that largely allowed to continue by one state scoring points off another.

With TV piracy sorted, BeiN-Qatar happy with the terms of the settlement and assurances accepted about separation (clearly a red herring used to being parties to the table to sort the piracy question), all that remained was for Ashley to be paid his £305m and a new era at Newcastle United could begin. That wasn’t a problem.

Days later, the Trojan horses of Arbitration and CAT cases, which had captivated us only a few weeks earlier, were put out quietly to pasture. They were irrelevant and I’d suggest they always had been. The real action had always been between government ministers in Riyadh and Doha.

No-one knew about that from the professional journalists that cover our club who we rely on or the fantasist ITK gob-shites making extravagant claims as to their own importance.

And I was sitting exactly where I am now, logged off from work with every news feed possible open, my phone going twenty to the dozen and me as excited about Newcastle United as I’ve ever been, attempting to process what was happening.

I don’t think any of us will forget the scenes outside SJP, on Strawberry Place at the back of the Gallowgate End on 7/Oct/21. I thought about going. I think if I’d been twenty, thirty years younger, wild horses couldn’t have stopped me making my way up Barrack Rd with my #CANS and joining in. Rightly or wrongly, I thought, this looks like a night for younger Mags, supporters whose iteration of Newcastle United they’d only known was the Ashley-Zombie version. I’m delighted for them.

The next morning, Sam Fender on BBC News, hung-over and barely keeping it together was all of us. These things happen. They do Sam and how we’ve waited.

Within the less than three months since the takeover, a lot has happened but a lot has remained stubbornly the same. The media reaction has largely been negative and in some cases vile and poisonous towards our club, city-region and supporters. It has been open season and it is something we will have to harden ourselves to without losing ourselves within that.

The Premier League, a play-thing of a self-styled elite of “big clubs” who were happy to traduce English football less than 12 months ago with moves to join a European Super League have lost no time in efforts to curtail “the richest football club in the world”. Talk of third party sponsorships and how much certain clubs can get are a de-facto means of asserting control over the rest of the league, killing competition and certainly going to be open to legal challenge. A cartel in operation.

But here we are now. It is late December. We are focused on the January transfer window. The club’s PL position and record is dire. One win all season and we have an abysmal defensive record. The squad is at a Championship level and in my opinion, losing is now in its DNA. There are spirit-crushing blunders every game. They have been completely Bruced.

Bruce inherited a well-drilled defensive unit from Benitez but has bequeathed a shambles to his successor Howe, despite having more money than any other Ashley-manager.

I can’t say I have much faith in this squad. My take is it is shot. There are players who should have left years ago and are way past their sell-by dates. Their previous decent service is mocked by current levels of poor performances. Once, if unspectacular but reliable players are liabilities. Some of this is inevitable due to the passage of time and some of it is on Steve Bruce’s laissez-faire management of days off and sojourns in Portugal at the family villa.

Most damningly, Howe has taken charge of players who admit to not being as fit as the opposition. No playing identity, no tactical savvy and no fitness.

In fact, there is only Wilson I’d be disappointed to lose and his injury record makes him an unreliable totem.

Do we need new players? Like a drowning man clinging to flotsam we do.

My take is without a minimum of five players to come in and deliver immediately, we’re probably going to get relegated.

But I don’t think all is lost. We are not cut adrift. There are clubs that can be dragged into the relegation swamp and a run of 3-4 games can change the atmosphere and our position completely.

But we have to act quickly and this is where I have some anxiety.

There have been missteps. For the good PR that members of the consortium have brought, we would be deluding ourselves if everything had gone perfectly.

Steve Bruce may have reached a 1000 games milestone at the Spurs game (he has won less than 300 of them) which gave his friends in the media something to piss their pants about, but he was an unwelcome guest. The occasion suffered for him being there like a bad smell awaiting a back-loaded pay-off he ill deserved.

The question has to be asked, why did that happen? The explanation was the lines between SJP and Saudi (who we know are providing the funds) perhaps weren’t what they should be and perhaps the process at the Riyadh end taking too much time.

Then we had the Unai Emery episode. Not for the first time, club news leaked to the media before pen had been put to paper, with the Spaniard spooked for whatever reason and withdrawing his interest. That may have been an embarrassment that didn’t go down very well in Saudi Arabia. Or indeed with club Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who will be assessing the performance of Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi running United under a 12-month management contract.

Eddie Howe has subsequently been appointed and benefitted from massively happier supporters prepared to get behind him. Whether relegation would end the honeymoon period remains a moot point.

The club has then been reportedly in a recruitment process for a Director of Football without an appointment being made. Several names have been in the frame, most notably Michael Emenalo formerly of Chelsea. But no appointment was made and claims that Emenalo turned down a position with United by The Telegraph were refuted very publicly via social media by Ghodoussi.

Now we understand the club has engaged a recruitment agency to find an appropriate candidate with Brighton’s Dan Ashworth a name to emerge in the last week.

But no appointment has been made and the club will be supported by an opaque group of advisers around Staveley and Ghodoussi going into the January window.

Perhaps it is just me but I worry about people in any organisation with influence but no responsibility and accountability. Tony Jiminez, Dennis Wise may have left scars I suppose.

The unloved, disrespected, largely inert Charnley rightly departed the club with few good wishes from the vast majority of supporters. But a Chief Executive post remains vacant. A recruitment process we are told is underway but has not yet been completed.

Is the time taken a sign of the professionalism of the set-up and the much vaunted “process”? Or do they just take a long time to do anything? We don’t know and the answer will take a while in coming. I’ll accept taking over a struggling PL club after 14 years of Mike Ashley isn’t ideal. Had the takeover happened in May, things would look a lot different now. But we are where we are.

It would also be wrong to ignore (or indeed take their word as gospel) some voices in football – mainly agents – who claim Staveley and Ghodoussi no little of how football works. Those claims may be motivated by spite or rejection, we don’t know. Or they may be accurate.

But those who question their credibility and competence are about to be proven right or wrong.

This is an absolutely critical transfer window. Possibly our most important ever. For what it’s worth I don’t subscribe to the view we are about to blow the football world apart with a massive spending spree. I do think the Saudis will invest and we’ll sign players that would have been off our radar in the summer window but I hope for some prudent signings and loan deals. The time to expect some really big money deals will come in the summer when we have some certainty about our PL status.

I also have a fancy the Saudis want to be viewed as behaving well and not to be using their vast wealth to blow football apart. I don’t think the Saudis bought Newcastle United to finish mid-table in the PL but I think they will also wish to show they are serious people who operate with intelligence and consideration rather than brash money-bags.

That’s not to suggest we can’t bring in the 5 players minimum to go straight into the first team. If we are smart that can be achieved on a relatively modest budget (modest by the standards of the PL as opposed to Newcastle United under Ashley).

We are a club in transition. We can feel it around us. Communications have improved (though much needs to be done yet with the machinery of supporter relations) and small things like SJP being cleaned and S****s D****t signage removed making us all feel better. Nice touches.

But next week is when the new era starts in earnest, when new players arrive worthy to pull on a Newcastle United shirt and several leave because they aren’t good enough.

This is where it all starts.

Keep On, Keepin’ On …

MICHAEL MARTIN – @TFMick1892