It doesn’t seem so long ago that as a group of supporters we were hideously disfigured by division and in-fighting. Supporting Newcastle United had become toxic with a great many fans at each other’s throats about the best way of persuading Ashley his ownership of the club was untenable.

We often reproached ourselves about how much or how little we did to oppose Ashley and the way he was hollowing out United. There were protests which were successful and others that weren’t. What often saddened me was the vitriol that passed between supporters on occasion and how horribly personal it became.

I’d hope all of that has been put to bed and we’re on the other side of that now. In the stands we feel as united as we’ve ever been. We really need to be because as a club, city-region and group of people we are only going to face more mounting scrutiny and criticism (largely one-eyed, thick and tribal, though some worthy of reflection too) and we’ll have to deal with that. Yes, there will be a certain part of us that creates a siege mentality but we should get ready for more attacks coming our way.

We’ve never had this challenge before and we’ve had a small taste of it already.

But I think we’re going to be okay.

There has been a sea-change in the atmosphere around the club. Sure, some enmities that exist between supporters will endure but they aren’t important. It’s boring and no-one cares. There are some I think actually enjoy them. But it is all a waste of energy. Count me out of that bull-shit.

There can’t be a supporter who hasn’t been caught up in the changed atmosphere at SJP on match-days and the spectacle created by Wor Flags. Alex Hurst and I had roles in establishing the match-day flag displays (under Gallowgate Flags) but others have built upon that foundation and taken it on to a whole new level. Actually, onto several different levels and I’m delighted about that.

I don’t think anyone envisaged the display we had around SJP for the Arsenal game. It was an incredible, unforgettable night made possible by hard-working volunteers who put in an incredible number of hours, who buzz off the displays and of course the reaction to them from players, the manager, staff, directors and of course supporters. That small group of Mags should be very proud of what they have brought to the supporter culture of our club.

The whole lot is paid for by supporters and is the largest project of its type in the UK. It is a visible demonstration of a peerless passion there is for Newcastle United, despite everything we’ve endured but it is more importantly an act of collective endeavour. Ordinary rank and file fans have made this all possible in a myriad of different ways. They deserve all the back-slapping they’ve received.

We can’t ignore the work of the Newcastle United Fans Foodbank. Again, a great many good people make this possible and have volunteered hours of their time to making this work. I share concerns about Food-banks being normalised and used as a PR tool for those who donate to a political party which makes them a necessity. However, overall, this work is an active demonstration of community solidarity. It comes from a tradition of the Colliery Welfares, the co-operative movement and is happily still in our regional DNA. But I’ll celebrate lustily when they are no longer needed and regard their existence as a stain on the social policy of governments since 2010.

It is no accident Newcastle United has one of the best independent fan media scenes in the country. I refine my intake because I’m so time-poor these days but I don’t doubt the quality of what is being produced. It is gratifying the spirit of the fanzine movement of which my generation kick-started in the late 80s has found its way onto other digital platforms and younger Mags are so active in this space.

I’m fortunate to still be involved with TRUE FAITH. My passion remains on the writing side and I’ll admit to having a great face for radio and well, I’m probably a bit too shy and self-conscious for the You-Tube stuff – but I really love it.

Emil’s Fan-Cams are brilliant, a celebration of the fun of football, daftness, warmth and humour. I have a suspicion Emil may have bigger fish to fry in the future but I’m going to enjoy his stuff for TF while I can.

Who called Alex and Charlotte the Phil and Kirstie of the Gallowgate End? Just kidding.

We aren’t the only ones of course and good luck to anyone having a go – like many of you I still log on daily to the mighty NUFC.COM and will never forget our former CEO David Stonehouse in the 90s telling the media if he wanted to find out what was going on at the club he set his browser for Biffa and Niall’s esteemed location for truth and balance. I’d guess that is still the case for us all now.

I love the idea of Daz Curry’s boats carrying hundreds of Mags up the Thames for away games in West London – Fulham, Brentford and Chelsea all possible maritime adventures at aways in the capital this forthcoming season. It is gloriously good fun, unique and as good an example of a Geordie love of a good time as I can imagine.

I don’t know Daz at all and I’ve not (yet) been on any of the flotillas he’s organised but every time I hear of a B&W boating party being organised, I can’t help but smile. Great stuff.

There is so much good going on around our support but I feel as though now we’re finally rid of Ashley, this can go up a few notches in the years to come.

Like many I have personal and family reasons for supporting the work of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the clinical trials supported with the money raised to fund research into the treatment of cancer. The SBRF is a tribute to the man himself but also the well of good-will he tapped into in order to create something where it is not hyperbole to say will save hundreds of lives.

There are other groups playing important roles around Newcastle United not least of which are the Newcastle United Disabled Supporters Association (NUDSA) and of course the United with Pride group who have brought the rights of LGBT+ supporters into the public realm. The first game that Rainbow flag was flown on The Gallowgate said a lot about where we are as a group of supporters. Respect.

I am unashamedly four square behind the Newcastle United Supporters Trust. NUST has had its bumps in the road since its inception but over the last 12 years has been at the forefront of the 20’s Plenty campaign with the Football Supporters Association to control ticket prices for away supporters, successfully challenged plans for bubble trips in derby matches, exposed Ashley’s disgraceful removal of the lease on land at Strawberry Place for his own benefit, led opposition to the renaming of SJP as the Sports Direct Arena and in recent years it has been re-energised.

NUST membership is around 15,000 and growing. It successfully represented season ticket holder interests to the Premier League and forced Ashley to respond to questions about reimbursements as a result of the pandemic. We were all being ignored before NUST’s intervention.

No other Supporters Trust spoke directly on its own with the MP Tracey Crouch who was conducting a research into football governance on behalf of the UK Government and gained such public recognition as to the quality of the presentation made to her.

NUST spoke directly to Richard Masters of the Premier League during the protracted takeover saga – no other Trust in the country had that access. No other supporters organisation could have had the credibility with the media, government and the football authorities than NUST in pushing for transparency and a resolution to a takeover story that was driving is all to distraction.

Latterly, Pledge 1892 galvanised supporters to prepare for a day which would inevitably have come when Ashley’s lamentable running of United would have ruined the club. There is now c.£200,000 in the Trust’s coffers waiting to be distributed to local good causes and that will be done in accordance with the will of NUST members. NUST is representative, transparent and accountable to its members.

Again, this is an example of us all working in concert, together for the common good and where individual interests play no part. Remember, the people on the NUST board are unpaid volunteers, people like you and me with jobs, families and lives.

There will be challenges to come for NUST and they will be much different to the ones faced in the days of Ashley who presented an existential threat to the whole purpose of Newcastle United.

We had a taste of NUST’s coming role when travelling Mags at Elland Road were put in an unsafe position trying to gain entry to the away end. Again, only a well-organised Supporters organisation could credibly respond to that and they did so with all of the statutory bodies; Police, Leeds City Council, Leeds United and of course the Leeds United Supporters Trust. NUST have played a critical role in ensuring the safety of supporters, not just of Newcastle United but others too.

We saw at the recent Champions League Final, the importance of a well-organised, properly constituted supporters’ organization at Liverpool (Spirit of Shankly) in challenging the cover-up attempted by the French authorities.

Last week, I received an e-mail from NUST advising that the Premier League has endorsed the introduction of Fan Advisory Boards. I’m not across the detail of how this will all work but it is inconceivable NUST won’t be front and centre at Newcastle United. Anything less is an absolute nonsense.

The enclosed is an excellent proposal NUST is making regarding an on-going relationship between fans and the club which can only be beneficial to the kind of club being created under the new stewardship – click here –  

There is so much that can be achieved via Newcastle United. It would be remiss not to mention the Newcastle United Foundation, which despite the good work it has achieved has always felt at arm’s length from rank and file supporters because of Ashley’s suffocating ownership of the club. My hope is for the Foundation to expand massively in coming years, to work alongside local authorities, colleges, universities, NHS and other recognised charities using the power of the Newcastle United brand to do great work for those in the region.

There is so much that can be achieved under a B&W flag via all of the folks dedicated to the club and I desperately hope the energy, passion and talent there is amongst supporters can be harnessed for the good of Newcastle United and the communities that have sustained it since 1892.

Onwards Geordies!

Keep On, Keepin’ On …

 Michael Martin, @TFMick1892