We have finished eleventh and collected 49 points. In many years to come, future Mags might look back at those bald facts and conclude that was a pretty average season. They will then need to read into the detail of a remarkable campaign of 14 opening games without a win, in the bottom three in December but then Champions League qualifying form from January onwards. Let’s not ponder over that depressing home loss in the FAC to Cambridge United.

The facts are Burnley were relegated in third bottom place on 35 points and we finished 14 points ahead of that total when many of us wondered if we’d scrape together the Lancashire club’s total. We have finished seven points shy of Europa League qualifying West Ham.

Leicester City in eighth are three points ahead of us with Brighton and Wolves immediately ahead of us with two extra points. That, I repeat on the back of our winless run of 14 games under the inept Bruce. That was some handicap to play off.

How have we done it?

There has been no one magical ingredient but much of it is down to Eddie Howe, who less we forget was the new board’s second choice after we were turned down by Unai Emery. Howe is an intelligent, likeable, progressive, hard-working coach who has greatly improved the basic levels of player-fitness, focus and organisation.

Most fundamentally, he has improved on the spirit, purpose, unity and togetherness of the squad – they are the intangibles that can’t be bought in a transfer window.

Of course, the recruitment in the January transfer window helped. But the attention to detail led largely by Howe has ensured every player brought in has contributed to the massive improvement. Targett, Burn, Trippier, Guimarães and Wood have all improved the team, all hit the ground running in their different ways and met the intentions of Howe’s planning.

Recruitment does not explain the massive improvements in Joelinton, Krafth, Shelvey, Willock, Fraser and latterly (S) Longstaff. All of those players know this is a club on the up and one they will do everything to stay at.

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It has only been right focus should be on players who have served the club well in a difficult period and who might now be moving on – Ritchie, Gayle, Manquillo, Clark, Hayden, Darlow, Fernandez, Murphy and Lascelles. They are players in scope to move on. Perhaps Almiron and (S) Longstaff too, who knows?

In the rush to speculate at the new talent that might be brought into United over the summer, I think we should pause to reflect upon the contributions of those players, who through no fault of their own were with United at a time when Ashley was suffocating it with a lack of care, attention or ambition. I don’t think anyone can accuse any of those players of not always giving of their best and the spirit which carried us back towards the PL after an Ashley-driven relegation under Rafa and consolidated us for two seasons back in the PL with a doggedness contributed to the takeover happening.

Somehow not even Bruce with his laziness, unprofessionalism and weasel-words could completely destroy that unity – though had the takeover not happened and he had remained, Newcastle United were going down. There’s no serious argument about that.

Howe has restored the defensive solidity we had under Rafa and which was lost under Bruce. He has also done that by changing our style of play gradually. We now play further up the pitch and whilst Howe’s January recruits have played a big role in that improvement, it is my assertion prior to his injury, Shelvey was playing the best football of his career and Joelinton is reborn. Willock has shown the talent he has and I am hopeful he can develop over the next few seasons.

The season has ended on a high. We are all excited beyond words at what comes next. We have been told the club intends a gradual evolution and will comply with Financial Fair Play rules. Howe is keen to preserve what he has within his ranks and gild that over time. I think we’ll sign four players minimum and six players maximum. Just my intuition, apropos of nowt.

What of next season? My view is we should be targeting the top eight. But it won’t be easy. The temptation is to look at what has been achieved since January and imagine it can be replicated over a full season. That may be simplistic and next season will have its own dynamics. But it can be done if the quality of recruitment is equal to what we had in the winter window.

That’s going to be our focus as supporters but other priorities will become apparent too.

The demand for tickets is already off the scale. I’ve always considered that a capacity stadium of 65,000 would be our limit. I think I’ve undersold the club. If it could United could easily sell another 13-14,000 season tickets within the next month on top of what we previously had prior to Rafa leaving. That would take us to 65,000 now. That’s after finishing eleventh in the PL and no Cup runs.

Such was the toxic nature of the club under Ashley, thousands of supporters had chucked it in a trickle and then in a flood after Rafa left. The vast majority of them want to be back. Accommodating them and others is not a task I envy of the club.

In our hearts we know the current SJP footprint isn’t large enough and although we’ve all engaged in high-flown discussions as to how our beloved ground could be extended, I can’t see it and if we want to think about growing Newcastle United into a behemoth we will need a stadium of 75,000 in my opinion.

But that’s not going to be a short term objective and the site will be critical if we ever did move. There is a training ground getting a reboot right now and a new one to be built under the supervision of the new Director of Football when he finally takes up post.

We have seen additions to the board of directors in the last fortnight with the Saudi influence growing. We are yet to appoint a new Chief Executive who will want to appoint his/her team. We need to have people at SJP every day running the club.

The days of Newcastle United being a ghost-ship cannot continue.

The new owners need to move beyond deft PR and start building proper infrastructure for meaningful engagement with supporters.

That should be with the Newcastle United Supporters Trust, United With Pride and the Newcastle United Disabled Supporters Association.

There are clearly links of a single purpose basis to be developed with Wor Flags and the Newcastle United Fans Foodbank as well as the Sir Bobby Robson and Alan Shearer Foundations.

But it is the Newcastle United Supporters Trust, the largest and perhaps best organised Trust in the country which should be the sole representative of supporters with the club. There are others who fancy themselves for some position in this space but they are self-seeking narcissists who are pursuing their own interests either in terms of egos and other. Some of the credit they give themselves for developments that have absolutely nothing to do with them is laughable – but there are some gullible enough to swallow it I suppose.

NUST can be the link between supporters, club and Foundation. But whilst I’m confident NUST can be fully engaged and supportive of the club, we also need people who can speak truth to power, to behave as their critical friend and both be accountable to us and representative too. You don’t get that with chats over tea and biscuits as happened with Charnley.

The club needs a whole new Supporter Liaison strategy. That should not bear any similarity to what we have had previously e.g. Lee Marshall filling in for that role while focused on other duties with a Fans Forum operating like something which would make the North Korean government blush.

Newcastle United cannot afford to believe it can have anything other than proper, real engagement with supporters via a meaningful strategy as it grows into something new. Supporters should not feel alienated from this process and can indeed participate fully within it.

This is something I have my concerns about but I may be over-reacting as the Tracey Crouch Review may take this out of the discretion of clubs and make it compulsory. Best to get ahead of the game though?

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One thing is for certain and that is we know we have enemies in the London media. Some have already shown their hands and in the process shredded their credibility as people who can analyse and comment upon our club. They are filled with bile and prejudice. I am utterly convinced their disposition towards United is borne in part of a class-regional prejudice.

We have seen that turned upon other clubs, namely Liverpool at times but also other NE clubs too with sneering at Boro in particular.

There are some who simply cannot wrap their heads around investment such as we are expecting to come into Newcastle United and the region. They cannot rationalise it and they resent it.

They will of course deny it, but the metropolitan bias against our city and region is hard-wired into the DNA of certain media types who fail to grasp the potential of everything in the NE. To be fair this malaise has been prevalent in government for decades.

All of this is wrapped up in faux-concern at human rights abuses of the Saudi regime (that just happens to provide them with stories to click on for their bosses).

Of course, we cannot and will not ever lose sight of what happens in Saudi Arabia but this self-righteous ranting corp of football hacks are so far up into the darkness of their own arses, they fail to see how their grand-standing serves no good purpose and indeed might even be damaging the cause they purport to support.

It takes about 10 minutes to compile a pack of contradictions and inconsistencies in some who jump off the roof about so-called sports-washing but more damagingly, they are reducing all of this to football-page, social media “bantz”. They demean it.

In turn by insulting Newcastle United supporters, haranguing Eddie Howe and even sneering at those in the NE press who cover the club full-time, they are polarising the discussion and ultimately doing nothing about awareness at human rights abuses in Saudi and elsewhere.

I’m proud that this fanzine has engaged with those who are critical of the takeover.

There have been podcasts with Amnesty International and others. I hope we continue to do that. All shades of opinion have been reflected on these pages and in the fanzine as well as on Podcasts.

Those of us with political sensibilities and social consciences come to the ownership of United in different ways. But some in the media wish for us to be marching up and down Barrack Road in a pointless protest against the people who now have the keys to NUFC.

My own personal view is I wish we weren’t 80% owned by the Saudi PIF. I fail to see how any of the owners of any PL club represent the best interests of the communities represented by those clubs.

Clearly, we despised Ashley but there was much in the Hall-Shepherd ownership to be reviled and I’m old enough to remember the small-mindedness of the McKeag and Westwood eras.

I wish we had a German model of ownership. It is why I have always been such a loud advocate for Supporters Trusts.

But football fans are never going to own PL clubs now. We’re not even going to own a share sadly. We have no say in clubs being bought and sold and little in how they are operated.

I read some of the loudest criticism of our supporters in their response to the takeover and wonder where Panja, Delaney, Wilson, Holt, Glendenning et al were when supporter ownership was being progressed by NUST and others? Answers on the back of a postage stamp in crayon!

But we’ve talked this through endlessly. I’m becoming bored with it.

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I’m delighted to say this AM (23/May/22) we’ve just sent the new issue of TRUE FAITH (TF162) to the printers. There were times when I wondered if we could keep going with the fanzine such were the numbers of people worn down by Ashley. Allied to that the explosion of digital content made what we were doing with the fanzine decidedly analogue. Sadly, dozens of brilliant fanzines have bitten the dust.

Alex Hurst’s role in breathing life into all of this cannot be overstated.

But against all possible rational argument, TF remains in demand in its original printed format and is actually growing. It is a phenomenal turn of events and one that makes my middle-aged heart skip a beat (maybe I should get that checked out). I suppose we’re a little like those music enthusiasts back playing vinyl against all logic given what is available online.

TF162 is now at the printers and we should soon have it back to stick in envelopes and send to you all over the world. There is also a digital version of the fanzine and I have to say it works brilliantly on an i-pad or tablet as well as smart-phones.

But there’s nowt better than the printed, hard-copy version. Like the sad bastard I am, I’m prone to go looking through the back-copies over the last 23years we’ve been going and immediately taken back to various stops on the Newcastle United journey. Those windows back into our past are about us, the supporters and our various takes on the lived life of those doing the miles following United home and away.

I’m absolutely certain in years to come this new issue will be one Mags who are following the club now will pick up on and be returned to an incredible season in our club’s history. It will be one future Mags will read excitedly as a unique record of what supporters were making of our club at this moment in time.

In our own way, we are curators of our own history in supporting this crazy, mad, beautiful club of ours. There are facts and stats and details but this fanzine speaks of the feeling, the humour, the anxiety, the emotion, the nuances of what it has been to follow United as we hopefully pivot into what could be a golden era in Newcastle United history.

I commend it to you, get your copy (here), hell, take out a subscription. You’ll love it.

All of this feels good right now. Have a great week.

Keep On, Keepin’ On …

Michael Martin, @TFMick1892