Nip yourself. This is real. Our football club, our beloved Newcastle United has turned a corner. Those days of Steve Bruce talking drivel and expending his energies in silly vendettas with journalists who weren’t complicit in the fraud of his time as manager are over. The days of Mike Ashley’s running our club as a joyless means in turning an empty profit have gone.

The cancerous decline of all parts of Newcastle United has been arrested. The toxic disaffection of thousands of devoted supporters halted.

This is Newcastle United. This is the club we have always loved and still love.

There it is hidden under the neglect and indifference, cleaned up and brought into the sun-shine again.

There is no other word beyond “love” to describe Monday night at SJP as Arsenal’s CL hopes were eviscerated by Newcastle United’s players, manager, staff and supporters.

The love poured from the stands from KO to the FT whistle. It is love which makes supporters give up days of their lives organising flag displays at all kinds of hours of the day and night and made possible by the passion of supporters who donate monies to make it happen.

Wor Flags have harnessed the love for our club and represent it visually in a way which on Monday night was spectacular. It is love which sends supporters to the lengths of the country following a mediocre team at times because of what Newcastle United represents.

This season which threatened to be another car crash has been averted by Eddie Howe’s sheer graft, intelligence and leadership.

Yes, January’s investment supported that but it’s laughable Newcastle United can be criticised for investing in the squad when for a decade and more the club has been suffocated by lack of ambition, no more than a Zombie club simply there to make up the numbers. I sense some on Planet Football are struggling to keep up with the change on Barrack Road.

We have finished the season all bar the shouting. We have Burnley away to pull the curtain down on 2021/22. Doubtless Howe will want the same again as he got on Monday night gone but the season is done. The central mission to keep United in the Premier League, catch a breath and push into a brave new world has been achieved.

Nothing at Newcastle United is simple and straightforward however. In the last week there has been a mini-back-page explosion about a third away kit the club will wear next season because it has a resemblance to the Saudi national team. In the real world, no-one is taking any notice really.

But the usual lemon-sucking suspects have been on their hind-legs making outlandish claims viz sports-washing etc. I even saw a national newspaper pick issue with United sending a message of solidarity to Blackpool’s Jake Daniels taking a courageous step in revealing he is gay. We have even had sneering about United’s intentions to super-charge the club’s Women’s team and the attendance of over 22,000 their first game at SJP drew.

That’s the media we have in the UK. It is a curse on national life.

I don’t want to say too much on the subject because I think my fellow TF scribbler Yousef Hatem covered it with his typical intelligence  – click here – He adds more light than heat.

My only note of addition is the links between Newcastle United and the Saudi PIF will become greater and more obvious. That will no doubt send a cabal of self regarding football journalists into a tail-spin of faux-indignation despite the activities of their own employers and gross inconsistencies on middle-eastern investment in sport.

The lack of cognisance of the real-world social-economic-political-security architecture in the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and their interdependencies is lost on this lot. I don’t support the current arrangements but it provides a context that simply cannot be ignored within this debate. The white noise parts of the media project is counter to the cause they purport to support and seldom rises above the level of ranting 6th form politics.

It’s like Rick from the Young Ones has spawned a brood, though to be fair the Young Ones probably had a greater level of self-awareness and integrity.

I’ve enjoyed seeing SJP with the Sports Direct tat removed. The place looks back to its classy best. But we should expect new sponsorship deals to mean the blank advertising spaces around SJP will be taken by their signage. It may even mean a new shirt sponsor. This is necessary and valuable for United as anyone with a cursory knowledge of how the levels of commercial revenue tanked under Ashley.

I hope it does in such a way that respects the club as Ashley did not. But it will come.

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The scenes at the end of the game were unique. I’m still getting over the sensation of applauding Newcastle United directors on the lap of appreciation. That’s a new one for me in over 50 years following The Toon. Will that keep happening? It will if those in authority manage the club correctly, respect Newcastle United, the supporters and its community.

I wish all of those players who now move on all of the very best in their lives and careers. This does feel like that moment when we sent fond farewell to the likes of David Kelly and others who’d served United well as we moved into a different era. I think all will be welcomed back to the club and have a bond with us that will last a lifetime.

But now it’s about the future. Rome wasn’t built in day and patience will be required as a very talented, likeable coach builds something for us that we can be proud here in NE1.

This feels like a momentous moment in our club’s history. I think we’ve all tired of talk of “massive potential”, “great fans”, “basket-case club”, “soap opera” and of course the “Zombie club” created by Ashley. That’s an identity many of us are keen to shed.

Yes, there’s a big question about the ownership of our club and doubtless a part of the media will bray continually about that, insulting fans and haranguing the coach etc to no great end. What we as fans remain focused on is the development of a sporting institution that is the cap badge of our Geordie identity and to continue to hold those with the stewardship of our club to high standards. We want a successful, progressive, socially responsible football club not because it makes Saudi Arabia look good, but because this is always what we’ve always wanted.

But we have the tools to discuss that amongst ourselves without being lectured by some football hack attempting to make a name for themselves. We won’t be brow-beaten by grandstanding journalists with no connection to this region or football club.

We’ll have to learn to deal with that without becoming what we’ve been falsely accused of being.

This is a big summer and most of the attention will be on players but there are items that will draw our attention.

Where are we with the appointment of key staff who will lead the strategic direction football-wise and in the commercial sphere – namely a Director of Football and a Chief Executive and their team?

What will the continuing involvement of Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi be? We know they are on a 12-month management contract – what happens next?

The Tracey Crouch Review will make a formalisation of the links between the club and the Newcastle United Supporters Trust more vital and it will bring great benefits to the club as will the appointment of the correct people to the vacant positions of Supporters Liaison Officers (which we currently do not have).

Perhaps they are not questions for this week.

But if there’s one thing we should learn this season then it is the power and force of a unified Newcastle United on and off the park. It is a joy to behold.

From the Wor Flags display to the Food-bank to the Supporters Trust, to United With Pride and the Newcastle United Disabled Supporters Association, the Sir Bobby Robson and Alan Shearer Foundations and of course the great work and huge potential of the Newcastle United Foundation. Unity is Strength!

Newcastle United feels less like a football club at the moment and more like a movement and a force of nature. More than a club? Just a bit.

Am I going over the top? Well, maybe I am but this is a very special football club representing a very special community and supported by a body of people who deserve every bit of success that might come its way.

We’ve learned to love our football club again this season and St James’ Park on Monday night was testimony to that. Long live love!

Keep On, Keepin’ On …

 Michael Martin @TFMick1892