The life and times of an NUFC fan in the last few decades can probably best be described as a faltering rollercoaster ride.
Most of us have boarded the ride and strapped ourselves in and went on a thrill seeking quest to hit the loop the loop, only for the ride to malfunction just before the cars hit that loop and backwards we rolled to a standstill.
Of course, we are Newcastle United fans and we don’t let little glitches get us down. We wait for a quick repair and back on the coaster we go, only for it to happen again, but we still get off, dust ourselves down ready for the next available ride and so it goes on.
Throughout the years, we have been blessed and cursed with some managers that came in with the promise that this next roller coaster ride would go without a hitch and we would all end up going loop the loop. What some didn’t quite clarify though was whether we’d be going loop the loop with excitement or despair.
Big name managers came and went to be replaced by Caretaker Managers who held the fort until the next big name manager came in and as silly as it appears, it was usually the Caretaker Managers that managed to get the team playing and actually bringing out the qualities that our players possessed but rarely showed under whatever manager was in charge at the time.
Let’s look back at the managers that promised much and delivered little and also the managers that very nearly gave us that buzz of nearly venturing into that rush of excitement approaching that loop the loop.
Without going too far back and getting into the fossil era of managers as far as the younger bloggers on here go, I will start off with Ossie Ardiles.
I can still remember my own excitement of Ardiles being installed as manager and immediately my dreams were going to become reality, or so I believed anyway.
Ardiles started off by shaping the team as he saw fit and it consisted of basically a team laden with young pretenders who possessed the quality to be top players in the future but unfortunately did not possess the experience to see games off. Although the football played by these youngsters was really good on the eye,
as everyone knows it spiralled us into the abyss at the bottom end of the league and signalled Ardiles departure.
Enter Kevin Keegan who, having played for us under Arthur Cox in the early 80’s, decided the time was right to garage his golf clubs and put his experience as a top player into managing this club. Now Keegan had many qualities about him that other managers lacked and one was his ability to make players walk out onto the pitch feeling 10 feet tall and unbeatable. As Les Ferdinand once said: “When you felt nervous before a big game, Kevin would put his arm on your shoulder and tell you how good you were and that the opposing team were scared to play against you. It made us walk out onto that pitch feeling 10 feet tall and unbeatable.”
Yep, Keegan had that about him and also welcomed the fans into the faces of the players and actually made the club a family affair backed by Sir John Hall, and the players loved it!
This was one rollercoaster ride nobody wanted to miss out on because this was the real deal at the time and there was no stopping this ride. Unfortunately as exciting as the ride was (and boy it was exciting) we didn’t quite manage to come out of that loop with our hands held high in triumph.
With Keegan departing and telling us all he couldn’t take us any further, and following a short caretaker stint with Terry McDermott we awaited our next big name manager to take the reins.
Enter Kenny Dalglish! The least said about this the better, but in a nutshell he destroyed what Keegan had assembled and replaced quality like Les Ferdinand and David Ginola with over the hill ex-Liverpool players and old associates like John Barnes and Ian Rush. He basically ripped the heart out of the fans and the team. I don’t think I need to add anything further, except to say, this ride lost it’s wheels at the ascent point.
Things were going downhill fast and we were running out of big name options that could promise us a flirt with the big time again but who possessed the name and the skill to pull this off?
Enter Ruud Gullit, who waltzed into St. James’ Park with an air of arrogance and a plan of action that had us fans looking at each other and wondering whether this could be it. Gullit’s plan was to give us “sexy” football, the type of football that would have all us fans drooling over and make the rest of the country sit up and take notice.
It wasn’t quite the sexy football we all hoped for however. His idea of sexy football was to play head tennis with Alan Shearer and Rob Lee and any others that he didn’t see eye to eye with. Basically nobody was to steal his limelight and our heros of Shearer and Lee were to be discarded.
Unfotunately Gullit’s plan backfired when he dropped Alan Shearer against Sunderland and that was the straw that broke the camels back. We were promised so much and delivered so little.
Buckle up now boys and girls because out of bad comes good. The wheels are back on and this ride is gonna be exciting! Enter Sir Bobby Robson.
I really thought this was it with Bobby, especially when you look at how close he was to achieving something for us fans. As enjoyable as the ride was, it was unfortunate that we got him so late in his career. Had we got him in just 10 years younger than he was at the time, I firmly believe we would have silverware to look at.
This man deserves a write up of his own but I think everyone knows there isn’t enough words to describe this man thoroughly but a gem he was.
Other managers came and went after Bobby. Graeme Souness, Glenn Roeder, Sam Allardyce, Kevin Keegan (again), and then a caretaker who took the managers rein in the shape of Chris Hughton, who did a fantastic job for us winning us the Championship and instilling a winning mentality back into the side following the heartache of relegation.
Unfortunately he was deemed not suitable to carry us to a higher plateau, which is something us fans probably accept but also probably still ponder about, especially when his replacement was named as Alan Pardew.
Right now though, in Alan Pardew, we have a manager that had no big reputation in his management skills or footballing skills but a manager that this club was really crying out for. Someone who could settle us down as fans and help us lower our expectations a little.
Alan Pardew was the last man anyone ever thought would manage this club but he’s come in and gone about his business quietly, promising nothing but hard work and blood sweat and tears from his team, which as it stands now, could have us actually hitting that loop the loop and coming out the other side with the excitement of a European campaign to look forward to.
Brass tacks management. We’ve needed it for a long time!