When I was very young, my favourite ‘film’ was “Newcastle United: The Entertainers” – a VHS tape showing our brilliant season under Kevin Keegan in 1993/94.
I was born in 1994 so this was before my time, but watching this and the 5-0 win over Man Utd in 1996 on video was one of my fondest early memories of a club I immediately fell in love with from an young age.
Then came the slightly more recent Sir Bobby era – a time which gave me my first big memories inside St James’ Park. I remember sitting in the Leazes End as a lad and hearing local hero for the first time, watching Laurent Robert curl a free-kick into the top corner in that 4-3 win over Man Utd. I was only 7 at the time, but I remember that feeling of euphoria like it was yesterday.
The Champions League nights too, watching Andy Griffin somehow fire a shot past Gigi Buffon in 2002 to keep our hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages alive!
Why am I saying all of the above you may wonder? Well almost 20 years on and the biggest news coming out of the club this week is that we’ve done it – we’ve survived!
Most of the above will sound surreal to fans born in the 21st century, but it shouldn’t be. A club of Newcastle United’s stature are capable of much more than just staying up.
Don’t get me wrong, avoiding the drop feels like a very decent achievement based on the state we found ourselves in last summer after Benitez and our two top scorers left with no replacements signed until late in the day, however it shows how far we’ve fallen that this is now celebrated by many in the media and the height of fan expectation going into the season.
This is not a dig at Steve Bruce – he’s proved me wrong in terms of his ability to keep us up in initially tough circumstances and has steadied the ship much better than most would care to admit – but it’s a sorry state of affairs WHEN NUFC are deemed to be doing “brilliantly” when bang in mid table and looking to scrape into the top 10 at best.
The fact this is celebrated is proof we NEED a takeover.
While Bruce deserves credit, the very fact Mike Ashley was happy to bring in a manager with his track record in place of Rafa Benitez spoke volumes last summer. As did the fact he showed ZERO attempt to keep arguably our second best striker since Alan Shearer in Salomon Rondon last summer (Demba Ba probably just edged the Venezuelan for the top spot!).
We may have absolutely smashed our transfer record last summer and spent another £40m or so bringing in Saint-Maximin and Almiron over the past 18 months, suggesting Ashley is finally willing to spend over £16m on a more regular basis (hardly groundbreaking when £20m was the new £10m before COVID-19!), however this is a businessman who sees this club as nothing other than a cash cow. As an example, you can be sure he’d happily accept a big bid or Allan Saint-Maximin if it allowed him to double his money and more.
We don’t actually know a great deal about the potential new owners, however the early signs (or not so early signs 15 weeks later!) are that they’ll at least attempt to get us competing both in the transfer market and on the pitch if they get approval.
After some celebrated survival this week (and I don’t blame some for doing so given we felt like a sinking ship destined to go down last summer), I’m praying for approval and the arrival of new owners who’d want more than just mediocrity each year.