Twenty-five years is a long time in anyone’s life. Twenty-five years in football is almost an eternity and yet it shows how much things can change and what the consequences bring. It is almost impossible to believe NUFC were prepared to meet Keegan’s dreams so long ago.
Especially when you consider the situation now. I was at home when the news broke and I mean the actual news. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Had NUFC just broken the world record transfer fee and brought Alan Shearer home? Yes, they had.
I picked up the phone and dialled work to speak to my friend and colleague Peter who like me, at that time, was a season ticket holder and Toon fanatic. I had expected that he had already heard. He hadn’t but the whole office quickly realised something big had happened with his reaction.
We weren’t just breaking a world-record transfer fee to sign one of the best strikers on the planet, we had a manager insisting that we were “the biggest thinking team in Europe.”
Fast forward twenty-five years and we’re both no longer season ticket holders and can’t even bring ourselves to go to games. Such has been the decline especially under the Ashley years.
I mean, look what Bruce says in comparison with King Kev’s “we’re the biggest thinking team in Europe right now.” Bruce, and I don’t necessarily lay the blame at his door, is almost the opposite and really makes me wonder how he can motivate any players with statements like this.
Twenty-five years on from Keegan’s famous quotes, here’s what our current boss had had to say when asked for a transfer update earlier this week:
“We’re going to still have to be patient.
“I know that’s awful from me but we haven’t the biggest of budgets.
“In the market we’re looking at – loan market in particular – we’re going to have to let the big, big clubs go to work.”
Yes, it is ‘awful’ but it’s also extremely worrying.
Basically, we’ve gone from world record fees and huge ambition to our current manager practically admitting we’re so desperate / hamstrung by lack of budget that we’ll be waiting in the wings for cast-offs who fail to make 25-man squads at the ‘big, big clubs’ (e.g., the big six).
We’re the only team in the Premier League that hasn’t brought in a single player. Not one, not even one on loan. I don’t count the additions to the Under-23s as players brought in. Come Saturday there are two weeks to go to the start of the season. Just two weeks.
This means anyone coming in perhaps next week will only have one pre-season game to integrate and even then the Norwich game could be under serious threat of being cancelled due to COVID.
I’m being honest when I say I thought we’d be heading into the new season with a new owner, new manager and new players. I said as much at the end of last season. I find it completely unbelievable and demotivating to feel that we’re actually about to start a new season worse off than we ended last.
It feels a distant memory and desperately far away right now, but let’s hope the Keegan days of ambitious, excitement and daring to dream are closer than we think.