They say it’s the hope that kills you. In which case, we should all throw our hands up and rejoice at this current version of Newcastle United. Hope has long since packed its bags and disappeared over the Tyne Bridge, into the sunset. So may we all live forever, presumably.
For me, this is the worst it’s been to support Newcastle United. There will be those who instantly read this and say “It was worse in the 70s and 80s; what about McKeag…etc etc.” Well, I wasn’t alive then so largely I don’t know what they’re talking about. I’m sure they’re right. But I can only comment on my own experience.
I don’t even really stake any claim to The Entertainers era, as despite being old enough to pay attention at that point, I come from a family in the South East of England, in which no one else gave a toss about football.
The decision for me to support Newcastle United was mine and mine alone. In the absence of Sky TV (in our house) and a fairly obvious inability to attend matches, it wasn’t until the late 90s, early 2000s that I could invest my time and interest in the club properly. So my lived experience as a dedicated supporter covers approximately the last 23 years and I feel worse now about the club than I ever have done.
Contrary to received wisdom, it’s the absence of hope that is killing me. What is there to look forward to? We’ve got a manager whom no other Premier League club would touch with an excrement-smothered stick. The owner doesn’t invest in anything, from the stadium, to the training ground, to the playing squad. We’re spending nothing in the transfer window, at a time when Brentford, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa are all managing to spend significant sums on quality improvements to their squads. Our first team squad is weaker than it was last season – a season in which we could have finished as low as 17th on the final day. And the situation persists interminably, as our supposedly “willing seller” of an owner continues his futile pursuit of a sale to a consortium that will quite simply never be allowed to own the club, whilst demanding a price that deters any other would-be purchasers.
Having said all that, hope could be rekindled SO easily. Bring in a manager with some pedigree, give him some money to spend and freedom to use it how he wishes. It would be so simple. But when we had the perfect manager in place, he was shafted. Now we have a useless patsy in the dugout, but one who won’t be replaced so long as the club can scrape to 17th place each season, and perhaps even if it doesn’t.
Meanwhile, the club rewards its fans with a £65 replica kit, which is nothing more than a poorly-designed reworking of the atrocious 19/20 Puma strip, and the cheapest option for a ticket to the West Ham home match priced at £36. It’s two fingers up to the supporters at every available opportunity from this club. No signings. No investment. No communication. No ambition. No effort. No consideration. No care. No improvement. No hope.
The only semblance of a future lies in a takeover. But that can continues to be kicked down the road, and no other offers will be entertained until it’s resolved. If the arbitration does happen in “early 2022”, which I have my doubts about, it will be TWO YEARS since Amanda Staveley and her consortium signed a deal to buy the club.
If, after all this waiting and legal wrangling, the deal finally falls through, we’re back to square one: a greedy owner seeking a buyer for a hollow shell of a football club, at an immensely inflated valuation. It took a decade or so of the club being “on the market” to find a group with more money than sense who were more than empty talk and actually signed on the dotted line – how long before another one comes along?
All I see is another decade or more of Mike Ashley, and where we had hope before – either through a top-quality manager in Rafa Benitez, or a clever recruitment policy that saw us sign players like Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Sissoko and Ba for bargain prices – none exists now. We’ve got a pub team coach and a scouting network that recommends players like Krafth, Hendrick and Joelinton. The hierarchy at the club cares less than ever. NUFC is in its death throes and no one with the power to revive it can be bothered to fetch the defibrillator.
It may have been worse in the past, but this time it feels terminal. It’s not the hope that kills you; it’s the hope that keeps you going. After 14 years of Mike Ashley, Newcastle United has successfully laid hope to rest.