For 14 of my 27 years on this planet, all I’ve known from Newcastle United is lies, greed, no hope and a soulless club stripped of ambition, with us held down by heavy chains ever since a certain man seized control in 2007.
As a kid my dad told me of the entertainers. I watched VHS’ of Beardsley, Cole and King Kev, then fell in love with this club through the Bobby Robson era as a young lad going to games for the first time.
Those happy early memories aside, the fact of the matter is that, for over half of my life, we’ve been a shadow of our former selves and a club we follow out of habit – not excitement or expectation.
That’s not right. It’s not right that there’s teenagers out there who’ve only known the Mike Ashley era. But that is about to change.
After a miserable 14 years of deceit, destruction, a host of horrific errors, acts of greed and complete ignorance, it’s finally over. He’s gone. He’s packed his bags, with new owners now having the keys to St James’ Park.
We are no longer just customers on a ship that was struggling to stay afloat, we are excited football fans once again, ready to see our club and city thrive like we all know it could.
It feels surreal after so many false dawns and a moment many almost felt would never arrive following countless ‘failed takeover attempts’, but the moment we’ve all been waiting for has arrived.
The cans are no longer in the fridge, they’re out in full force and they never tasted so good, with this news giving us a rare moment of joy and relief during what have been surreal and difficult times over the past 18 months for just about everyone.
Football is about dreaming big, saying ‘why not’ and going to games with butterflies in your stomach for all the right reasons – not starting a season hoping to stay up, settling for mediocrity at best and arriving at St James’ Park uninspired and fearing the worst.
Mike Ashley never understood that. He may be a good businessman in the world of retail, but you can’t expect to treat a football club and its fans like Sports Direct and expect success.
He tried to blend in early on, downing his pints in the away end as he wore our famous black and white stripes, but it soon became evident that this was the first of many PR stunts in an attempt to pull the wool over our eyes.
Mike Ashley’s time on Tyneside has been 14 years of destruction, turning what was once a club regularly competing at the top end of English football into Premier League cannon fodder that may or may not stay up each season.
I, like many others, will never forget that day at Villa Park in 2009. I cried. I feared for my club and wondered what would become of my greatest hobby and passion.
We may have returned to the top flight a year later, but no lessons were learnt and we suffered relegation once again in 2016. Rinse and repeat. Rotten to the core. A regime that wanted to just survive, not strive, when a certain Spaniard arrived on the scene and saw our potential.
With ambitious new owners now in place, arriving with big plans and even bigger wallets, let’s hope this is the start of a bright and successful era for Newcastle – both on the pitch at our beloved club and off it for our beautiful region.
As Kevin Keegan once said, “One day you will get your club back and it will be everything you wanted it to be. Newcastle United is bigger than anyone. It hurts I know, but just keep going. He is only one man we are a city, a whole population. Trust me.”
An inspirational quote so many of us have held onto and one that’s enough to send shivers down the spine of any Newcastle United fan as we finally enter a new era without Mike Ashley.
If it happened last April, we’d have partied alone in our back gardens and Facetimed family/friends while blasting local hero in the background, but with restrictions lifted, vaccines rolled out and COVID rates on the decrease, we can go gather outside St James’ Park, sing in the streets to our heart’s content and paint the town black and white with one big celebration.
I’d say it’s been a pleasure Mike, but it’s been anything but.
Goodbye and good riddance.