When I first came to support Newcastle United as a seven year old boy in 1994, I was enchanted by the magic and the romance that surrounded the club. Kevin Keegan’s enthusiasm and charisma were such that dreams seemed within touching distance, destined to be realised and everything just felt so special.
Now, almost two decades on, we are a million miles from all that. Sure, the landscape of the Premier League has changed and ‘success’ is now a relative term – measured by either a healthy balance sheet or an overflowing trophy cabinet, depending on your viewpoint. As I’ve said many times before, I live in the hope that Newcastle may one day win a trophy, rather than the expectation and I’ve learned to come to terms with that modest ambition as the years have passed. I’ve always loved the club regardless and have followed the team through thick and thin but sadly, in recent months, my passion for Newcastle United has waned.
I put it down to the cumulative effect of all Mike Ashley’s misdemeanours finally catching up on me after years of burying my head in the sand but since the end of last season, I’ve been unable to summon up the same feelings for the club; for my club, and that’s not right. Players and managers come and go, matches are won and lost and the years roll by but Newcastle United remains the same. Well, only just. A frail shell remains. Everything else has been stripped away, sold off and thrown back in our faces and we’re still sitting idly by.
I remember seeing a BBC documentary in the early 2000s where Gary Lineker went up to St James’ Park to spend a day with Bobby Robson as he went about his daily business as manager of Newcastle United. He spoke about the team, the tactics and the players; he praised the fans and spoke about the magic of a full house on match day – all the typical things you’d expect to hear. What I always remember from that documentary though, was Bobby showing off the quality of the solid wooden doors inside the stadium. He praised the quality of the wood and the work of the craftsman and was positively beaming while he was talking about it. He felt so honoured to be in charge of Newcastle United and everything about the club was a source of immense pride to him – right down to the fixtures and fittings.
It’s a far cry from where we are today. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that Mike Ashley and his cronies have sold off all the doors and furniture to make a quick few quid, such is the disdain in which he seems to hold the club. For the record, I’ve never really been an Ashley fan but nor was I a vocal naysayer. Indeed, I wrote an article this time last year praising his cold and calculated slaying of two of our club’s greatest icons. I felt that by exorcising the ghosts of Keegan and Shearer, Ashley had helped us get over our fixation with the past and to look forward to better times, freed from the shackles of history. I genuinely believed that at the time.
Now, however, the penny has finally dropped and I can see the negative and draining effect he is having; happy to see the club just keep its head above water so that he can use it as a vehicle to promote his true love.
It feels odd to be writing this on the back of two exceptional and well-deserved victories against Chelsea and Spurs but we shouldn’t let short-term success paper over the cracks. Any success that comes our way is in spite of Mike Ashley, not because of him. Hopefully now that the hopelessly inept Joe Kinnear has returned and the club has taken the petty decision to ban the local press, more fence-sitters have had their eyes opened to the gross incompetence of the current regime and the campaign to oust Ashley will gather momentum.
Of course, there are those pessimists who worry that the devil we know might be replaced by someone even more heartless and negligent but we cannot live in fear. Football is about dreams, ambitions and irrational love, not free advertising, selling out and making a mockery of history and heritage.
I want my club back.