Newcastle United fans are excited at chance to have hope of a brighter future
Life-long supporter Nick Donaldson looks at what a potential change of ownership at the Tyneside club would mean to the city and their supporters
So what exactly would Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed – or any other prospective bidder - be getting for his proposed 1,634,886,817 Dirhams and 90 fils (that’s £350 million) purchase of Newcastle United?
For certain, it’s more than just a football club that he’ll be investing in – this one comes with a lot of added “extras”. Also, he’ll be buying my club.
Newcastle is unlike most other major English cities in-so-far as its football club sits alone at the heart of it - the regulator of a million Geordies hopes, dreams, frustrations and anger.
There has been the odd glimmer of hope but this always seems to turn to acceptance before the inevitable dismay. Especially in the team’s most recent history.
A new owner would be rescuing the supporters from the 12-year ownership of British retail tycoon Mike Ashley, whose leaden attempts to use the club as little more than a marketing battering-ram for his discount sports empire has left fans angry and disenfranchised.
We are desperate for change and this puts whoever takes over in a starting position of universal support and goodwill.
Ashley’s reluctance to invest in the team, the club’s stadium and training facilities has left the fans looking back on one top-five placing, one entry into European competition, eight relegation scrambles (two of which ended in the dreaded drop) and two consequent promotions during his tenure.
Not great for a club that had only been relegated four times in the previous 120 years of its existence and had spent large chunks of the preceding 15 years enjoying European competition and relative safety, even coming perilously close to actually winning something on a few occasions.
The one light among this grimness is the continued presence of the much-loved team manager Rafa Benitez, a man whose managerial skills cry out for investment and support. His contract runs out on June 30 and needs to be extended. Immediately.
In football terms Newcastle United is the comatose giant. The team have not won a domestic competition since lifting the FA Cup in 1955 and haven’t bothered the League Championship trophy with black and white ribbons since 1927.
They came pretty close in the 90s under Kevin Keegan, but never quite broke the hoodoo.
Lady Luck has a habit of looking the other way when it comes to Newcastle. Yet the club remains one of the giants of the game, a reputation built on a rich, though distant, history of success and the passion of its support.
The club keeps a close bond with its city and community and has a very large, very loyal and very loud fan-base. A team of the people, the core of its support drawn from Tyneside itself, born within 10 miles of its St James’ Park stadium.
This stands in the centre of the city on a hill, dominating the skyline and the collective spirits of the city.
Growing up there the football club becomes part of you, it doesn’t give you an option to support another, more successful, team.
Every child in my school supported Newcastle, a love/hate calling founded on a sense of belonging. This was our city and the team were an actual representation of us. By supporting them, you supported yourself.
Apparently Sheikh Khaled wants to become the custodian of these hopes and dreams with his reported approach to Ashley.
Bill Shankly, the legendary Liverpool manager, once said that whoever brought success to Newcastle would be given a throne and carried shoulder high through the city.
If he, or whoever replaces Ashley, can propel Newcastle United back into contention for - never mind actually winning –things, the throne will be his.
Nick Donaldson is Creative Director at The National
Updated: May 28, 2019 01:37 PM