So, Newcastle United has finally had its pants pulled down. The nightmare has come alive, they’ll sing songs, the scenes will haunt us and we’ll be drowning in shame. What remains is only darkness.
That’s being relegated as I remember it. Excruciating embarrassment, crying my eyes out, worried sick about the future and staring into a wall for three days.
Except, this time is different.
In many ways, comparing the two relegations under Mike Ashley paint a very accurate and damning portrait of what has become of what used to be a football club, but is now his and something different.
Then, in 2009, there was a sense of defeat and shared disappointment, almost guilt and tragedy. When Newcastle fell, everyone fell because that is what football clubs do, they sink with everyone on board: players, fans, directors and tea-ladies all helplessly sworn to the same destiny, losing a fight for the same cause.
When Newcastle got on its feet again, there was a sense of collective pride and resurrection, the achievement was there for everyone to celebrate. There was a cultural reformation led by Chris Hughton, standing up was the new lying down, correct the wrongs and create the rights, there was hope and the hopeful suspicion that we were about to experience the beginning of something good, rather than go back to longing for the end of something bad.
Back then, the actions that had led the club into the Championship were widely believed to be the breed of incompetence. The wrong players had been bought, the wrong managers appointed and crucial decisions had turned into mistakes because the people running the club were not good enough at their jobs.
Seven years on, we’re going back down there again, but this time I don’t feel as if I’m onboard, and competence doesn’t seem to be the problem.
From that period, when the unlikely but somehow perfect duo of Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan embodied renewed faith, Mike Ashley has revealed himself. This time it’s different. This time there will be no misunderstanding of the principles that caused us to lose our status as a Premier League club. This time, the undeniable fact is that the people spearheading this organisation are full of competence, but for very different, more self-serving reasons, than anyone could imagine when this happened seven years ago.
The most telling indictment of Mike Ashley and his effect on what used to be Newcastle United is the state in which the imitation of that club is being relegated. A football club came back up in 2010, but something different is going down. It has consciously been transformed into a disgusting platform for some of the most vulgar branding projects in the country, taken from its city, its people and robbed of the elements that distinguishes a football club.
To reach this point, when people who have invested a lifetime of emotion simply shrug their shoulders at the ultimate defeat, has been a delicate process, and it has required high levels of competence; killing a football club is not easy, the people employed to do it have arguably performed their task to perfection.
The sense of belonging, rising and falling are distant memories at best. This is now Mike Ashley’s fall, his empty vehicle is crashing, it’s his relegation, his destiny, his transformation of my club into something awkward, toxic and loveless.
As Newcastle tumble this time, there is no sense of common failure, nothing to be ashamed of because, let’s be honest, not much pride is being lost. There will be very little sadness resembling the emotions in May 2009, because this time, no enjoyment is being swept away.
Newcastle United being relegated is a nightmare, and many of us have lived it.
But this isn’t Newcastle United, and characteristically, its relegation mainly provokes indifference.