St James Park is a stadium that stands tall and proud over our city, but it’s one that I’ve not set foot in since March of 2014.

Yes, you’ve guessed it, I’ve been boycotting. I was simply sickened by Ashley’s approach. For years I put up with it, but I finally snapped and walked out during half-time of that second 0-3 against the Mackems. A few months later my season ticket was in the bin.

Fast forward to the present day and with the club finally seeming to embrace something bordering on the credible I am facing a fresh dilemma. Go back to St James Park and watch NUFC – yes or no?

Many will say, ‘who cares, and it is an issue which has polarised opinion among supporters. There is no right or wrong answer.

I’m sure I’ll be buying tickets on a match to match basis. The club, against all the odds, has won back some trust.

The battle ahead

Cautiously optimistic – that’s my gut feeling on the eve of a season where NUFC can’t really afford to fail. They have to throw the kitchen sink at promotion. Get back up there among the big boys, pronto.

I’m not arrogant enough to say we deserve to be there. It has to be earned. It’ll take hard slog, through some pretty dense patches of nettles, but it can be achieved.

It may not be as easy as the 2009/10 season. There are some decent clubs in this league, and many of the perennial strugglers are starting to get their house in order.

We can’t afford to fail because of the financial consequences of diminishing parachute payments, and because failure could well prompt Benitez to walk away.

Make no mistake, if it wasn’t for his decision to stay on as manager then Newcastle United would have faced a much harder rebuilding job.

The club really was at a fork in the road. Happily we’ve gone down the less arduous route.

New players have arrived, there is an air of positivity about the place, season ticket sales are soaring and the overall PR has improved.

It has the feel of a club that has turned a page. Tyneside hopes this new chapter has a happier ending come May 2017.

Some credit where it’s due

The ‘pages’ of The Mag are laced with criticism of the club’s powerbrokers. It’s the nature of the beast.

Set against that backdrop it gives me pleasure to actually give them some praise for a change. In this instance I’m not referring to the Rafa appointment, but the club’s social media strategy.

In the digital age, where smartphone use continues to soar, the club are really making a cracking job of interacting on the social media channels.

They are doing great content via Twitter and on the Periscope app. It’s really given us an insight into life behind the scenes, especially at the training ground. Keep up the good work!

A fat sham?

Our former manager, S. Allardyce, has taken the poisoned chalice from the FA blazers in Soho Square. Here is a manager who has a rep for saving struggling clubs. He gets lauded by the media.

I can only go by what I witnessed when he was at Newcastle and that was a sterile brand of football where the team leaked goals and looked pretty clueless most of the time.

Caught in the eye of the Ashley takeover, it was always a tough ask for Big Sam. He has since went on to perform slightly better at Blackburn, West ham and the Mackems.

While the fortunes of the national team don’t bother me, it is clear that they have gone for him on the basis that he’s English. All the rest of the guff about this great tactician is a bit of a myth.

If he thought NUFC was choppy, just wait until the press turn on him down there.

You can follow the author on Twitter @DavePunton

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