Since the joyous day we lifted the second tier title amid high drama, there has been much going on at Newcastle United. A whole spectrum of emotions too.
The clamour for the return of competitive football is palpable. August cannot come quickly enough, when the real battle will be rejoined as Rafa and his charges get to tackle the Premier League. Sounds a bit scary. Project 40 points will do for me.
But anyone who thought the intervening weeks would be a laborious slog with no news to report may have forgotten this is NUFC we’re following. The norm goes out the window.
Just hours after Newcastle United secured the Championship crown, we had the sight of HMRC officials entering club offices and removing documents pertaining to its tax affairs. There was initial bewilderment and furious checking to see if it could lead to a points deduction. I was even Googling it as I walked through town on the way to work. The case rumbles on but the club is clearly fighting it and even if anything is proven, it’s likely to be a fine, surely.
Then we had to hold our collective breath to see whether Rafa and Mike Ashley were on the same page. Would the Sports Direct chief mess it up again or realise he was on to a good thing? There was some trepidation but that hurdle seems to have been cleared. Rafa is happy.
Focus shifted to a few on/off transfer sagas. The name game was a bit funny at first but now it’s just really annoying. So many players have been linked with a move to Newcastle we just don’t know what to believe. More patience is needed on this front given it’s just mid June. The time to do deals is looming though – and the sooner the better so that new faces can bed in and get used to their surroundings.
Then came tragedy, which put much of what went before into perspective. Cheick Tiote’s death has left us stunned and deeply saddened. We heard Tiote had collapsed in a training sessions at his new club Beijing Enterprises. I was sat there in disbelief. A glance at Twitter saw the rumour gather pace over the period of two hours and then it was confirmed.
Tiote was brilliant in his first two years at Newcastle. A combative player, he could pass it well and was able to patrol in front of his back four, break up enemy attacks and then shift the ball on to those further up the park to plunder goals.
Cheick’s stand out moment was the 4-4. I missed the game that day, a boycott over the sale of Andy Carroll. Woe is me. It was was one of the best games ever seen at St James Park, with Tiote delivering a thunderous volley to shatter the opposition who had swaggered at 4-0. May he rest in peace.
With little or no time to take it all in, the yellow ticker on Sky Sports News proclaimed that Mr Ashley was looking to sell up. Fake news? Well, it would appear not, though keep that pinch of salt to hand. Reports of a Chinese consortium interested in a bid for all or part of the football the club. US interest also claimed.
Mixed emotions here. Fresh investment is welcome but some foreign ownership at other clubs has backfired. Many on planet Twitter said ‘better the devil we know’. An entirely fair point, though it left me wondering if a few have suffered collective memory loss. Let’s not pretend Ashley is some génial figure doing a great job. It’s been a turbulent ten years where the lows far outweigh the highs.
In the wake of this we have since seen the release of the fixtures. We look ahead to an opening home game against Spurs. Pre-season will start in three weeks with trips to Preston and Hearts, the latter a short hop which will appeal to a fair few.
There we have it. A jam packed summer for all Mags and we’re barely halfway through it.
The opening day of the season will be here before you know it.
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