Cast your minds back to 2008, specifically to the Arsenal away game. You know the one – Keegan was in charge, we lost three nowt, oh, and Mike Ashley treated the nation to the sight of him necking a pint of southern lager faster than Usain Bolt sitting on an exocet……
If you remember this, then you’d also probably remember that James Milner was sold to Villa the week before…..
I was at the Emirates for that game and who was sitting in the row in front of me, none other than the aforementioned Mr Ashley, accompanied by two henchmen. All three of ’em being of ‘brick outhouse’ proportions.
Anyhow, our illustrious owner was getting all kinds of venom, bile and vitriol hurled his way by assorted Mags in the away end, all due to sale of Milner. Some might say he deserved it but to my mind the abuse was way over the top, in fact most of it was embarrassing.
You may also recall that, prior to Mike Ashley coming in, Sir John Hall said that we needed a Geordie Abramovich or something like that to take over the club. You may also remember there were rumblings about us being heavily in debt, something bourne out by the overpaid wasters we had on the books, and the amount of debt the new owner ultimately had to swallow.
Financially, and from a football viewpoint, things were not right. Worrying talk of “doing a Leeds” kept cropping up….
That’s why, I always thought that if I ever got the chance to meet Mike Ashley I would shake the guy’s hand, and say “thankyou” for taking the club over, because I honestly felt that we were heading for meltdown if Sir John and Freddie Shepherd had still been at the helm.
So that day, in Goonerland, it came to pass that I shook hands with Mike Ashley. Straight away the guy just wanted to talk football, and at that moment I genuinely got the feeling that the bloke had the best interests of the club at heart. Call me gullible, or something worse if you must…….
He then pointed at the Emirates, and said:- “This is what I want for us (Newcastle)”, meaning a financially astute club coupled with a team of footballers playing entertaining football, which is what The Arse were doing at the time…….much better than we were. He then added:- “But it’s not going to happen in five minutes – it’s going to take some time”. He spoke like he was in it for the long haul.
It came across to me that he had some sort of vision, which seemed to make sense and be for the right reasons.
As we all now know, things then turned sour, really sour. Mike Ashley’s catalogue of crimes against the Geordie nation became boundless, with each new kick in the cobblers hurting just a little bit more……
Now fast forward to last season and the present time. Let’s not kid ourselves that everything in the garden is rosy, but surely we are in much better shape both financially and football-wise than we have been for years, especially considering the financial turmoil the whole country is in.
You only have to look at the likes of Blackburn, Birmingham, Rangers and Portsmouth to see how they’ve come unstuck.
“There but for the grace of Jackie Milburn it could’ve been us……”
Granted there are things that are still wrong, and will continue to be wrong, such as the naming of St James’, and lets not kid ourselves that every Toon player has his price, but ask yourself this:-
“How good did last season feel?”
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