How can you describe to somebody who wasn’t around then, what it felt like to be a Newcastle United fan on 30 July 1996?

The stark contrast to what we feel now after 11 years of Mike Ashley, is a world away…

The excitement when you found out that Alan Shearer was signing for Newcastle United!

Exactly 22 years ago today, Newcastle spent £15m and broke the World record transfer.

We signed the best striker in the Premier League, the best forward in the World, the man who had just won the Golden Boot at Euro ’96. When Alan Shearer almost led England to their first trophy in 30 years.

The record fee these days is the £200m that PSG paid for Neymar, whilst Mike Ashley hasn’t even allowed Newcastle to match that £15m which was paid 22 years ago, in his 11 years in control.

Since promotion last summer, Newcastle United haven’t even paid more than £10m for any player, this at a time when Fulham are paying £25m for a midfielder (and £22m/£27m on a striker…), Bournemouth £20m on a centre-back, and Huddersfield £18m on a defender of their own.

The John Hall/Freddy Shepherd regime wasn’t without its faults, and not that long after the Shearer signing they went into reverse as they attempted to make the balance sheet look a lot better as they tried to sell the club (selling Ferdinand because £6m for a 30 year old was ‘good business’), but nothing could have prepared us for this hellish decade and more under Mike Ashley.

A time when there has never been more money flowing into Newcastle United and yet Rafa Benitez is given zero transfer budget, only (some?) money raised from sales is what is allowed to be spent.

Just for a moment though, we’ll take you back to 30 July 1996, when Newcastle United fans were able to dream…

Kevin Keegan:

“This signing is for the people of Newcastle!

“It just shows you the ambition of Newcastle United.

“We are the biggest thinking team in Europe now.

“We are not the biggest and most successful team…but we are the biggest thinking club.

“It’s a great privilege for me to be able to introduce Alan.

“….a lot of money has fetched him back, but it is your money: the money you have spent on replica shirts, home and away, the money you spend on your season tickets and your bonds, on your Platinum clubs and your programmes.

“I see it as my job, and it is a privilege to have that job, to invest that money.

“You (the fans) put it in and I put it in the team, so that when you come to watch that product on the park, it is the very, very best we feel we can provide, because that’s what you deserve.

“I feel we have done that with this man…I don’t want to say any more, it is his day, it is your day.”

John Hall:

“It is a great day, a great day for the club.

“We have come a tremendous (long) way…we are going to have to build a new stadium of 60,000.

“We are going to invest great sums of money in our soccer Academy, so that the future Alan Shearers don’t have to leave the region.

“We have got an excellent squad of players, and basically, it is very difficult at times to improve that squad.

“But I think we can all agree that we have found the right player in Alan…

“This club is going places.

“Alan Shearer, together with the rest of the players, are an investment in this club.”

  • HarryHype59

    Read it and weep indeed! This club has never been richer in its entire history! Why does it continue to bin dip in the bargain sections of freebies, punts and loans.


    • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

      I’m asking that myself, we had a little bet Harry, are you going to settle?


  • Toontaff

    So ambitious that within a few months King Kev had walked, enter Daglish, followed by sales of Kitson, Lee Clark, Robbie Elliott, Ginola, Sir Les, Pedro, Tino and John Beresford, within a year or so. Enter Daglish’s pension squad, Pistone and Des Hamilton!
    Nowt like seeing things through rose-tinted glasses.

    • Toontaff

      2nd, 2nd ….13th! Followed by 13th, 11th 11th. Enter Sir Bobby – 4th, 3rd, 5th. Exit Sir Bobby – 13th, 12th – exit SJH, enter the fatman!

      • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

        I said at the time, spend half that on marcel desailly and we win the league

      • Leazes.

        Ah…. that was then change from Cavalier to roundhead that a lot of people didn’t like…..

        He did Wembley twice though…. which was the trick that Liverpool, Spurs and others often did…. you sacrifice the league for a cup run….

        Nowadays you cant because the elite group have squads capable of doing both…. I think it was the onset of the merga money which did that…. if you aren’t there competing for the Euro places then essentially you are in the second division of the league and that has become increasingly separated by sponsorship and TV rewards.

      • HarryHype59

        Notice how there were no relegation battles back then!

      • Desree

        We finished 13th and 11th in Robsons first two seasons.

    • FatParosite

      Even Daglish didn’t have us happy at scraping survival.

    • Leazes.

      Do you understand why he walked?

      • Toontaff

        I’m sure he blamed some tolls from Manchester!

        • Leazes.

          Why do you think he walked?
          30 July 1996 Shearer signs
          7 Jan 1997 Keegan Resigns

    • Jonas

      Dalglish reinvested those funds and more – Andersson, Tomasson,.Speed, Hamman, Glass, Pistone, Dabizas, Hamilton etc etc
      it wasn’t lack of ambition that he made largely terrible signings.
      finished 2nd that year, cup final the next season, played in the Champions League and beat Barcelona – not ambitious though

  • Mark Jackson

    I used to get excited reading the chronicle headlines, seeing who the club were considering bringing in. It didn’t seem arrogant in thinking we could get any of them – we were a club in the ascendency. Would it be Bergkamp, Del Piero, or maybe Shearer? Now I see huge pots of money getting thrown around out of sheer desperation, frivolous, wild speculation for unproven players, with tv money stoking the fire and creating huge gulfs between the elite and the rest. But this is the way it is now. NUFC was a mountain of a club in the 90s and early 2000s, it’s ambition matched by the talent on the pitch. Now it’s a quagmire where every significant decision and failure is the solely on the owner. It is astounding Mike Ashley hasn’t sunk the club further when relegations have inevitably happened. It just seems bizarre that sustaining premier league status hinges so heavily on successes on the pitch, which is where he’s so unwilling to invest.

    • Leazes.

      Since year One this owner has been able to do what was impossible,….. systematically rip the club apart and downgrade the operation and optimism without hardly a murmur…. how did he manage to do that?

    • FatParosite

      The downgrading of NUFC has been in tandem with those given the responsibility to report it & those that flock inside the SJP to keep the husk alive.

    • pedrodelgardo

      I remember the Chronic bill boards with the headline “United sign World Cup star” I rushed to the paper shop to see if it was Bryan Robson or Platini – it wasn’t it was Davey Mac – disappointed at first but he went on to be a heroic player. I called on him once and he could hardly walk to the door following years of injections at halftimes in games just to keep him moving.

  • DeadToiler

    Is there any point in harking on about the past? We are where are now. We have to get on with it.

    • Leazes.

      A person who forgets the past is destined to repeat its mistakes….

      ….the chronicle does repeat the past but only the bits about SuperMacs debut and the day we signed Shearer and the revolution against the evil Gordon McKeag which paved the way for the wonderful Sir John Hall.

      • Wezza

        Well said.
        Shearer and Owen were our last two big signings 23 and 13 years ago respectively. Now 12 years of Ashley and we have not broken our transfer record once yet our competitors continue to do so.
        I’ve said it countless times now it is all about the money, the football and our club that once was, is a distant second in priorities.

  • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

    Ironically, it was a waste if money, we went backwards after he signed.

  • 1957

    The Hall and Shepherd regime went downhill when greed set in following it becoming a plc. Extravagant personal salaries (for the time), share dividends paid in seasons when the club made a loss and thinking they were more important than the fans and Sir Bob.

    Hall’s comment about the academy is interesting, to my knowledge he didn’t invest great sums…

    • Leazes.

      He did build an Academy Center at Little Benton alongside the Training ground which had a lot of pitches….half of them were sold by Ashley for a Housing development (now complete).

      • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

        That’s not true though Leazes’, is it? Lying is a bit of a habit with you.

  • Leazes.

    The chronicle boys still get as excited, but they do so on behalf of the fans, unfortunately they get excited over the Joselus and anyone who the club bring in is instantly a ‘speed merchant’ or ‘one who was ‘under the radar of the ambitious clubs’. They lie to keep their privileged place for exclusives which never come.

    They still put out banner headlines to sell papers, but none of the reporters there were born or were old enough to understand the excitement that we had waited for 20 years since the Fairs Cup victory in 69….

    ….and Ryder still thinks the Gallowgate has always been United’s Kop End…. all he ever knew was the dilapidated ground from the period he remembers as a kid on a school day trip to the stadium…. he was hooked on his family’s club Liverpool, and could you really blame him? He never really got it, at SJP and still preaches as if he has empathy…. but its more like sympathy, and always refers to United ‘fans in the second person’ because at least he’s true to himself if not us!

    We’ve had a series of aloof Tory owners who were happy to sit back and allow events to pass them, a castigation which was soon to be levelled at Sir John Hall as he became bored with soccer and had grander visions for a sporting club which took funds from football, and pretty soon it wasn’t the only thing sapping the clubs ability to compete, there was wages and contracts for all of their families as they supplied services like warehousing and catering at a cost and rewarded themselves not according to their contribution but to a level they thought they deserved.

    I’m unfortunate to have witnesses a first game against Sunderland in a capacity Stadium of then 60,000 (we won) in the 60’s It was really more than that figure because kids were pushed through the turnstiles doubled up, and others scaled walls and trees and there were breaches of safety gates too, Health and Safety was yet to be invented and if the body count was low then that was natural wastage and acceptable and thinned out the working classes.

    We had actually started going backwards again before Ashley took over but I still remember that promise from Sir John that….’here was the man to take us to the next level’…..


    Loan signings of third drawer players, an absent owner who has no interest in United because he was always first an foremost a Chelsea fan and a mute Chairman from the Wirral (who he support then diddums) who is no friend to the club and hides under a rock somewhere in Gosforth.

    We will always have a lot to put up with especially if we sit on our hands and accept it…..

    ….We are the clubs only real friends!

    • Kneebotherm8

      Sir John may have become bored with football……….but the time he was interested it was one helluva ride………..just a pity Mike couldn’t get interested in football….

  • ghostrider

    This is the biggest problem for some fans. They can’t let memories stay as memories without trying to use them as some sort of modern day yardstick, as if those days were super successful.

    Let’s put it into real perspective.
    Shearer was a marvel signing. I still remember the absolute excitement I felt and the feel good factor around the north east, never mind just Newcastle.

    For Sir John Hall and co, Shearer was the brand new family car. A one chance to have something you could rely on and forget the monthly payments as it would pay for itself at some stage.

    The problem with the new car is, you pander to it. It becomes the main focal point to the entire household. It had to be nurtured above and beyond anything else until it eventually becomes older yet is still relied on to do what it did when first bought, even though the wear and tear is becoming evident.

    What am I saying?
    Basically we rely far too much on the past to bail us out of the future and we tend to attach magical emotion to the past as if the success was unequalled whilst not daring to accept that we were also ran’s for just about all of it since the 50’s.

    We adhere like limpets to local heros and shout ” keep sending them out” when their best was not enough to carry them, yet the fans carried them, regardless of how we found ourselves wanting as a team because of it.

    Nothing against Shearer mind you. I loved the bloke and still have him down as fantastic.But even he knew he was kidding himself in the latter part…and so were we…but the man is a legend, so what do you do?

    Shearer became bigger than the club in many respects and managers changed things up at their peril if Shearer and a few other heros were to be messed with.

    It’s easy to use the past.
    It’s easy to live on Keegan and Robson….Shearer and Ginola….and so on….but the end result was a pitiful end to the start of the journey, because the journey could not be sustained on the attachment to the hero basis and also the nearly success.

    We ares till basically paying the price for those excellent times…and believe me they were excellent times regardless of success…because the success for me was the sheer joy of the early attempt and the freshness of the team of entertainers.
    The trouble is, it didn’t last too long yet in the minds of many fans, it did, because many fans find it hard to let go.

    Imagine a local hero and owners that ooze Geordie passion like the fans they are/were part of.
    Can anyone think of a better once upon a time than that?
    It’s just a shame we didn’t all live happily ever after…eh?

    If we could travel back and create a live picture of it all after the entertainers tag, we’d see that it was never a bed of roses.
    It was a mishmash of all things good bad and ugly. And yes, before Ashley.

    It’s lovely to reminisce, it’s just hard to do it with a clear mind.
    Even your old granny will tell you about the good old days when you could go out and leave your front doors unlocked and there was never any badness because people respected each other….etc.
    What they don’t tell you is….nobody had anything to steal and respect was due to the good old kicking the police gave to anyone who disrespected….yet the drunken punch ups and the wife beating etc, were simply classed as part of the culture of fluffy memories.

    Basically not the good old days but used in a time when things were different as opposed to the fast living of the now…and not liked by some.

    It’s strange how the reminiscing mind works when a story has to be told, isn’t it?

    • Albert Stubbins

      We love our heroes and if a football fan cant be allowed to dream then what is left? is it fanciful? yes probably- but when you have witnessed it before like many of us have- why shouldn’t we able to at least consider that it may be possible again one day? You call them “fluffy memories”- I call them the best days of my football supporting life. Each to their own then eh!!

      • ghostrider

        Nothing wrong with loving heroes and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with dreaming of more.
        But like I explained.

      • Superdooperhooper

        Agreed . The pro ashley mob are just a bunch of accountants . No soul no passion no dreams just balancing the books is their reason for living

    • Desree


    • pedrodelgardo

      No mate.