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Opinion

The ‘good times’ of the Mike Ashley era

5 months ago
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As I start writing this early on a Tuesday morning, it’s about a week since some news came out which has been making me feel pretty good.

And we all need an abundance of that in the times that we’re living in, don’t we?.

It has been affecting my sleep with excitement. It’s had me checking social media on my devices much more often than is healthy. I’ve been beside myself with glee. I’ve been living life with a warm glow in my heart.

And despite giving way to irrational fears and bad scenarios in my brain, It really does seem that what happened to Man City all those years ago, is about to happen to us. Except our benefactors have even deeper pockets than them.

Newcastle United are about to become the richest football club in the world.

Right now, I’m trying to keep my expectations lowered before the deal is rubber-stamped, as well as trying to keep myself grounded in that we are going to be fighting with three or four other rich top clubs. I’m dreaming. I’m expecting us to dominate the world game. I’m trying to keep my expectations low as to our projections for the future. I have delusions of grandeur. I’m not expecting too much of what’s to come. And everything in between!

Be excited Newcastle fans, but if you’re taking anything for granted in the light of this, please don’t.

What will be will be…but one other thing I haven’t been able to stop doing, is looking back on the Mike Ashley era. I’m going to subvert all expectations and look at the positive aspects of his time here.

Oh, do be quiet all of you. I can hear your protests. And I do get it. I cannot wait for the transfer of ownership and to be shot of Mike Ashley, but I’ve been feeding off scraps to do this. I have been gathering the crumbs from the table, as my religion puts it, to put this together.

We’re all happy, so I just don’t want to lower the mood when looking at things retrospectively. So here it goes.

Sunderland home – April 2008

The money moon period – I won’t pretend things were completely hunky-dory. The rot was long settling in before Ashley even got here but this period in 2008 before we got to September, was as good as it was going to get. We were beating our rivals, Ashley engaging and drinking with the fans. Kevin Keegan was starting to get exciting results again. It felt like belief in the team was building. It was all good.

Man Utd away – August 2008

I think of this in particular because going to Old Trafford was no mean feat at the best of times. We went ahead at old Trafford through a close-range Obafemi Martins header. Our signings were said to have made a strong showing and even though we lost our lead immediately after we had gained it, we held on to a creditable away draw to open the season. A Michael Owen header against Bolton in the next game gave us a 1-0 win. It felt like a strong start and while no one was talking competing at the very top, with King Kev at the helm it felt like it was all going to be okay.

Well… I won’t talk about what happened next. We all know.

The 09/10 season

One of the things that I look back on with fondness is that the last three times we have been in the second tier, we have won it!

I understand the point of view that it shows how far the club fell that it came to that. Both times when relegated under Mike Ashley (09/10, 16/17) we should never have fallen to the level we did. But we did. And we may as well celebrate our successes when we get them, even if we’d all rather be lauding about top-flight titles. I just hope we never get there again.

Even so, we should all be proud of what the class of 2010 achieved that year. The club was the shell that it is today, carried together by a band of brothers that cared about the club, led ably by Chris Hughton.

West Ham away, Mackems at home, Arsenal away – October 2010

This group of games is one of my favourite clutch in recent memory. West Ham were as awful as they have been in premier league history but we still had to claw our way back to win 2-1. And while we dispatched them in a lovely away London win I remember just thinking “it feels like we’re a proper football club again” – I felt like it was going to be okay. We’d be safe in the premier league and we’d continue to build to be a strong premier league outfit again. It felt good to be a Newcastle United fan again.

To beat the Mackems and Arsenal and end up fifth in the league after that group of games (17 points from 11 matches), it was easy to get carried away, but it was a wonderful feeling and it was, without doubt, a great foundation to build on our aim to stay in the league that season.

Arsenal home – Feb 2011

The moment I knew we’d be staying up that year despite the big elephant in the room at that period.

The 11/12 season

Speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

That was a good good year to be following the club. It felt like we’d irreversibly turned a corner. We could at least count ourselves to have moved on from being a club that would worry about fighting relegation the next season.

How wrong was I? How wrong were any of us?

I’ll also just give honourable mentions to the below moments.

1-0 Man Utd away Dec 2013

2-0 Gutierrez Vs West Ham 2015

The Rafa Benitez era

5-1 Spurs at home May 2016

6-2 Norwich home 2016

6-0 QPR away 2016

1-0 Man Utd home 2018

2-1 Man City home 2019

You know what, there have been really some good times. Memories we can take on with us with pride. Little moments of joy in a dark dark period for our club.

I’m sure there are more others you can think of that haven’t made my list. I suppose the main take I want people to bring from this is to forget the bad. It’s done. The line has now (we hope) been drawn in the sand and we can move on and remember the best of what has been a very bad situation for the club.

And look forward to what will hopefully be a successful prosperous and exciting time to be a Newcastle United fan.

You can follow the author on Twitter @jonniegrieve

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