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Opinion

I never thought I would quote Donald Trump but this has been fake news on Newcastle United takeover

5 months ago
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The Newcastle United takeover, football suspended, football now returning, Mike Ashley actions (and inactions), dealing with the virus situation in general, playing matches behind closed doors.

All subjects that as a Newcastle United fan you have had to deal with in recent months.

Ahead of the Magpies returning to competitive action, we have asked some regular and irregular contributors to The Mag, to answer some varying sets of questions relating to themselves and NUFC.

Next up now is Billy Miller.

What observations do you have about the media coverage of the potential takeover?

Never thought I would quote Donald Trump but – ‘fake news’. The mainstream media, especially where sport is concerned, is dying. Day after day we get report after report. It’s all been intensified by the fact that the country has been at a standstill but some of the information reported as fact has been embarrassing. I don’t read any of it anymore.

Do you feel this takeover is the pivotal moment for Newcastle United, that whichever way it goes will dictate the future of the club for a long long time?

I think this is the most pivotal moment in the quarter of a century I’ve been supporting the club for sure.

The closest it comes to for me is when Bobby stayed at Barca rather than coming to Newcastle after Keegan resigned. Look at what Bobby did with a dismantled and desperate side. Had he come to a confident, star-studded team, who knows what the next decade could have held. I genuinely believe we would have won trophies and challenged for the title every year. And then after Bobby, Jose? What might have been is gone, what could be is still a possibility.

As I said in my last answer, if Mike Ashley is here, next season’s crowds (once fans are allowed back) will surely shrink below 30,000. I don’t know how many final straws people can tolerate but Ashley’s conduct over the last few months has been horrendous.

Do you think the takeover is taking this long because there is something stopping it happening, this is just how long it takes, or do the Premier League have to be seen to taking a long time…or any other thoughts on why no announcement yet?

I literally have no idea why the takeover is taking so long. Obviously, the pandemic hasn’t helped but I think the process has been a shambles. We are in danger of having players go out of contract, fans are waiting on ticket refunds, some of whom may be in a desperate financial situation currently. I don’t think any of this will be resolved until the takeover happens.

Operation restart aside, the Premier League has had plenty of time to sort this out. It’s tough when you’ve got half the world willing it to fail but that will make it all the sweeter when it does get through.

How would you describe the impact of these last three or four months on yourself?

It’s been crazy. I doubt anybody would have predicted the impact this virus was going have on our lives, 2020 will be a year that nobody will forget, that much is certain.

I was furloughed for a couple of months but have actually enjoyed it, as I spent the time focusing on positive things; more time with my son, writing, exercising and lots and lots of TV/film bingeing and reading in the garden.

The one thing that’s been a major negative is detailed below…

Being a Newcastle United fan, has that been a help or a hindrance in coping with these virus impacted times?

Most of my Newcastle supporting life has been painful and this is just the latest chapter. I initially disregarded the takeover reports as much of the same. Then there appeared to be real weight to it, and I looked forward to the reported four weeks being up, so I could celebrate our newfound fortunes. And then it dragged on… and on… and on… and on.

It’s been a hindrance as most of us are just so fed up and underwhelmed. I went back to work yesterday so I have more things to think about than Newcastle but the last few weeks have been a proper killjoy. I dread to think what the backlash will be if the takeover doesn’t go through. I think I might just give up with football altogether.

Newcastle win the FA Cup, their first domestic trophy in 65 years, and there isn’t a single Newcastle fan there to see it happen. Discuss.

Could be a historic year. Liverpool lift their first top division title in 30 years and us our first domestic trophy in 65 years (and first major trophy in 51) all to a backdrop of nothing…

It would be a bit like an alien visiting Earth at the height of the lockdown, assuming the planet was deserted and heading off again without sharing its skills and secrets with mankind. It’s a missed opportunity for us to experience something special and unique.

I think both us and the Scousers would say that it’s just our luck. I can’t see us doing it anyway. Man City are going to want to win something other than the League Cup this year and, even if we do scrape past them, there’s plenty of strong teams left in the competition. I would still bounce around my house like a lunatic if we won it but I’m happy to wait until next year.

I mean cups are a given next year when Bale, Coutinho, Koulibaly, Messi and that alien, who decides to make a return trip and is ten times as good as Pele, all definitely sign.

Is football without fans pointless, or is it just not as good?

Long term pointless, currently necessary. Will be a shame if the new season kicks off without any fans too. Although that might happen either way if Ashley is still in charge.

Are you in favour of the Saudi PIF takeover of Newcastle United?

Without a doubt. Being a long-term Amnesty International supporter (from sixteen to eighteen years old you would rarely have seen me not wearing my trademark red Amnesty hoodie) and having donated to the Yemen appeal last year, I had to do a bit of soul searching in the early days of the takeover gossip.

Thanks to many contributions on The Mag and a bit of research of my own I am firmly in the ‘in favour’ bracket now. There’s Saudi money everywhere and if the investment doesn’t come to us it’ll go elsewhere. Imagine having to watch on as a different team gained the investment and went on to have decades of success. Sure, we’d probably all shake our heads and say, “wouldn’t want all that success with blood money anyway,” but would we truly mean it?

It would feel a whole lot sweeter if we did a Leicester or if the Halls and Shepherd could have created a dynasty that then generated enough money to continue to be a success for years but that’s not our reality.

How confident are you, as a percentage, that the NUFC will happen?

I would say 75%, my glass is still three quarters full, but every week sees me taking another glug from it.

What do you think about the way Mike Ashley has ran Newcastle United during this virus crisis (furloughing staff, no refunds on tickets/season tickets, advance payments taken for 2020/21 season tickets etc etc)?

Would we expect anything less?

If the takeover doesn’t happen, I don’t see how anyone in their right mind could return to St James Park with this oaf in charge still. He’s really done it this time and properly mugged off the last people that supported him so belligerently.

How can any of you go back if he’s still there now? If you do, you get all you deserve. The surprise and outrage every time he pulls his latest stunt is bordering on laughable.

His misreading of the situation has been incredible (or is just more attempted exploitation). To try and keep his shops open during the pandemic was a real error of judgement.

It’s not nice to wish ill of somebody but he’s ruined the lives of so many Newcastle fans for so long, that I think few would shed a tear if his high street empire collapsed off the back of the pandemic.

If the takeover happens, what ideally should happen with each of these four…

Steve Bruce – sack him. If we’re going for someone that’s available now, sack Bruce immediately and get the new man in. If we’re eyeing up someone that we can’t get until the season ends, then let Bruce see out a couple more mundane months and then send him packing.

Matty Longstaff – offer him a new deal. Even if he doesn’t make it with us long term, we’re bound to get more than £400k for him in a couple of years.

Lee Charnley  the bloke needs to be sacked and never allowed any job at our football club again. I would be interested to see what the next step in his career is though.

Andy Carroll – if he could stay fit, he’d be some player (is what has been said about Andy Carroll for close to a decade). Who knows, with these new owners maybe we can replace the most frequently injured parts of his body with bionic pieces. Then again, to do that, Big Andy would probably end up more robot than human. If we’ve got space in our squad and it’s a pay as you play contract, then there isn’t much harm retaining him.

If you could press a magic button, would you choose to have pubs open as normal, or fans able to go to football matches as normal?

Pubs for me unless the takeover happens. I’m not setting foot in St James’ until Ashley sells.

If the takeover occurs, then it would be brilliant for fans to be able to stream back into the stadium and celebrate in style.

You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin

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