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Opinion

The relief of a Newcastle United takeover collapse

2 weeks ago
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Supporting Newcastle United has never been easy.

Even in the good times…the excitement under Keegan or the elation under Bobby, disappointment has always been the emotion I’ve been most accustomed with in my lifetime as an NUFC fan.

Of course, the disappointment of missing out on a league title or a Champions League place pales in comparison to the disappointment, fury and heartbreak of following what our great club has become under Mike Ashley.

We all know the story; the absence of ambition, the sucking of the soul and the endless torment has left most of us asking ourselves, just what the hell is the point of Newcastle United anymore? It isn’t fun. It’s isn’t exciting. It isn’t football.

In the last thirteen years Ashley has made calamitous decisions, two relegations don’t even cover the half of it. His contemptuous lack of communication with the fanbase only compounds our misery. It is no wonder fans, like me, are united in wanting him gone.

Yet, as we’ve seen in the past four months during the Newcastle United takeover saga, fans have been split on whether a takeover from the Saudi Public Investment Fund should be embraced or not. Again, this is another story we’re familiar with.

Some of us would like nothing more than to see messrs Mbappe and co leading us to trophy after trophy, season after season, as bankrolled by the Saudis or anyone else for that matter. I get it, football should be about trophies and winning and fun! And when such joys have evaded Newcastle fans for so long, it’s only natural to yearn for them.

Yet others, like myself, have voiced concerns about what being owned by the Saudi State would mean and what it represents.

Sportswashing is something I personally feel very strongly about. It goes beyond football. Way beyond it in fact. Any State, or individual, with an appalling human rights record or intolerance for minorities wanting to cleanse its image and make itself look better via owning a football club, to me, isn’t right. Sportswashing normalises wrongs; even if the pay-off is as great as being ‘the best’ club in the world, it isn’t worth it.

Despite the aforementioned disappointment, despite Ashley, despite never seeing us reach our potential, I love Newcastle United. I love living in Newcastle, it’s my home and I’m proud to be from here. I love the memories I have of going to the match with my grandad, of having a season ticket with my dad in the Gallowgate, of sitting in my favourite pubs across the toon with my mates before and after the games. It’s all been a part of my identity.

Equally, I don’t like when Newcastle lose a game. I don’t like it when people are disparaging about my club or city. I don’t like anything which I feel threatens the nature of what being involved with this city and this club means to me.

From Day One I’ve been against this proposed Newcastle United takeover.

Not because I don’t want Ashley out but because having such people run my club and take advantage of what I believe in is absolutely abhorrent to me. I find it insulting in fact.

Of course I want NUFC to be successful but not at this cost. Questions of freedom, of oppression and of right and wrong are simply more important to me than if we finish in the top half next season, or if we qualify for Europe the year after etc.

Life under Ashley is a nightmare for Newcastle fans but I still feel something for my club. I’m desperate for us to get taken over, to win something in my lifetime or even just to show some ambition and compete. Yet a club bought with blood money, existing for the purpose of both cleansing a despicable State image and converting or even brainwashing our people to support their regime, terrifies me.

The thing about sportswashing is it’s so easy to grow and become the norm, hell we saw that from thousands of NUFC Twitter accounts plastering their pages with Saudi flags. So while it’s obnoxiously arrogant for PIF to take advantage of our passion for our club, clearly that arrogance isn’t unfounded, which again is as frustrating as it is upsetting. This isn’t ok. We have to stand up to it to ensure it never becomes ok.

As bitter a pill it is to swallow to know Ashley will control our club for the foreseeable, at least I know I can continue to feel an affinity with my club. I really don’t feel I could have that if that takeover had gone through.

So while it may not feel like it, I very much feel that this is a blessing in disguise for us. Who knew Newcastle United Football Club could do relief as well as disappointment?

You can follow Jamie on Twitter @jamiehardesty

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