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Opinion

A Newcastle United takeover fairytale

1 month ago
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Breaking up is horrible. If anything, I think I prefer being the dumpee to the dumper.

When you get dumped, it can be horrendous, but you have the right to be angry or sad or frustrated. When you are the dumper, and the dumped party doesn’t really deserve it, all you feel is guilt. For me, guilt is a much heavier and exhausting feeling than that of pain.

Of course, circumstances are important. If they’ve cheated on you or you’d been fighting a lot, you may be relieved to break up. You might feel vindicated.

My break up wasn’t like that though. My ex is everything I should want from a girlfriend. She’s selfless, beautiful, kind, smart and trustworthy. We get on well and she shares lots of my dreams for the future.

The real clincher being that she is willing to move to Newcastle with me.

Since my teenage years I have wanted to one day move to Newcastle and become a season ticket holder. Having a child eight years ago put paid to those plans for the foreseeable as the mother had no desire to relocate from the South West. As events have transpired, I have become the main parent and could, in theory, relocate with my son if the opportunity presents itself.

The rationale behind the break up, I won’t go into here. There’s no other woman or anything like that. I have one child and she has two. Her two very much see me as a father figure. I feel like I’ve reached a crossroads and if I take one route, I am a fully invested father of three and any future breakup would be ten times messier and more emotional than doing it now. The other route will still hurt all parties but, for the kids involved, it is less damaging.

Due to a few recent events, I had started feeling like this partnership may not be the one that would be my forever relationship. Better to get out now rather than cause long term damage.

It was a month ago that I broke it off and it didn’t go well. My ex was convinced that I was going back to my child’s mother, something not even remotely in my consideration. After the relationship ended, my things were quickly returned to me and barely a message was exchanged between us.

After a couple of weeks of silence, we messaged briefly to arrange me having her boys for a few hours. They had been asking after me and she wanted me to spend a little bit of time with them. I agreed and they came over for a brief play.

When I saw her, that appalling guilt possessed me once more. She stood there, a masterpiece of dignified despair framed by my doorway. She was dressed nicely, looked in good health and greeted me with a smile but I couldn’t look past the eyes. The eyes communicated a deep sadness, and I couldn’t help but hug her. Why couldn’t I build a future with her? Why was it so hard to work past the issues?

Picking the boys up a couple of hours later, she asked if we could meet for a drink to talk things through. I agreed. I thought it only proper that we have another conversation as the first one had been brief and emotional.

We met up at a pub in the city of Wells, equidistant between both of our homes. She told me what had been going on with her since things ended, the work she’s putting in to becoming a better person and mother. I felt ashamed. She’s a great person and mother. None of this is about her, it really isn’t.

We revisited my reasons for thinking it was time to end our relationship and, with the emotion removed, she did see the sense in what I was saying. It was difficult but my rationale was sound.

Then she mentioned that she was going to go away for a weekend. She’d organised for the kid’s grandparents to have them and she would go off and explore a new city.

“That’ll be good. Where are you going?” I asked.

“Guess.”

My eyes narrowed as I appraised her playful expression. “Not Newcastle?”

“Yes.”

I couldn’t believe it. She’s only known a post-boycott me. I haven’t been to Newcastle since New Year’s Eve 2019, and I didn’t attend a game then either. I sat in The Strawberry watching on TV whilst Leicester smashed three past us. I’ve not been to a game since Rafa said farewell at Craven Cottage.

House Of Benitez BannerBut I’ve always talked the city up. I’ve spoken at length of my dreams of living there, of my hopes of an Ashley-free era that sees ambition back at the club. I have expressed my love for the club, city and the Geordie people countless times. She’s a city girl at heart, having grown up in Sao Paolo and then moved to London before relocating to my area. The countryside isn’t for her and with me selling the prospect of moving to Newcastle so regularly, she’s intrigued to check it out for herself. She may even move there.

“You can’t go to Newcastle without me!” I exclaimed after her explanation of why she had picked that destination.

“I want to see what it’s all about. I’ll probably go to the game too.”

It took me a couple of seconds to roll through the upcoming fixtures in my head. “We’ve got Tottenham at home that weekend.”

“Yes, I think I’ll go.”

“You can’t give that man money.”

She knows my disdain for the owner and my wholehearted boycott of all businesses and products owned by him. She’s been dragged away from House of Fraser before. She was politely forbidden from ordering her son’s Playstation from Game last Christmas.

“If I’m going up there, I want to watch a game.” She informed me, with crossed arms and a glimmer of mischief in her eyes. “I’m not going to switch clubs now, so I want to go and watch.”

Not going to switch clubs? What have I done to this poor woman? The legacy of our relationship will be a lifetime of footballing misery. We chatted a bit longer before the subject of her trip came up again.

“I want to come,” I admitted in a sullen tone.

“Come if you want,” she shrugged.

“I bloody might do,” I returned, seeing if there was a bluff to be challenged.

Our conversations drifted onto other subjects and then, when the evening came to an end, I walked her to my car to give her a present I had bought her. It was just a cookie sandwich from a place we used to go to in Bath, but I knew she’d love it and she did.

She kissed me and I reciprocated. Before I knew it, we were embracing passionately against the side of my car.

“I will come to Newcastle if I’m allowed,” I told her once we’d allowed our enthusiasm to plateau.

“Come if you want,” she said again.

“Think about it over the weekend. If you really want me to come, I will, but I appreciate this trip was meant to be about you and I don’t want to gate-crash that,” I said.

We parted and, on the drive home, I considered what had happened. At no point in the build up to the meeting had I imagined that I’d kiss her. I definitely didn’t think the night would end with me halfway to booking a weekend away with her. Maybe I’d fallen for a ploy. I mean, of all the places she could book. And to lure me for a drink to boast about it. Was it all a dastardly ruse? If it was it had worked. I wanted to return to Newcastle, and I wanted to experience it with her.

We’d been together nearly two years and, had it not been for Covid, we would have undoubtedly been up there at least once. If it wasn’t a ruse, then I was completely in the wrong for asserting my own wish to go. This was her adventure. Her chance to explore a new city. Her opportunity to discover a bit about herself as a single individual. All I could do was wait patiently for her verdict.

I went to bed that Thursday night conflicted on what I wanted both short and long term.

The next day I opened my laptop to log into work. My screensaver on the logon screen automatically changes every few days. At the time of writing, it is Corvin Castle in Romania. Before that it was the Big Bend National Park in Texas. It tends to be exotic or interesting places across the world or rare wildlife that is depicted. I’ve never once seen anywhere in England represented.

Friday morning, as the laptop loaded up, I found I was staring at the River Tyne at dusk with the Tyne Bridge at the forefront and the Millennium Bridge lighting up the background. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had to take a photo of it. What are the chances of that? Is it a sign? My mind was instantly made up. If I had consent, I would be going to Newcastle.

I still had a weekend to let her come to her own conclusion but by Saturday night she had told me that if I wanted to come then I could. The caveat being that she only wanted me to go if I wanted to, not because I felt I had to. She got the impression that she’d pressured me into saying I’d like to go. Not the case at all. I wanted to go. Flights and hotel were booked Saturday evening and by Sunday I was planning a million things to do, see and eat.

The Strawberry PubShe was still set on going to the game. I told her that we could go and soak up the pre-match atmosphere and then watch the game in The Strawberry. If she really wanted to go, I conceded that I couldn’t stop her but that I would stay at The Strawberry and meet her after. There was no way I was breaking my boycott.

Then Wednesday. Who would have predicted Wednesday?

The news first came to my attention during the afternoon when one of my co-workers approached me.

“You must be happy. That takeover is going through.”

I rolled my eyes. “Hopefully. But I can’t see it being any time soon.”

“No, seriously. It’s on Sky Sports. There’s been an agreement or something and the Newcastle United takeover is expected to happen.”

Naturally I started hitting up every website and platform I could think of. It was everywhere. The ban on beIN Sports was being lifted in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and this was paving the way for a successful takeover.

But I was still sceptical. I had another Newcastle supporting friend Watsapping me Tweets and links about the potential takeover. It was too early to get excited. I’d been here so many times during the Ashley tenure. What’s the expression? Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, fool me a hundred times and I might as well be a Mackem.

Something like that.

Once home, the information hunt was on. I was refreshing Google every few minutes looking for the latest breakthrough or angle. What was emerging was starting to lift my optimism. Journalists and pundits that had previously said the deal wouldn’t go through were changing their tune. Richard Keys of all people had stated that he expected it go through imminently. Could it really be on?

I logged onto Newcastle’s official website, something I hadn’t done for over two years. I clicked into the ticket portal and started perusing the available seating. There were still a few thousand seats left.

What to do? What to do? I was resolute in not giving Ashley another penny of my money. I’d been so disciplined for so long. I was a big fan of the purple kit from the previous season but hadn’t allowed myself any freedom to renege on my self-promise. On the other hand, imagine if the deal did go through in the next few days or week. Imagine if my first game back could be welcoming the new owners and era. Maybe even the first game of a new manager.

I’ve never seen Allan Saint-Maximin play live. If the takeover didn’t happen, he’d probably be gone in January or the summer. Imagine not ever seeing him in the flesh because of Ashley and Bruce. Plus, my ex really wanted to go. This is her weekend that I’m intruding on after all.

After agonising for well over an hour, I decided to take the gamble. The reward was too great to ignore. In the best case scenario, I could have one of the greatest footballing experiences of my life. This could top the scenes when we won the Championship on the last day or the victory over Germany at the Euros this summer.

The worst-case scenario would be that I was duped into temporarily breaking my boycott but the positive of that is I would see ASM and Wilson if fit. I could be as vocal as possible towards Bruce to try and tarnish his 1,000th game. 1,000 games! He should have never got to 100.

I picked up a couple of seats in the Gallowgate and accepted the decision with a heavy heart.

Thursday and euphoria!

The news came in just as I was preparing to leave work. The takeover was complete after an eighteen-month saga that felt like it could comfortably drag on for much longer. All the naysayers and doubters were wrong. All those that wished and fought against the deal were vanquished. Our time for ambition had finally arrived.

Logging back onto the ticketing site to see if I could secure a season ticket, I found over two and half thousand fans were ahead of me, and I had to wait fifteen minutes to enter. When I got in, I found season tickets weren’t currently on sale. I checked in on the Tottenham game and, unsurprisingly, that was now a sell out.

I got home and removed the four pack of Newcastle Brown Ales that had been festering in my fridge, awaiting this glorious day.

I messaged my ex and confirmed that our weekend to Newcastle had just become even more special.

All because of her. Had it not been for her booking that flight, to that city, on that weekend, there would have been no way I would have ended up at that game.

We’ve agreed to enjoy the weekend and take the time to discuss our relationship further.

No matter what the outcome, I will always be grateful for this momentous occasion and the bizarre series of events that allowed me to attend.

Maybe this will be the greatest story to tell our grandchildren in thirty years time, or maybe it’ll be the perfect farewell.

Either way, I am buzzing for the experience to come.

See you all Sunday. Howay the lads.

You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin

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