You’ve heard it all before: 52,000 Geordies, starved of success for over half a century now in what is truly a football-bonkers city.
Well, I am just one of those 52,000, and when asked what I make of ‘the sorry situation at Newcastle United’, frustrated isn’t the answer I give. Rather, it’s a sadness. A disbelief at how one of the nation’s great clubs have sunk to merely existing.
“I am nowhere near wealthy enough in football now to compete with the likes of Man City” – perhaps the most alarming statement to come out of owner Mike Ashley’s Sky Sports interview in August 2017. What the Staffordshire-born tycoon fails to grasp is that Magpies fans have never (and will never) demand such a thing.
Forever branded entitled, delusional and fickle – to name just three common accusations – the North East faithful simply expect their side to put it up to fellow strugglers like Brighton & Hove Albion. It’s worth noting, by the way, that the most recent meeting between these two served up a typical Toon performance. Rafael Benítez’ men saw 27 attempts on goal go astray, the visitors instead coming away with maximum points owing to the cruellest of deflections. Oh, for a bit of luck.
Yet, it is that man, the much-decorated Benítez, who remains a real source of hope for Newcastle fans. Following the club’s worst start to a league campaign in 120 years, back-to-back home triumphs over Watford and Bournemouth have at last installed some positivity into what was arguably threatening to be the third relegation of the Ashley era.
What next, then? In the short term, an away fixture versus the notoriously hard-to-beat Burnley took place on Monday night, though many of an NUFC persuasion will be casting their eyes further ahead. Further ahead to the January transfer window. Surely now is the time for the manager to be handed the funds he so desperately needs? Forgive me for doubting it.
So, with takeover talk and fan protests both permanent fixtures on Tyneside, another twist in the tale seems as certain as coming across some half-price Lonsdale gear in a Sports Direct store.