We’re almost a week into the serious news about the latest Newcastle United takeover attempt. I say attempt, because history tells us that they never work out. Since Mike Ashley bought the club thirteen years ago and subsequently put it up for sale a couple of years later I’ve lost count of the amount of stories, rumours and consortiums that have entered all of our lives. I’m even still confused as to whether Barry Moat was actually a real person. I can’t have been the only one thinking that was a made up name, surely?
This latest story has me more worried than ever. It’s the validity that’s doing it. The hope that it brings, because as any good Newcastle fan knows, it’s the hope that kills you. Since the news broke about serious documents being submitted to Companies House, it’s felt like a long week. Day by day things look brighter. Hour by hour it actually seems like it could happen. But of course, with your sensible hat and especially if you’re of a certain age, on you could never actually believe it.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to pour cold water on what, on the face of it, seems like the best news we’ve had in many, many years. If you can get excited, then do it. Get excited! In fact, get a bit more excited for those of us who simply can’t allow themselves to do it. Because believe me, when the time is right, and one of our new board members is there at the edge of the pitch with a black and white shirt or a scarf, me and many others who are at the moment terrified to get optimistic will be celebrating long and hard. #Cans indeed.
We’ve been here before though. I seem to remember that way back when, the aforementioned Barry Moat (if he’s real) came close, but we were told that he couldn’t quite raise the funds and that the lovely Mr Ashley was unwilling to give any leeway on price. At that time the price was a lot less. Typically, I built my hopes up. The man who’d taken my club away from me was on his way out. Chairman Barry was going to somehow find the money and bring Alan Shearer along for the ride. And what a ride it would be. But of course he didn’t and it wasn’t.
The club had been put up for sale and Ashley, Charnley and co had done so by putting an advert in the papers asking interested buyers to respond to a specially set up email address. As professional as ever. If memory serves me rightly there was even time for a Sunderland supporter to launch a false bid for the club, which although it was quickly found out, was still a source of hope for a little while. A source of hope in Sunderland too, I suppose – one of their own had finally worked out how to do the internet.
Amanda Staveley, don’t forget, has also been here before. As ever, it all looked rosy. She attended a match and as a result, as well as seeing the team and sampling the atmosphere around the stadium, was presumably able to see at least some of our bridges. So with that kind of thinking, I imagined she was writing out a cheque at the end of the match in the player’s lounge. Any shortfall was being taken care of by trading in her Nectar points. Wor Amanda was the symbol of a very bright future.
Then she wasn’t. Despite the rumoured backing of oil money and the involvement of the Rueben brothers it all fell through. Mike Ashley himself called the whole thing off, referring to Staveley and the whole negotiation process as a waste of time. See, the pot can call the kettle black after all.
Despite all of this, there was time for more fun via Peter Kenyon and the Bin Zayed group. Again, both bids failed, despite appearing in an absolute blaze of glory and despite both looking legitimate and plausible. At one point during talks with Peter Kenyon, Ashley himself went on Sky to say that a sale had never been closer. It still never happened. If you hadn’t given up years ago, you probably had by this point. It may have shortly after this time that Ashley himself dropped the line into an interview that “I think I’ll own this club forever.”
Apart from the many failed bids, the fact is that things like this don’t happen to Newcastle United and its fans. As much as I worship this club – as we probably all do – I wouldn’t expect it to be bought and have money literally thrown at it. As much as I love my home city, we’re just a small city in the far north of England. I’ve never really imagined that anyone was taking a great deal of notice. The news that we could become the richest club in the country – and perhaps the world – just sounds ridiculous to me and as much as I’d love to get carried away, I won’t. The whole thing just makes me worry.
This week, I’ve spent a long time thinking about this takeover. As usual. I’ve tried not to think about it, because not thinking about it might just make it happen. A twisted logic, but mine all the same. Yet, it seems to be creeping ever closer. But I can’t allow myself to be sucked in.
I didn’t choose to support Newcastle United. It was a birthright. An addiction, something that was always going to happen. I was born in the city, brought up just down the road in Blaydon and so it was fated that I’d set foot inside St. James’ Park one day and fall in love. Like many before and after me. Because, there’s no glory to chase here. No trophies to talk about at work as if they were you’re own. Just disappointment, mainly. So the thought that someone might come in and turn us into something different is quite simply too outrageous for me to not worry about.
I’ve read lots of comments about us being the richest club in the world, the £250 billion that the owners are worth, signing Mbappe, Bale and all the rest. We’re going to target the Premier League title and the Champions’ League, apparently. But we don’t support this club for that type of thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’d got to a stage in life – I’m 48 – a few years ago now where I resigned myself to the fact that I simply wouldn’t see us win a trophy in my lifetime, so if someone does come in with serious spending power and transforms the place, then I’ll take it. But, at the moment it’s just another reason for me to worry about the fact that this whole thing might not go through.
I find it hard to understand that we may be utterly transformed from what we know as a club. We see ourselves as a so-called big club anyway. History, fan loyalty, the stadium, they all point to that as a fact, rather than just the usual bluster you get from fans. I’ve always believed us to be a big club. But now we could become the kind of club that none of us would have believed we could become in a million years. It’s so close you can almost touch and taste it. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the stuff of dreams. And because of that, I simply can’t be calm about the whole thing.
Apparently the whole process that would lead to an announcement is a number of weeks off. And everything I read worries me even more. As if a global pandemic wasn’t enough to occupy our minds, now this! I sincerely hope that it goes through. For the simple fact that it would mean getting rid of Mike Ashley and his cronies it’d be more than worth it. Then we can start to look at who the owners are and what they plan to do. But we’ve been here before.
I, for one can’t do anything but worry!