It is no co-incidence that for the last 15 years fans have been filled with anguish as the club has slipped from its vaulted position as the entertainers of the premier league to cannon fodder for relegation.
15 years ago Newcastle United made their last appearance in an FA Cup semi final. Move forward four years and Mike Ashley’s actions became the defining moment for many as the club effectively closed the door on any hope or desire they may had for success.
Yes, Ashley’s arrival was seen by many as a new beginning but the brief honeymoon period extended by the return of Kevin Keegan was quickly expunged and from the moment Keegan’s tenure ended, the club has found it lurching from one crisis to another. For many, that was the moment Ashley’s relationship with supporters became so toxic that his every action was viewed with distain and despair in equal measure.
To those not steeped in the daily and ongoing machinations of supporters versus Mike Ashley, this must seem odd at best crazy as worst. To get a sense of it all you have to understand Newcastle United supporters; their pride, their passion; their love for the club; their love for their City and their pride in the region.
Earlier this year The Chronicle and their online presence Chronicle Live, announced that they were reviving the “Passionate People, Passionate Places” campaign to highlight and celebrate all that is great about the North East.
The previous “Passionate People, Passionate Places” campaign ran for six years after being launched in 2005 by the regional development agency One NorthEast. It was widely praised around the region for presenting a positive image of the North East to the rest of the country.
But the campaign was shelved in 2011 when One NorthEast was abolished, since when the region has become fragmented and to Newcastle United supporters Mike Ashley did nothing to reach out to heal that fragmentation. Indeed, he actively encouraged this fragmentation through his inaction towards the football club.
Move forward nine years and new owners of Newcastle United would certainly benefit from adopting the Passionate People Passionate Places mantra; helping fire the campaign into the minds and bodies of partners around the world. Their message should be “We Are Here; We have arrived to share your passion”.
At the top level this brings the owners and the region together, sharing a vision for success. The next important aspect however has to be building a sound relationship with the supporter base world wide; acknowledging the role that supporters play in wanting to be a part of a united club, city and region with a common goal; a Newcastle United.
Yes, there would be a huge and immediate benefit in kind being gained by replacing Mike Ashley, but the big question they will have to face up to will be what do Newcastle United supporters expect of those who take over the corridors of power at their club?
Yes, there are quick wins out there but it is not simply a case of coming armed with outlandish statements, throwing out plaudits and brandishing ideas that are old, out of date or deemed unrealistic or unnecessary.
A coherent and cohesive strategy worked out, analysed and future proofed in advance by people who know the club, the region and the fan base will be vital in making the journey a smooth one.
Property development opportunities within the wider city will arise and possession of the keys of the city’s crown jewels will put new owners in an excellent position to build on its new gained exalted position.
Newcastle United supporters come from a “broad church” with a multitude of opinions, some wacky, some political. But no matter how wacky they may appear they all deserve to be listened to if we are to move from the almost permanent “herding cats” position that has pervaded at the club these past 13 seasons and in some instances even longer.
Undoubtedly there will be problems to overcome and issues encountered that will require careful handling. Newcastle United supporters may well be drawn into discussions on topics and themes way beyond those previously considered as normal safe spaces for the average sports fan. Political commentary that mixes sport and human rights will inevitably be a hot topic that supporters will need to approach both sympathetically and with appropriate due courtesy.
As a city Newcastle and its people are known throughout the world for their position on human rights and the freedoms and obligations that human rights demand. From Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela the people of Tyneside have stood shoulder to shoulder with those who have led the struggle and will continue to do so!
We also know that with the right team in place, new owners whomever they are wherever they are from will be welcomed in a strong and fair light by all as we all work together for the benefit of a united Newcastle.