Fourteen years of abject failure, despair, and a feeling that something bad was around the corner.
Newcastle United supporters got so used to that feeling under Mike Ashley’s ownership that supporting the club became a chore. There was no enjoyment there, and the club they all knew and loved was slowly fading away.
This version of Newcastle United is very different: owners who are actually involved in the running of the club, a manager who understands every aspect of the club and region, and a set of players playing out of their skins.
As much as we are all enjoying this version of Newcastle, that fear is still lingering at the back of their heads. When Southampton pulled a goal back to make it 1-3, there was still that sinking feeling... those Jim Carrey vibes in that scene in Dumb and Dumber... that collective thought of “Ah shit, here we go again”. All of it came over Newcastle supporters. Not as loud as before but still there in the back of their minds.
Almost as if Ashley’s poisonous tenure hadn’t quite yet left their system.
Eddie Howe is not only changing the mentality of the players but also the supporters. They are going into games oozing confidence, and perhaps most importantly, there’s no negativity at all. Everyone is pulling in the same direction and when that happens on the banks of the River Tyne, special things happen.
In a strange way, it may be a good thing for supporters to keep carrying that fear, it’ll keep the enjoyment there. That looks like a ridiculous statement. What set of supporters doesn’t like seeing their team win things? Believe it or not, winning can become boring to some—as crazy as that sounds. Newcastle is a special place and there won’t be an influx of “New Age Fans” similar to those arriving at the doors of Manchester City or Liverpool. The demand to attend St James’ Park is staggering and the more success that is being delivered, the higher the demand will be.
There will always be questions regarding the club's finances or the jibes of “buying the league.” In truth, the previous owner could’ve had all of this had he tried or was remotely interested in it.
Newcastle have always been that club where if someone came in and got it right, they’d ruffle a lot of feathers in the process. That is exactly what’s happening now. The process of becoming one of England’s elite sides is perhaps ahead of schedule, with just how well the club have performed so far this season.
Champions League football next season is a distinct possibility. Supporters are loving every single second of this journey. Why wouldn’t they? Ambitious owners, a meticulous manager, and a fundamental third ingredient—the passionate supporters of Newcastle United—have all mingled to create the ultimate recipe for success.
Howe will continue to inadvertently raise expectations, and just how long that feeling of dreaded fear will remain is anyone’s guess. Having that feeling along this special journey Newcastle are on, makes it even better. The feeling of winning is greater because there is still some form of doubt always lurking in there.
There’s an incredible and unquestioned connection between players, staff, and supporters. Almost as if they’re all feeling the same thing, they can’t quite believe how well the side is doing. That kind of innocence is actually a wonderful thing to see.
Akin to Leicester City winning the Premier League, Newcastle probably have no right to be where they are now at this point of the process. They are in the Premier League’s top four on merit; Newcastle are not there to ruffle a few feathers for a few months of the season, they are there because they deserve to be.
The transformation of Joelinton, Miguel Almiron, Fabian Schar, and Sean Longstaff provides another angle to this incredibly likable club. Players who have been there through some tough times and have come out the other side have begun to shine bright. For all the brilliance of Bruno Guimarães, the grit and determination of Longstaff alongside the Brazilian is a wholesome picture.
Newcastle will continue to turn heads and surprise people. The club will continue to soar. Just how quickly they can get to the top remains to be seen. Keeping that fear and that innocence for as long as possible would be a beautiful marriage of feelings.