Reverse Of The Entertainers
I was just a bairn when Keegan`s 'Entertainers` finished 3rd in their first season in the Premiership but I remember it like it was yesterday.
Partly because my dad still has, and watches, the VHS but more so because it was then that the national Newcastle United obsession began. You couldn`t escape us in the papers as we stamped a unique passion on the Premiership that saw us branded "everyone`s favourite 2nd team". But as that unique passion grew, Newcastle United became more like a soap opera than a football club and with hindsight it`s quite obvious now why were branded the entertainers - because we were more engaging than an episode of Coronation Street.
We had the typical heroes like Keegan and Shearer who would endear themselves to their loyal audience before leaving in a storyline that wouldn`t have been out of place in the twilight zone, we had villains like Souness, Wise and Ashley that we loved to hate, the sad passing of a lovable character that brought tears to your eyes and how can we forget the daft antics of zany characters Terry McDermott and Gazza! But now things seem different, it`s almost as if the final episode has aired with us lifting the Championship trophy and we`re waving goodbye to a Black and White future solely determined by BARB-style ratings to increase ad sales revenue.
This time last year we were being linked with buy-outs from Indian media moguls, Arabian oil tycoons and even Osama Bin Laden`s son! There was a time that if a player was available Newcastle would be linked with him, Remember Ronaldinho? or Wayne Rooney? or Sven when he was still the England boss?
I used to kid myself each time and think we`d be in with a chance of signing these stars but the truth was we just sold papers - plain and simple. In fact we sold so many papers that if there was no-one to link us to they`d release pictures of our owner drinking a pint in a 2½ minutes - surely that`s news the whole world needs to see!? In the end the hype never really had time to die down as there was always another rumour around the corner.
But now, for the first season in a hell of a long time, the rumours have all dried up and even though we`re linked with players, Man City and Chelsea are the back page headline grabbers and we`re just a little paragraph in the 'other news` section alongside Anne Keothavong being knocked out of the umpteenth qualifying round at Wimbledon.
It`s great! Newcastle has finally made it as a team people don`t care about. We`ve come a long way from being "the Entertainers" but I think it`s a positive thing when we`re quietly linked to Kris Boyd and J-Lloyd Samuel, it means that we`re finally doing something right.
For far too long we`ve been constantly branded as impatient and deluded supporters by the press but now it seems that finally the pressure from the media is off and we can just let the manager and the players get on with the tough job of keeping us in the top flight.
For the first time since the summer of 2001 I`m going into the pre-season without any expectation and it feels really, really good. Return of the entertainers? No thank you. I`d be delighted with just the reverse!