In early October 2021, joy filled the Newcastle air as Mike Ashley’s dire tenure as Chairman of the Magpies was finally over, as the Saudi-led consortium ‘Public Investment Fund’ were ratified and confirmed as new owners at St James’ Park by the Premier League.
It was a controversially fuelled takeover with rumours of the head of the consortium contacting then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson informing him that the original decision from the Premier League to reject the bid was wrong and that it would affect the Saudi-UK business relationship should the deal not go ahead. Now, I will not bore you with a geography lesson about why a Saudi-based takeover is seen as a bit shall we say, dicey?
Saudi Arabia is known to have a poor human rights record, with women’s rights still stuck in ancient times and their views on LGBTQ+ archaic to say the least as well. I guess the face of the operation, the cyborg-looking Amanda Staveley was enough for the Premier League to let that slide though.
Their first task was to keep the Magpies up, at the end of the day, the Saudis didn’t want their first adventure into English ownership to end up in the Championship under their watch. To their credit, they appointed Eddie Howe and bought very sensibly, seemingly trying to steadily build rather than throw cash at big-name players.
Kieran Trippier and Bruno GuimarÃ£es proved to be inspired signings and Eddie Howe turned players who looked woeful under Steve Bruce into world beaters — particularly Joelinton who he moved into midfield. Eddie Howe has always been touted as the next big English manager, his time at Bournemouth was a fantastic breeding ground for him, he took them from nowhere through financial difficulties to the promised land.
He then flopped hugely at Burnley, before returning home to the south coast. There was the thought that maybe he could only do it in Dorset. He has always been an excellent coach, and when he got the chance to go to Newcastle with these new owners he was always going to thrive in my eyes.
As previously mentioned with Joelinton, he improves players and creates an ethos and atmosphere around a club which will allow teams to get better. In the end, he led them to safety easily finishing in 11th place. Intrigue then filled the English footballing world — what would they do now?
Splash the cash, and bring in big names like Manchester City did at the start? In truth, they once again built steadily buying quality like Nick Pope and Alexander Isak for decent fees, it was impressively thought-out and planned.Not akin to normal big-money foreign takeovers.
Howe has continued to improve players, Miguel Almiron has been a revelation, smashing all his previous records in past seasons and they are currently well and truly mixing it with the big boys sitting in the top four at the time of writing. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that they are doing so well being well-backed plus a St James’ Park lifted from the gloom of Mike Ashley purring in excitement.
It is a footballing city that has just been waiting for a moment like this, and they are riding the wave. The top four has been there to break in recent seasons with the so-called Big Six faltering.
We had the chance last year but failed to invest when it really mattered and ultimately petered out, you sense that under these owners Newcastle will continue to invest as they chase a top-four dream. In reality, Tottenham aren’t consistent enough to compete for the top four, Chelsea are in a transition under Graham Potter, and Liverpool are having a bit of a down year this season.
In truth, if they can stay relatively injury-free and continue to add to this squad sensibly, I would actually be surprised if the Magpies did miss out on Champions League football. Should they qualify for the Champions League with these owners, the world is their oyster really and their rise could then be meteoric.
Did I expect them to be challenging this quickly? No. But you’d be naÃ¯ve to think they wouldn’t be challenging for titles alongside Manchester City, and Liverpool within the next few years, and controversy aside, good luck to them. It is a city and football club, who like us have had a tough time with owners, and they deserve their moment in the sun.