Hordes of jubilant Newcastle fans gathered outside the St James stadium yesterday. They had flairs, songs, and genuine relief. It was a heartwarming sight, to be honest. A fanbase that has had to swallow so much hopelessness finally has something to cheer about. 14 long years under Mike Ashley’s ownership has finally come to an end and they didn’t just escape, they’ve hit the proverbial jackpot.
A Saudi-based consortium has taken over the club and Amanda Stavely is already talking of winning the Premier League in five years’ time. Geordies are dreaming again amidst fanciful talk of Antonio Conte or Zinedine Zidane taking over from Steve Bruce, not to mention the Mbappes, Salahs, and Haalands of this world joining the Magpies.
When your new owners have a net worth of £320 billion, you’re free to dream. It all reminds me of September 2008, when Sheikh Mansour took over Manchester City and heralded a new era of spending not seen since Russian oligarch Roman Abramovic, did the same at Chelsea five years prior.
Growing up through the mid to late noughties, we were accustomed to a “top four” in the Premier League. Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea (after Roman), and my beloved Liverpool. Champions League qualification was always a given under Rafa Benitez. We never quite won the league but we had no problem finishing above the other 16.
So much so, that Rafa said he could guarantee the club a top-four finish, after pressure mounted in 2009/10 following a string of bad results. That 09/10 season was City’s second after the takeover. They finished the first in tenth place, with Liverpool finishing an agonising second, four points behind Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in that 08/09 season.
By the second season after the takeover, the landscape had shifted. Boardroom bickering and our own ownership issues had caught up with us at exactly the time City began their ascent up the table. We finished seventh. City finished fifth after another massive spending spree, missing out on top four qualifications by just three points.
Rafa’s ‘guarantee’ had blown up in his face and he was given the sack. The club plundered into the abyss as gross mismanagement saw administration become a real possibility. It took years to recover, and in the eleven seasons since then, Liverpool has only finished above Manchester City once. That that came in the title-winning campaign of 2019/20 tells you all you need to know.
Manchester City have grown and grown and become a behemoth on the local scene, hoovering up almost all the trophies available. How many Premier League titles would Jurgen Klopp’s side have if Sheikh Mansour took over Fiorentina (for example) instead of the blue half of Manchester? City’s emergence has made it doubly hard to win trophies.