For all the excitement running through Newcastle’s fan base and for all the heavy investments to be made soon, this is a club caught in limbo. Even on a day to usher in the new, there was still a pathological obsession with the old. Mike Ashley is gone, banished from Tyneside after 13 years of his hated management, but abusive chants about him persist. The same goes for the Sports Direct brand, reminiscent of its parsimonious reign. And so is the poor and hapless Steve Bruce, who left to keep a lonely watch on the sideline for his 1,000th game in management while his own people laughed at him being sacked in the morning.
There’s a reason Newcastle have held such a place in popular affections, why they briefly became, at the zenith of Kevin Keegan’s years in 1996, everyone’s second favorite club. It was not so much the dynamism of their football as the ferocity of their support, the feeling of a one-club town in full swing. Sadly, the Ashley era turned a large institution into a place of small resentments. Bruce, for whom running Newcastle was his continuing ambition, received a chorus of derision, while Al-Rumayyan, a man who barely saw his £ 300million purchase, was cheered up to the rafters. Did he really deserve such cruelty? At least Bruce never oversaw the club’s relegation, unlike Alan Shearer or Rafael Benitez.