As the takeover at Newcastle United edges closer, we’ve been taking a look at the things, away from the field, that the new owners should address first.
Obviously investment in players is a given, but if they want to earn the long-term love of the fans, there are a number of things that need to be addressed.
Newcastle Training Ground redevelopment
Having been to the training ground a few times for press conferences and the like, it’s honestly staggering that it’s home to a Premier League football club.
I’ve also been to the Academy of Light – Sunderland’s training ground – and it is light-years ahead. The Benton training ground isn’t anywhere near fit for purpose, and new investment is seriously needed.
Those famous pictures of players taking an ice bath in a wheelie bin or relaxing in a children’s paddling pool haunt Newcastle fans to this day. It’s not even close to the required level for a top tier club. Either a new training centre entirely or a significant redevelopment and expansion of the current one are needed.
Sports Direct signs ripped down and St James’ Park given some love
Sports Direct. Two words that will make any Newcastle fan shudder for years to come. Mike Ashley uses St James’ Park as his own personal billboard, and they need to be gone.
Those horrific signs either side of the famous ‘Newcastle United’ above the East Stand are horrific. Add to that the tacky light boxes around the tunnel, the boards all around the pitch and the huge sign underneath the screen – it’s horrendous.
Honestly, the new owners could sell tickets to fans to see them rip down the horrific signage. You’d sell the stadium out for that.
As for the stadium itself – fans are itching for an expansion. Buying back the Strawberry Place land is imperative. Some TLC inside the ground wouldn’t go amiss too.
The concourses are a bit scummy in places, as are the seats inside the ground. Personally. I’d love to see the seats painted with black and white stripes all the way around the ground – that’d go down an absolute treat.
NINE bar name changed back to ‘Shearer’s Bar’
Mike Ashley changed the name of Shearer’s Bar, the bar on the street side of the Gallowgate End, to NINE following criticism with regards to how the club is run from the United legend.
The fans saw it as a petulant move by the club and wanted it changed back immediately. Changing it back early would get the new owners very much on the right side of the fans to start with.
While we’re at it, lets bring Alan Shearer’s statue inside the stadium somewhere rather than hidden in a little corner on Barrack Road. Alan Shearer is a legend at this club and deserves to be honoured properly.
Bring Kevin Keegan on board in some way
One of the defining moments of Mike Ashley’s time as Newcastle owner is the spat with Kevin Keegan in 2007. The Newcastle legend had returned to the club for a second spell, but resigned his post after a major dispute with the hierarchy.
The club hierarchy had been buying players without Keegan’s knowledge and frankly running the club into the ground. Keegan didn’t approve, quit and subsequently told fans they would “get their club back some day” a few years later.
Now, it seems the Geordie Nation are about to get their club back. Keegan has always been a beacon of light for fans, with that particular quote etched in the memory of every member of the Toon Army.
It would be great to see Keegan back at St James’ Park in some capacity. Director of Football or something would be great – but even just a club ambassadorial role would be perfect.
Doing that would show the fans that the new owners know the club’s history, and respect their values. It would be a brilliant move from PCP.
Contract issues – starting with Matty Longstaff
The issue of contracts at the club is becoming more and more worrying with young star Matthew Longstaff out of contract in the summer.
The youngster earns £850-per-week which, in football terms, is pittance. He’s enjoyed something of a breakout season this term and deserves to be awarded with a long-term contract.
There’s even been talk of teams like AC Milan and Ajax sniffing around Longstaff, preparing to pounce should his contract indeed come to an end and he become a free agent.
The new owners need to do whatever they can to stop that from happening. While they’re at it, a new contract for his older brother Sean wouldn’t go amiss either.