The drinks were flowing at Newcastle but reality soon kicked in

CRAIG HOPE: Toon fans spent the day drinking to celebrate their new Saudi owners, but the sobering reality soon kicked in… This was a brutal reminder of what Newcastle dis-United have become

  • Newcastle were beaten 3-2 by Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday
  • It was their first game since the £300m Saudi-led takeover at St James’ Park 
  • The atmosphere was electric before kick off but it soon turned sour by full time

Newcastle supporters may well have been drinking since before midday in celebration of their new Saudi owners, but the party that followed was a sobering reality of how far their club has fallen.

For so long the home fans fought the temptation to turn on Steve Bruce. Come the end they could not pass up the opportunity to let the new decision-makers know exactly how they feel.

It was cutting and even felt a little unkind on the head coach, the sound of the Gallowgate End bellowing, ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’.

Newcastle supporters were in great spirits ahead of Sunday’s clash with Tottenham 

But the party atmosphere became a sobering experience as the Magpies were beaten 3-2

They did not want it to be like this, though. Even when their team went 3-1 down they roared them back towards the halfway line. That was more in hope than expectation.

But earlier, on a Sunday morning that felt more like a Saturday night, hope was the overriding emotion throughout the city, much like it has been since news of the £305million takeover broke 10 days ago.

To those acquainted with matchday in this town, it is easy to determine how long remains until kick-off, based on the density of the black-and-white shirts gravitating towards St James’ Park. Not this time.

At 2pm – two-and-a-half hours before the start – you would have sworn the teams were in the tunnel, such was the mass of movement in the direction of the stadium.

It was there, outside the Gallowgate, that the party started, a divorce and wedding rolled into one.

Fans looked on with glum expressions – there were no smiling faces by the final whistle  

At the foot of Jackie Milburn’s nearby statue, and slapped on the ball the club legend is poised to welly, was the face of Mike Ashley. ‘He’s out of our club,’ they sang, a twist on the old favourite, ‘Get out of our club’, plus expletives.

But top of the hit parade were a couple of new entries – ‘We’re the Saudi Mags’ and ‘We’re richer than you’. Spurs fans later took great delight in returning, ‘No noise from the Saudi boys’.

In Nine Bar, the queue for ale was five deep – and this two hours before kick-off. One set of pals were talking about the Champions League. They might well have been discussing the Championship come their post-match inquest, especially after Bruce emerged to declare they were in a relegation battle. How to kill the mood, eh?

But one topic you probably wouldn’t have heard much about amid the earlier jamboree was Saudi human rights. Not when half the crowd were wearing Arab headdress and what looked like accredited Saudi journalists were being taught the words to ‘Toon, Toon, black and white army’, and duly began a chorus themselves in the minutes before the game.

The good feeling brought by the appearance of the club’s new owners soon turned sour 

The streets had long since been filled with song and merriment. Greggs is a popular enough establishment in these parts on any given day. You would have thought they were giving away free pasties judging by the queue on Northumberland Street. The Toon Army, it seemed, were not about to march on St James’ on empty stomachs.

Others – the majority, in fact – preferred a liquid lunch. And given they were in the pubs at midday, that’s exactly what it was.

The impact of Covid-19, meanwhile, has hit Newcastle’s retail sector hard, and boarded premises are a sad sight. If only the team could hammer some of that timber to their goal.

There was a great pride among the Newcastle faithful before the game – summing up just how bad things are on the pitch

It surely won’t be long, however, before an opportunity is seized and those outlets are re-opened – especially if this is an indication of footfall.

There was less of a spring in their step as those same feet trudged back into town after a 3-2 defeat, a scoreline that was flattering on Newcastle.

But there was great pride among fans at the scenes before the game – that in itself is telling of how bad things are on the pitch.

In the stands they unfurled a giant flag carrying the lyrics of the Jimmy Nail hit Big River, ‘Cause this is a mighty town built on a solid ground, and everything they’ve tried so hard to kill, we will rebuild’.

In the directors’ box, new chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan, director of Saudi’s Public Investment Fund, was visibly moved as he was introduced to the crowd, and the noise when Newcastle then scored after 108 seconds served as a vignette of what the club can be. Al-Rumayyan hugged co-owner Amanda Staveley and, a few seats away, Ant and Dec were beaming.

But come full-time and, amid an atmosphere that had turned toxic, there were no smiling faces. What had played out was a brutal reminder of what Newcastle dis-United has become.

It felt apt that, at the same time, the hangovers of those beneath the headdress were probably just kicking in.

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