It was fun while it lasted. The build up to derby day was always torture, but completely worth it if you won. They had the 5-1 - we had 6 in a row. Both clubs would have a spell in the doldrums, with the other only slightly better off, but still able to claim the upper hand.
Now though, it feels like Newcastle and their unfathomable amounts of money have possibly bought the bragging rights in the North East for quite a long time to come.
While we haven’t been actually competing with them for the last few years for obvious reasons, it has always felt like we would get back to those days some time (maybe even next season before the events of this week!) – and it would be just like it was before. But now, I fear that by the time we do get back to the top flight, Newcastle will be away and gone.
It won’t happen overnight, but if this group are in it for the long haul, then starting off with a few statement signings and then a consistent influx of expensive imports will have them back at the top end of the table – their owners will basically just keep throwing oil tankers full of cash at it until they get there, because they can. You can point to FFP all you like, but they’ll probably treat that with the same level of respect they do the rights of women and minority groups.
It’s pretty galling, it’s very unfair. They’ve been plucked from economy and placed straight into first class – despite some very questionable baggage. Much like Chelsea and Manchester City before them, they haven’t earned it either - they’ve gone from being a bang-average Premier League team for the best part of two decades to now having the opportunity to contend with the super-elite. Their supporter numbers are fantastic – that is unquestionable (though would they be averaging 30,000 in their 4th season in League One – we’ll probably never know now) but their team has been a long, long way off matching the support for a good while now.
And it’s the nauseating narrative that comes with it of how they’ve now got their club back – they never lost their club – they’re not Bury, or Darlington, or possibly even Derby County, they’re a club who didn’t like their owner for not investing as much money as they wanted him to and hated the rubbish football that team produced.
Take a number lads and lasses – join the queue. And now because that owner has now sold up to a group of men from thousands of miles away with a completely different culture and ideology to them all of a sudden that means they have the club back? Nothing to do with the fact that the club they now have possession of again is going to be invested in heavily to bring success – it’s purely the fact Ashley has gone.
Come on folks, call it like it is - this spade is very much a spade! And we have to be honest and say it would probably be a spade for the majority at our club, and everyone elses.
Of course, this all reads like a case of sour grapes - am I jealous of the journey they’re about to embark on? Of course, which football fan wouldn’t be envious of their imminent ability to entice the world’s best footballers to their team? Would I be happy that my club was given this privilege, thanks to the incomprehensible wealth of owners who come with the pretty horrid alleged crime sheet that they do? That’s another question.
I’d like to say that I would be very unhappy with such people owning my Sunderland AFC, but it is difficult to say exactly how you would feel until you were in that situation.
Right now, the fans of every other club are condemning the takeover, and rightly so – but if that was their club would they be embracing it the way the Newcastle fans, former players and some media outlets have been? Even with a heavy heart, you have to say probably yes would be the answer.
The likes of Shearer and others are very quick to say that the takeover group’s human rights record and other offences must not be brushed under the carpet, all while opening up another can, but in allowing the takeover that’s exactly what has been done.
Now it has gone through the spending and the building will start, and if they follow the Chelsea and Man City pattern then they will get into Europe, they’ll probably win trophies and we’ll just have to look on with envy and accept it – and acknowledge at the same time that we’re not really rivals anymore.
We need to just let them get on with their business and concentrate on our own. We have our own journey to go on, albeit not quite as glamorous as theirs!
We have our own new owner who has bought into the club both literally and metaphorically; a management team who seem to have a coherent and promising plan moving forward; and a young, passionate set of players who have made it fun to watch our team again – for goodness sake, I paid £10 to watch basically our reserves in the Papa Johns Trophy last week!
It was worth every penny to watch one of our own, Dan Neil, our young Rolls Royce of a footballer put on a midfield masterclass – he was an absolute joy to watch. He may not be Mbappe or Neymar, or whoever else the Saudi oil dollars will bring to St. James’ Park in the coming years, but he’s ours, and we should treasure him while we can!
It is the Neils and the Embletons that we need to concentrate on - give them and the rest of the team our full, unequivocal backing and help them to do enough to get us out of this awful league.
Forget about Newcastle and singing songs about Alan Shearer every ten minutes at the match – half of the people in the crowd aren’t even old enough to have ever seen him play live!
Eventually, please God, Kyril and the team will get us back to the Premier League, and hopefully he has enough money and stroke to back us to become a strong top flight club again – whether we can get anywhere near to competing with the Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Chelsea – and now probably Newcastle will be another matter. Although who knows, maybe they’ll have waltzed off to the European Super League by then!
They are probably on a different level of fantasy football to us now – and we have to let them go, and see how it pans out for them from afar while concentrating on the future of our club.
Although I will be keeping a very keen eye on where this much-promised investment into the whole of the North East region goes – maybe they might be the ones to finally extend the Metro into Washington...