There is no greater illustration of the current levels of excitement around Newcastle United than the fact that, on Tuesday morning, 30,000 supporters waited in an online queue to buy one of 1,000 season-tickets.
We say ‘buy’, those who were successful felt more like lottery winners. For them, the cost was as good as irrelevant. Hugo Ekitike’s agent could have knocked at the door and demanded an extra few hundred quid and they would have gladly paid it.
At the same time as the rush for tickets, the club’s Saudi-backed hierarchy were winning a race of their own, finalising the £32million deal to bring Sven Botman, their top summer target, to St James’ Park.
Newcastle’s ambition is winning over thousands of fans who’ve been starved of it for decades
That ambition is the reason why there is an unprecedented buzz on Tyneside right now. Not even in the era of Kevin Keegan and The Entertainers were 29,000 fans locked outside the stadium. To think, in the latter days of Mike Ashley’s ownership, the club were giving away 10,000 season-tickets to mask both empty seats and disillusionment.
It is not just the mere presence of new owners and coaching staff that has fuelled the optimism. It is the actions of said custodians that has given rise to genuine positivity and anticipation, the sort that sees folk desperately upgrading their broadband speed in the hope it will improve their chances of navigating that virtual queue.
Head coach Eddie Howe – intelligent, diligent and tireless in his pursuit of betterment – has won hearts, minds and matches during his eight months in charge.
The UK-based owners, meanwhile – led by Amanda Staveley, Mehrdad Ghodoussi and Jamie Reuben – have shown an equal degree of measured competence off the pitch.
Newcastle are on the verge of completing the £32m deal to bring Sven Botman to St James’
Work both on and off the pitch by manager Eddie Howe (right) and the club’s UK-based owners – led by Amanda Staveley (left) – has set an unprecedented buzz on Tyneside
Take this summer’s transfer business, building on January dealings which looked good at the time and even more impressive with each passing week as the team climbed from 19th to 11th.
Newcastle let it be known in advance of the current window that their budget would be limited, circa £80m plus player sales. This, in large part, is because of spending rules, but also a preference for gradual improvement.
Yes, their financial power is potentially stronger than any club in the world, but not now. Previously unobtainable targets are signing for Newcastle not because of obscene financial incentives – the wage structure is rewarding yet rational – but more so for the project being sold to them. Howe, for example, provides a clear strategy of where players would figure going forward.
Despite the obvious links, there is a stark difference in the motivation of Newcastle’s new recruits and the golfers of the soulless sell-out that is the Saudi-funded LIV Golf tour.
On Tuesday, 30,000 supporters waited in an online queue to buy one of 1,000 season-tickets
Staveley and Co have found that the appeal of Newcastle United was always there, it just needed to be harnessed. This is not a new club in need of a whole new identity, a la Manchester City following their Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008.
Indeed, for the first nine months of their stewardship, the fundamental structure remained largely unaltered yet results and mood were unrecognisable. Crucially, mindsets and intentions had changed.
That is why they were able to sign Brazil international Bruno Guimaraes in January.
The numbers involved should have been achievable for the previous ownership – an initial fee of £36m and wages topping, but not smashing, the existing ceiling – but it was the vision presented to him that made the difference.
In some respects, the signing of Bruno still represents the biggest risk of each of their additions, given the likely need for a further period of acclimatisation this season.
But in another way, his arrival is arguably the most important, for it sent a message to every other potential target – if a guy who is going to the World Cup with Brazil believes in where Newcastle could take him, why shouldn’t they?
The Magpies have changed their mindset since the new owners have arrived and made a statement by signing Brazil international Bruno Guimaraes in January
They’ve also managed to bring in England and ex-Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope this month
Likewise, Kieran Trippier. Newcastle had long since given up on signing England players. Now, they have attracted two in six months, following the signing of goalkeeper Nick Pope this month.
But amid all of that their business has been sensible. A new back five of Pope, Trippier, Botman, Dan Burn and Matt Targett has been assembled for the same £80m that Manchester United paid for Harry Maguire alone.
Attention will now turn to strengthening attacking areas with a winger and striker, but do not expect vast outlay. Howe’s preference in a central role is for a younger player to compete with, but not replace, Callum Wilson.
The club’s name will continue to be used as a stalking horse for bigger names in an attempt by agents to generate movement on their clients, but that is not the road down which Newcastle are journeying.
Theirs is a less winding route during which they will move through the gears at their own pace. If only they could build a highway big enough to contain all those supporters who want to come with them.
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