I can still vividly recall the day when it was announced out of a clear blue sky that Manchester City had been taken over by a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family.
At that point – and the same goes for now if I’m being honest – my knowledge of middle-eastern affairs was extremely limited and all I was aware of was that the family in question were extraordinarily rich.
Within 24 hours a club that once bought hand-me-downs from Manchester United came so close to signing Dimitar Berbatov and had to settle instead for a little-known Brazilian named Robinho.
The ten years and eight months since have been a series of pinch-me moments and fantasia that have genuinely, without any exaggeration, exceeded my wildest dreams. I used to stand at bus stops and fantasise about my lifelong club reaching a FA Cup final whereupon the opponents would be United and Darius Vassell or Stephen Ireland would smash in a dramatic late winner.
In 2012 we deprived our neighbours of a league title in the last minute of the entire campaign and it was scored by one of the top three strikers in the modern era. A superstar no less.
In the seasons thereafter City have won another three league crowns one of which was secured by a record-breaking hundred points. Wembley has become like a second home. Pep Guardiola is our manager. The roll-call of great players who have adorned the same shirt I used to wear in the back garden while pretending I was Paul Moulden is long and illustrious. Yaya Toure. David Silva. Carlos Tevez.
As for United we barely even sing about them anymore and less still think about them. Okay so they haven’t plummeted to the third tier like we did at the turn of the century but in every other regard our circumstances have swapped.
The transformation in City’s fortunes since the takeover of September 2008 has been absolute and felt absolutely surreal. There have been tears of joy on several occasions and glorious football on most occasions. It has been a blast.
it has recently transpired that Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nahyan is in the course of taking full control of Newcastle United. The multi-billionaire’s investment group have submitted proof of funds to the Premier League and should no problems arise a £350m takeover appears on the cards.
I hope it all goes through. I really do. Newcastle supporters are loyal in great numbers and have long been starved of success. They are, as the old-school among us say, ‘proper’ fans and deserve the elevation in status that beckons.
This then is meant as a word to the wise; from a City fan to Newcastle supporters, laying out what they can expect to experience in the weeks, months and years to come. Only here’s the thing: all that is written next is singularly negative and that is so for two distinct reasons.
Firstly, it is simply not possible to prepare someone for what you are about to enjoy. You may presently be imagining Kylian Mbappe in the number nine shirt and numerous open top parades down Barrack Road but when such pleasures occur they are a hundred times sweeter than words can describe.
Secondly, from next season onwards everything – and I do mean everything – that takes place in the background will be of an entirely cynical bent.
Let’s start with history. Your four league titles and five FA Cups? Didn’t happen. Hughie Gallagher and Jackie Milburn? Didn’t exist. I mean, of course they did and they will always be treasured deeply by you and your kin but beyond St James’ Park your club was founded from the very moment that the takeover was confirmed. Furthermore, you are now a glory-hunter and you will be belittled as such by individuals who have never even been to a live game in any form.
Your club meanwhile no longer has any substance. I appreciate how strange that sounds but it is true nonetheless, or at least in the eyes of strangers. Your club’s achievements will be dismissed as inauthentic. Your club will be viewed as a vassal for an oil-rich state.
As for the media giving due recognition for anything good and admirable that is forthcoming forget about it. You have spent a lifetime seeing successful clubs like Manchester United, Wenger’s Arsenal and, going further back Liverpool being venerated in newspapers and on television so now it’s your turn right? Wrong. Going forward any coverage pertaining to Newcastle United will have a detachment to it; a coldness. In parts it will be just pure snide.
More so, journalists from the Guardian will criticise you – not the club but you – for remaining a Newcastle supporter despite the appalling human rights record of the UAE.
Elsewhere, there will be jealousy but that’s okay. You can buzz off that.
So is it worth it then, all this mither and animosity? A million times yes, or perhaps more accurately a billion. I hope you enjoy and experience the same kind of ride that has taken Manchester City from there to here. You deserve it and it will be a blast – but nothing in this world comes without its downsides.