Newcastle United Are a Sleeping Giant and Their Takeover Should Worry The 'Big Six'

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Newcastle United's Mike Ashley nightmare could be over

23 May 2007 was the day this toxic ball got rolling. It has since snowballed into chaos and bombarded its way through the hearts of Newcastle United fans like a bull in a china shop.

In May that year, Mike Ashley's surprise move for the club was not thought of in bad terms and was, if anything, popular with most fans. But just two months later, Ashley had his hands on 100% of the club and he has tightened his selfish grip with a squeezing choke ever since.

From egotistically renaming the historic, UEFA five star, St James' Park to the Sports Direct Arena, to sending the club into the second tier twice within less than a decade; Ashley's reign will be spoken of with a sour taste for all eternity on parts of Tyneside.

Now, with 13 years of horror, this nightmare could soon be over. Amanda Staveley's Saudi-backed consortium were seemingly weeks away from officially ending the Ashley era, and after a High Court ruled a "biased" lawyer, the deal fell through.

Ashley has held onto the club for many years, simply because an offer wasn't quite enough for his already deep pockets, consequently sucking the life out of this gargantuan club to the point of which the black and white has become hilarity, rather than frightening.

Time will tell if the £300m deal goes through, as Ashley continues to work on selling the club. But after years of deals getting close, this is as near to the dream as Newcastle fans have been in 13 years, and, the 'Big Six' of the Premier League ought to be very concerned.

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The 'Big Six' hierarchy is already changing - it's time for Newcastle to cement their spot

There was a period in English football where Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United were the only clubs winning titles and filling up the top three. Nowadays, Arsenal are consistently in the Europa League, a Chelsea title charge hasn't happened in four years, whilst Tottenham Hotspur's rise has continued to fumble without Mauricio Pochettino and could get even worse if Harry Kane were to ever leave.

At the same time, United have become top four contenders rather than heavy favourites for the title; it's now been seven years since a challenge for the Premier League and the club are not showing strong enough signs of competing anytime soon.

Ultimately, this has forced outside clubs of the 'Big Six' to worm their way into the European spots and break the Premier League hierarchy, such as Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City, with the latter narrowly missing out last year and sat in third right now. Now, with this potential takeover for Newcastle, the clubs so accustom to European football should be very worried.

Whilst no immediate threat will come from the North East, the bellowing sound of St James' Park will only grow louder in years to come with heavy investment, and if the Reds slip back into their old ways, it'll certainly be a worry for them, as well.

If any club out there isn't to fear Newcastle's potential bounce up the league, however, it's Manchester City. No club in the Premier League has seen a rise like City's, winning 10 major domestic trophies since their takeover in 2008, breaking records wherever and whenever. Before this incredible windfall, the blue side of Manchester hadn't seen a domestic title outside of the lower leagues since 1976, and now, failure to win just one trophy spreads doubt on whoever is at the helm.

But, on the other hand, this will only motivate Newcastle's new owners to head down a similar route, with City proving the path to success and fortune is a clear one: through investment.

The other 'Big Six' outfits such as Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and United, who have all failed to progress, will, however, need to take a closer look than anybody at this potential sleeping giant being awoken. It is they who could find their European spots get taken over, pushing them even further away from a title battle.

The foundations are already in place for a meteoric rise in the North East

Love them or hate them, Newcastle are one of the world's biggest clubs, regardless of whether they are competing inside the top 10 of the Premier League, or battling it out to win the Championship. With their Toon Army proudly taking the black and white across England, this club already have the foundations of an institution ready to rise, dominate, and remain at the top.

St James' Park is the 54th biggest stadium in Europe, which is even more impressive when you consider many grounds above them in that list are rugby stadiums, national grounds or used solely for Olympic events and not football.

At the same time, their home is the seventh biggest stadium of any English side, and filling their 52,000+ capacity is no challenge, with an attendance decrease due to fans' boycotting the current ownership, rather than a lack of dedicated support - even still, it's rare to see the numbers drop below 48,000.

Studies have shown down the years that Newcastle remains one of the most supported clubs in English football, with the London clubs, Liverpool and the Manchester outfits the only sides boasting of more support at home and worldwide. This is mainly due to global commercial marketing not in place at Newcastle, whilst their lack of silverware tends to turn the heads of the glory supporters around the world. But, as we know, this will change as the trophy cabinet increases.

However, Newcastle is one of the biggest and most vibrant cities in the UK, rivalling that of Manchester, Liverpool and London. Tyne & Wear might not be on the immediate list of football tourism and is perhaps better known for Geordie Shore these days rather than football culture, but it's a city just waiting for the sport to become great once again.

If St James' can become a fortress, there won't be many tougher places to go in England.

Take a piece of late 90s/2000s with you

If it wasn't for the unrivalled genius of Sir Alex Ferguson, Newcastle would probably already be in the elite Premier League-winning category already. In the 28 years of Premier League football, only six teams have touched the title, out of the many who have competed.

Clubs such as Liverpool have come within touching distance, whilst the likes of Aston Villa gave it more than a good go once upon a time. However, not many clubs have come as close as Newcastle did two decades ago.

"We're still fighting for this title," Kevin Keegan ranted to Sky Sports, as the Magpies saw the Premier League title disappear in April 1996. Those famous words of the Newcastle boss still echo in football today, but his emotionally-fueled interview that day captured what happened in this decade for Newcastle; a sleeping giant just needing a wake-up call.

Keegan and his men were neck and neck with United throughout the 1995-96 season, so much so that the Premier League made preliminary preparations for a championship play-off battle at Wembley, should the two finish as equals in May.

After Keegan's rant, Les Ferdinand's 29th goal of the season was not enough to get past Spurs on the final day of the season, meaning Ferguson and United - once again - remained at the top. Although, with just four points the difference, Newcastle put down their marker as one of England's big guns in the early years of this new, elite division.

A similar scenario ensued the following year, but with a gap of seven at the end of the season, as Newcastle tied on points with fourth and third place, the club soon plummeted down the table.

A top 10 finish didn't come for five years after this, but with Alan Shearer still firing on all cylinders, a top-five finish and European football returned in the early 2000s. A fourth, third and fifth-placed finish from 2001-2004, pushed them into Champions League football and showed English football that this mammoth of the game may have been beaten, but was far from out.

Newcastle proved in a variety of ways back then that they a merely a sleeping giant in the Premier League, occasionally woken when the right pieces aligned. Whether it be Ferdinand and Shearer, or Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse, Keegan or Alan Pardew, this club have shown they just need investment, time after time.

You only have to look at Manchester City and Chelsea

City's rise has been unrivalled. From the Championship and mid-table Premier League battles, to the pinnacle of English football - the Citizens have done it all on the domestic front since 2008.

Whilst Newcastle's rise may not run the same course as the four-time Premier League winners, their model will be attempted on every front. Changes in the rules of Financial Fair Play (FFP) have already begun to obstruct teams such as City, with the club facing a two-year kick from Europe now, whilst Chelsea faced an entire transfer ban last summer.

This will change things drastically for any new takeover. The days of a blank cheque and signing superstars like Sergio Aguero, David Silva, and Yaya Toure within a few windows are over, but this does not mean such deals can't be done.

City did win the league title within just four years of a takeover, whilst it took Chelsea just two. Newcastle's owners will take pieces of each blueprint and try to implement this as quickly as possible, whilst navigating around FFP as sneakily as they can.

It didn't take long for Jose Mourinho to sign for Chelsea and take them to the top, whilst Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini and Pep Guardiola have all turned the Etihad into a fortress. With the foundations of support and a gargantuan stadium already in place at Newcastle, it's tough to see similar calibre managers turning down such a role at St. James' Park in years to come.

At the same time, hiring a director of football like City have and scouting the world for the next Didier Drogba or Kevin De Bruyne will soon follow.

Both the Sky Blues and Chelsea are regularly in title contention these days, whilst Champions League football is all but a guarantee. If Newcastle can follow this path, they may be onto unparalleled success, because after all, the Magpies certainly uphold more of a stature now, than City did pre-2008.

Champions League football may become a routine

As alluded to, there was a time when European football for the Magpies wasn't as hard to come by as it has been for the past two decades. A finish inside the top six in the first four seasons of the Premier League's existence quickly established Newcastle as one of the biggest clubs in England's rebranded top-flight, and a surge towards Europe under Pardew last decade is still remembered on Tyneside.

They have been very much a yo-yo club in this aspect. A decline around 1997-2000 was eventually forgotten about, with a fourth, third and fifth-placed finish, respectively, from 2001-2004.

On more than a few occasions, Newcastle have either managed to secure a European spot, or come close enough to where you can't help but feel that with appropriate investment, they may have got there.

City and Chelsea are just two clubs who have shown that with the right power, Champions League football soon becomes an expectation rather than a dream. If the Magpies can get this deal over the line, finding themselves amongst Europe's elite once again will be just around the corner.

The 'Big Six' shouldn't just be fearful, but perhaps the Premier League in general. Modern football has shown us that investment gets you trophies, as the days of a Fergie-esque blueprint seem like historic pages in the script, rather than guidelines for success.


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