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Explaining Newcastle United: A new fan’s guide

For the new fans from The United States and beyond. Brace yourselves.

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Newcastle United v Manchester City - Premier League
First things first, we hate our owner
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Editors Note: The following is a piece submitted by Bryan Nelson and Elijah Newsome of the SB Nation Site Coming Home Newcastle, a site dedicated to the coverage of Miguel Almiron’s new club Newcastle United

Miguel Almiron brought more than just his left and right foot to Newcastle United. He’s brought legions of Atlanta United fans ready to get into English football for the first time. We understand that you may be new to the Newcastle United scene. It seems like everything’s pretty good, seeing as we just signed Miguel Almiron for a club record fee, but honestly, that’s the biggest highlight of the last decade. You didn’t miss much with this club.

English football is a thing to behold. Behind all the talent and passion on the pitch is a well-oiled money machine. In the United States the beautiful game has just begun to pick up some serious steam. You’re here because Almiron was one who helped make that happen. The interest from clubs abroad have sparked an interest in leagues across the Atlantic.

You’ll notice a handful of things watching the Premier League. You’ll see an immense rise in the talent you see play. That’s not a knock on MLS as the talent has improved, but the money Premier League clubs have to spend is ridiculous, and it has led to some inflated prices over the past few years.

But the club you chose to follow, Newcastle United, has not taken part in this inflated price game. No, no, no. You see, Newcastle United has been under the rein of Mike Ashley since 2007, and since that time Newcastle United has seen nothing but relegations and disrespected managers and players. From the absurd and borderline rule-breaking dismissal of Kevin Keegan (you should definitely learn about him if you haven’t already) to the heart-breaking treatment of Chris Hughton, and the now suffering Rafa Benitez, Newcastle United has seen managers come and go as the club seems to be floundering.

We hope we didn’t turn you off from the club. These are just facts. Let us lay out what you should be prepared for as a new adopted member of the Geordie family:

The Owner is Terrible

As previously mentioned, Newcastle United has suffered under Mike Ashley for around twelve years. The highest place finish that the club has had under his rein is fifth place in 2011-12 with a team that many people on this website will cite as a coming out moment for them as fans. It was the closest we’ll ever get to the glory days of 90s and early ‘00s. It was also the year we got this beauty:

You’re welcome.

Mike Ashley is probably the worst owner in the history of football. Not only has we watched Newcastle burn since taking over, but he’s actively blocked deals, and made transfer markets difficult because of an unwillingness to follow the market trends. The club missed out on quality youth signings such as Dele Alli, Mo Salah, Alexandre Lacazette, and even Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. You may know those names, that’s because they’re among the biggest names in football today. The club could have signed them for under £20m if Ashley had actually been willing to fork out more than £10m for a promising youth talent. This is a far cry from Atlanta United’s owner Arthur Blank, who has set a new standard for spending in the MLS.

Thank you, next.

The Club Has History

The club is home to the greatest striker in the history of English football, Alan Shearer. And you should probably brush up on your history of the Entertainers, because that era is the highlight of any Newcastle United fan’s life.

You’re not just flocking to any old Premier League club. You’re coming to one of the most storied clubs in English football. Some of the greatest players have played at St. James Park, and the club has the ninth most competitive honors in England, and where the legendary Sir Bobby Robson plied his trade as a manager leading the club on multiple forays into European football. Did I mention we once beat Barcelona in the Champions League? Yeah, that Barcelona.

Here are some names that you should acquaint yourself with:

Alan Shearer - We already mentioned his name, but we’ll give you a nifty little reminder. Alan Shearer is one of the greatest strikers to have played the game. He scored 283 career goals, and has the current Premier League record of 260. He’s legend in and out, and he’s one of our own. If there is any player that you should be able to speak of, it’s the greatest to have played in the black and white.

Andy Cole - Another goalscorer of legend, and certainly among the greatest of his era, Andy Cole scored (get this) 55 goals in 70 matches for the toon. His second year with Newcastle he scored 34 Premier League goals in 40 appearances. That’s quite a feat. While his stay with the club was short-lived — he moved to Manchester United to continue his legendary goalscoring form — he’s a player to be remembered. His sale also gave way to the need of the club to land the signature of Alan Shearer.

Gary Speed - A staple of longevity in the game, sadly Gary Speed was taken from us all too early with his suicide. One of the greatest midfielders to have graced the pitch, he was capped 85 times for Wales. The record until just last year. He was known for versatility, and had an uncanny ability to pass the ball. Seen as an inspiration on and off the field, Gary Speed has earned his place as one of the greatest to play the game.

Warren Barton - Barton was part of a stalwart defense under both Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson and was instrumental in the club’s win against Barcelona in the Champions League and their second place finish in the Premier League. An unbelievable professional, he also has a way with the fans that is unparalleled. As in, he joined Toon fans in Denver which you can read about over at Coming Home Newcastle.

The Fans are the Best in the World

Newcastle United v Manchester United - Premier League
we lost this match, but the banner looked cool
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

They really are. And they’re an international bunch as well, with a fan base reaching almost every continent that calls itself the “Toon Army”. Every year Toon Army America has a meet-up. In fact, we just went to one! It was in Denver this year, and last year, we covered it in Chicago. The fans are passionate and they certainly love their club. If you’re a loyal die-hard fan of your sports teams, then you’ll fit right in. Fair-weather fans need not apply.

Being a fan of Newcastle is a commitment, truly. On days when I work, I (Bryan) have the match either opened up on my phone, or I’m constantly checking the score and tweets. And that’s not even as extreme as some people go.

This extreme fandom is rooted in the location of the club. See, Newcastle is a city nestled in the Northeastern part of England, and the club is the only professional top tier football team in Newcastle. This means, much like Atlanta United fans, Newcastle fans sell out every home game and travel to every away game because the entire city bleeds black and white. Newcastle locals, or Geordies, are known for being a bit insane, hard to understand, and extremely passionate. They are a direct reflection of the city, a cold, gritty place with a large working class population. If you were to compare Newcastle to an American city, it’s very similar to cities like Philadelphia, Buffalo or Syracuse where the fans are known for being a bit crazy and the cities aren’t amazing places to live.

Oh yeah, We Have a Rival...and they Suck

Newcastle’s biggest rival is a team that isn’t even in the Premier League anymore. Yes, you read that correctly, Newcastle’s biggest rival Sunderland AFC are not even in the Premier League. They are not even in the Championship, the division right below the Premier League. Unfortunately for Sunderland, they are playing football all the way down in League 1, which is the third tier of English football where Sunderland get to play the likes of Scunthorpe United, Luton Town, and Charlton Athletic.

This is the direct result of two straight relegation, which is honestly impressive given the gap in revenue between the Championship and the Premier League. Most teams who fall from Premier League grace at least remain competitive in the Premier League, and eventually make their way back up to the top division after a few years in the Championship. The perfect examples of this are teams like Wolves and Bournemouth, who had lengthy stints in the Championship but made their way back up to the Premier League. You have to be really, really, really bad to get relegated from the Premier League and then finish dead last in the Championship.

Newcastle United v Sunderland - Premier League
This rivalry gets a little chippy from time to time...but the two teams have not met since 2016
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Historically, Sunderland and Newcastle have always been in the Premier League as they are the only prominent clubs in the Northeast of England. Similarly to Newcastle, Sunderland AFC is the focal point of the city Sunderland, located just 12 miles from Newcastle. Sunderland is a team Newcastle have had an intense rivalry with since 1888, and their rivalry the “Tyne-Wear Derby” was one of the most intense and evenly matched rivalries in the Premier League. The series is currently tied, with both teams having 53 wins and 50 draws.

Sunderland sucks. It is a terrible city, their fans are obnoxious, and they are a club rocked by scandals that would make Richard Nixon be grateful that he isn’t affiliated with the club. Maybe one day Sunderland will return to the Premier League, but for now every Newcastle fan takes joy that Sunderland are a club that is currently playing their football at 5000 seat stadiums in League 1.

Where to Watch Newcastle

The simplest answer as to where to watch Newcastle United play, is the NBC Sports Network. Newcastle is in the Premier League, which means that every single one of their matches is broadcast by NBC Sports either on the NBC Sports television channel or on NBC Sports Gold. Most of Newcastle’s matches are going to be found on NBC Sports Gold, NBC Sports’ paid streaming service.

Luckily for many Newcastle fans, the Toon Army, like previously stated, is an international group of supporters with chapters all over the world including tons of U.S. cities. This means that no matter what region you are in the country, you are likely to find a group of people to watch every Newcastle match with.

Toon Army chapters usually work with a bar, that is either a “Newcastle Bar” or a general soccer bar to make sure they have a place to watch Newcastle matches on Saturday morning (or Sunday, or Tuesday, or literally whenever). Atlanta has a fairly active chapter, with a Facebook group that you can join here that has general Newcastle discussion and where/when they will meet up to watch matches. Toon Army Atlanta currently watches every match at Brewhouse, an iconic Atlanta soccer bar located in Little 5 Points that many of the DSS faithful are already familiar with.

How to Follow the Team

In order to stay up to date with all of the hottest Newcastle news and opinions be sure to check out SB Nation’s Newcastle blog Coming Home Newcastle. Additionally, if you are into podcasts, be sure to also check out Coming Home Newcastle’s official site podcast CHN Radio, a podcast filled with Miguel Almiron love, Ayoze Perez hate, and Chick-Fil-A Worship. CHN Radio is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to check out the blog and podcast on Twitter for some really funny, really weird, and sometimes insightful tweets about Newcastle. You can follow the blog @ComingHomeNUFC, and the podcast @chn_radio.

If you want some other sources of news pertaining to the club the local paper, The Chronicle, is a solid option that some fans love and many fans dislike that does the best it can given the club’s awful relationship with the media. Additionally, journalists such as Craig Hope of The Daily Mail, Luke Edwards of The Telegraph and Keith Downie of Sky Sports are wonderful journalists who cover Newcastle for national publications.

None of those journos however, are as funny as our blog and podcast accounts and don’t tweet out nearly enough GIFs for our liking.

In conclusion

You’ve picked a fantastic team to be a fan of. You have made both the best and worst decision of your life following this team. If you’re from the Atlanta United fanbase, don’t expect champions with this current team. What you can expect is a team that loves its fans, an owner that doesn’t care, and history that makes you realize that this club has so much more potential.

You’ve joined a fanbase that is willing to take you in and call you a Geordie, and that means something. This isn’t some Manchester United fan club, and it certainly isn’t made up of fans of Manchester City who have only been following the club since 2009. This is Newcastle United, where the most loyal and most faithful fans come together.

And you’re one of us.