North East Football Deserves to be Great Again

Passion, pride and spirit. North East football is truly unique, there is a real community spirit and the football clubs are at the heart of those communities. With Middlesbrough and Sunderland teetering on the edge of relegation and Newcastle looking likely to gain promotion to the Premier League, will we see the big three in the top flight at the same time again?

The North East is different to any other region, football is the religion up there. There may not have been much success in recent years, which is probably down to the ownership of the clubs, the last team in the North East to win a major trophy was Middlesbrough in 2004, when they won the League Cup. Middlesbrough is a well run club, owned by a local lad in Steve Gibson. Newcastle’s owner Mike Ashley is famous for making decisions that do not sit well with the Newcastle faithful. Sunderland owned by an American, Ellis Short have had financial problems in recent times and have been fighting off relegation for a while now. It does not surprise me that Middlesbrough were the last team in the North East to win a major trophy, the owner cares deeply about the club and he understands the fans – Because he is one. Sir John Hall, previously the owner of Newcastle, during his time at Newcastle, the club finished second in the Premier League. Hall like Gibson at Middlesbrough, understood the region and cared deeply about his beloved Newcastle. Sunderland’s last local owner was Bob Murray.

The way it looks at the moment, Sunderland and Middlesbrough look like they will be relegated this season. That isn’t a bad thing for Sunderland, everyone thinks relegation is a bad thing but it can be positive. Sunderland have been fighting relegation for a while now and I think this season is the season they have been found out. Relegation means a club can rebuild, it can’t be nice for the Sunderland fans to go through the same situation every season. Like Newcastle have done this season, Sunderland can revamp the team/club and look forward to a better future. As for Middlesbrough I think it is crucial that they can remain in the Premier League for as long as possible and not become a “Yo-yo club”.

It is refreshing to see an owner in charge of a football club, who is actually from the area in modern game. There are so many foreign owners, especially in English football that do not understand the area. That is the problem both Newcastle and Sunderland have at the moment, although Mike Ashley has seem to have settled down on Tyneside now, there’s always something in the back of your mind that thinks “When is the next ridiculous decision going to happen”. The problem with foreign owners is, they do not have that affiliation with the club. Most owners now only buy a club because of the money. Every football club needs to maintain that core identity, the football club represents the community.

It is a shame to see North East football in the way it is now. As a Newcastle United fan, I long for the day that all three teams are in the top flight again. The region deserves it, football is the main (probably the only) topic of conversation. If either of the teams lose on a weekend, you can feel it in the atmosphere of the cities. That’s how important football is in the region.

The managers and owners must understand what the football clubs mean to the people in the communities. If they don’t, success in my opinion is not possible. Fortunately at Newcastle United now Rafa Benitez is the manager, he has come in and revitalised the club and the city. He understands what club means to the fans. Does Mike Ashley finally understand what the club means? Middlesbrough have it with the owner, however they need to find a manager that understands the identity of the club and understands the feelings of the fans. There are rumours at Sunderland that the owner is looking to sell the club to Chinese investors, I hope that a local businessman will come in and takeover, or someone who knows about the region.

The other problem the North East has, the majority of the players want to play for one of the big London clubs. If they can’t sign for one of them, they look to the likes of the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Everton now. That means the North East teams are getting third or fourth choice on players. Players want to play for teams who have had recent success, unfortunately for the North East the big three teams haven’t had that over the last few years. If the North East teams start becoming successful again, players will be attracted to the clubs. That’s only natural, players want success in their careers.

Football is part of the DNA in the North East, no matter how bad things get for the teams, the fans always turn up in numbers. Maybe I am biased but I think North East football fans are the most loyal in the country. For everything the fans of the three teams go through, to continue to turn up in their droves is incredible. Newcastle are still selling out tickets home and away in the Championship.

I hope both Sunderland and Boro can get out the mess they are in at the moment and avoid relegation. I just think it would be great to have the big three North East teams back in the Premier League at the same time. Derby games in the North East are fantastic, they belong on the biggest stage. Over the next few years I really hope we see the region thrive in terms of football once more.