NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Newcastle players head on the field ahead of the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers at St James' Park on September 24, 2011 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
In the general scheme of The Great Rebuilding Of Newcastle United, there are players who can rightly stake a claim to part of the story when it is told years down the line. As with each edition of the Magpies since the disbanding of Keegan's Entertainers (or even back to the 1969 Fairs Cup squad - or still yet to the 1955 FA Cup winning squad, depending on your preferred metric) the potential to become truly transcendent within the annals of Newcastle lore is squarely there in front of them. It could be considered that if the current squad can be kept intact, it may be the most likely to seize the ring of any squad since The Entertainers.
As the rumors begin to kick up (with journalists putting "two and two together and getting 5") regarding the summer transfer window with double swoops and escape clauses and what not, it is starting to get toward what has to be considered the supporters' version of squeaky bum time. As Newcastle supporters, we have been made well aware that the ownership will part with even the most beloved (rightly or wrongly) players if the price tag is exceeded by enough £. We have been on red alert all season about the imminent departure of Cheik Tiote. Tim Krul. Demba Ba. This is not a necessarily a piece designed to hash out the whys or wherefores of these rumors; I would simply like to pose a question about modern athletes.
There are players in this squad (Jonas Gutierrez, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini, Tim Krul, etc.) who have several years tied up in this process. They were in the squad for the darkest hour of relegation, have been part of the process of promotion and ultimately challenging for Europe. Other players such as Cheik Tiote now have two years invested in a process.
Repeatedly, we as supporters have been told that there is A Plan. A Plan to get Newcastle Untied Football Club solvent. A Plan to return to relevance. Slowly but surely (as if one of those piece missing sliding puzzles) the squad is being adjusted and tweaked with a vision to return to Europe. A Plan. They have told us that we're a couple years ahead of Plan. Certainly the players who are signing these long-term deals are being told the same?
While we have not had the success with Premiership titles or cups, playing in front of the Newcastle United support is different. Even in the Championship season, Newcastle United were the fourth highest attended club in England. No club travels like we do. Journalists, commentators, coaches, players... all have been highly complimentary of the Toon Army.
Can the place in history for this particular loyal group of supporters, the adoration that would come with success... any success... appeal to the ego of the modern footballer? On a certain level, the adulation of a fan base for generations to come has to appeal to even the largest of egos. On the other hand, for many players, it seems the £ is mightier than the ego. Is there any loyalty in football (or at least commitment to a job started?) Can the Europa League be enough for our biggest stars to, for their part of the equation, stay with the club with the help of achieving even higher goals such as qualifying for the Champions League? This summer, we will find out.