Friday night saw the England Rugby Union side play their Italian counterparts in a World Cup warm-up game at Newcastle’s St James’ Park, and the event was a huge success.
England cruised to a 37-0 win, and in doing so, gave Newcastle fans a hint of what could await them once Mike Ashley eventually sells the club.
With the current talk surrounding boycotts, unrest between fans and football club, and all the questions about the club being a billboard for Ashley’s business interests, it was a welcome change to have a vibrant occasion on the hallowed turf.
But watching the game on television, and listening to the commentators, pundits and players all talking up the event, and lauding the stadium and fans, I could not help but hope for a similar experience for the round ball game too.
And it could be like that again one day.
Advertising was missing from around the stadium
How fantastic it was to see the wide camera shots of out great stadium, with all the Sports Direct advertising covered up.
The East Stand looked resplendent with only the simple NEWCASTLE UNITED emblazoned on the front of it.
Not a red and blue advert in sight – something I long for week in, week out.
And over 50,000 fans in attendance – sadly something we have not been able to say in the opening three football games played there this season.
But it was not just that. It was 50,000 fans who were all happy, smiling, enjoying the occasion, and watching the team they were supporting romp to an easy win.
How long has it been since a Newcastle fan can genuinely say they have experienced that at a Premier League game?
Mexican waves, painted faces, buoyant families, all soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying a fantastic spectacle. I crave it, and probably you do too. That is what Mike Ashley has robbed us of for too long now.
Going to a game used to be a similarly joyous occasion, yet now it is undoubtedly less so.
Replace the smiles with anger. The Mexican waves with ‘Stand up, if you hate Ashley’. The painted faces with those red with anger and frustration. The smiles of victory with grimaces of despair.
That is what a Newcastle match-day is like more often than not nowadays. That is what an Ashley led Newcastle has delivered.
How long will it be until a match-day mirrors that of the rugby again? I have no idea. But all we can do is hope and believe that some day it will.