Takeover or not, all is not well in the North. Or should I say, all is not well in the North-East of England in footballing terms, with past powerhouse clubs Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Sunderland all a shadow of their former selves at present and collectively struggling in their respective leagues – much to the despair of football fans on all sides of the Tyne river with the “good ol’ days” a long distant memory when it comes to on-field success in North-East England.
But it wasn’t always this way. The North-East was once at the forefront of producing top-tier English talent, a hotbed of raw footballing pedigree wherein we saw numerous household names emerge from the cold shores of Tyneside and it’s surrounding areas. The 1940s and 50s brought us the legendary Jackie Milburn, who went on to become one of the most prolific goalscorers in English football and served as Newcastle United’s all time record goal scorer for almost 50 years until being surpassed by arguably the only other Northern Striker to exceed Milburn’s forward prowess – but we will get to him later.
The 1950s and 60s were a family affair, with two of North-East England’s finest ever products rising to global stardom in the form of John and Robert Charlton, or Jack and Bobby as the wide world knows them from their careers at Leeds, Manchester United and of course their contribution to England’s World Cup win in 1966. From the days when their mother brought them to play football in Ashington where they grew up it was clear that these boys had a rare talent for playing football – Jack heading for Leeds at the age of 15 before the younger Bobby later made his way to Manchester at the same age a few years later. Little did they know that they would together become part of the most famous England team in history and though it was well known that they had their differences later in life, one cannot take away from the fact that these two working-class lads from the North of England were arguably the best pair of footballing siblings the world has ever seen. Even more interestingly and to echo our sentiment about football production in the North-East, Jack himself was quoted as saying that “this part of the world produced its fair share of footballers, and nobody was particularly impressed if a lad went away to play professional football. In fact we never used to say going away to play football, we just used to say ‘going away“. How times have changed.
While the 1970’s were relatively unremarkable in the North-East as the area went through it’s own social and economical challenges, the 80’s and 90’s were much more fruitful and saw a real hyper-production of top-tier footballing talent with the likes of Chris Waddle, Bryan Robson, Peter Beardsley and Paul Gascoigne all emerging as some of the most gifted midfielders in English football history, amassing over 250 England caps between them in addition to glittering careers at what were then among the best clubs in Europe at the time. What these lads lacked in discipline and overall collective normal behavior, they more than made up for in skill, technique and natural ability, and it’s fair to say we haven’t seen anywhere close to this level of talent in the North-East since. It wasn’t just in midfield that the North-East production line flourished either – while the most successful club of the 1990’s hailed from the red side of Manchester, much of their success was down to the solidity and synergy of their Central Defensive pairing of Steve Bruce (no comment) and Gary Pallister both of whom grew up and learned their trade in the North-East of England, and although neither ever really managed to translate this success to the International stage, both were stalwarts of that famous United side under Sir Alex Ferguson and were key enablers of the famed “Class of ’92” to grow and blossom around them.
That’s a lot about defenders and midfielders – let’s talk about Strikers shall we?
Northern England’s golden boy. The Premier League’s highest ever goalscorer. Newcastle United’s all time leading scorer. Former England Captain. 30 goals in 60+ caps for England. Once heralded as the Prodigal Son following his return to Tyneside after spells at Southampton and Blackburn, Alan Shearer is without doubt the greatest footballing product of the North-East since the days of the aforementioned Jackie Milburn and the Charlton brothers. Coming through the ranks at the renowned Wallsend Boys Club (whose alumni include Peter Beardsley, Michael Carrick and Steve Bruce among many others), Shearer’s career quickly skyrocketed due to his unrivalled power, shooting and heading ability in addition to his natural goal-scoring instinct and finishing and it was this that led to him twice breaking the British transfer record when signing for Blackburn and then finally returning home to his boyhood club Newcastle United for a then world-record £15m fee. The rest as we know, is history.
It’s probably fair to say that we have observed somewhat of a decline lately in terms of footballing talent being produced in the North-East of England. While the 2000’s brought us the likes of Steven Taylor, Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Adam Johnson and the more successful Michael Carrick as products of the North-Eastern football factory, we have yet to see anything close to the top-tier legends of previous years and although there have been glimpses of promise particularly in the form of Jordan Henderson and Jordan Pickford both of whom were pivotal members of Gareth Southgate’s successful England squads of World Cup 2018 and Euro 2020 – the future of North-East football is in it’s darkest ever place at present. Not only have the likes of Middlesbrough and Sunderland experienced sharp declines in their footballing stature, Newcastle’s downward spiral has been in freefall for over a decade not only in terms of on-field success but also in terms of talent production and contribution to international football in England. Promising academy graduates such as Taylor, Carroll, Fraser Forster, Adam Campbell and the two Longstaff brothers haven’t really fulfilled their original potential while the current academy & underage teams all appear to be lacking especially when looking at England’s U21, U20 and U19 teams which haven’t featured a Newcastle player since Matty Longstaff lined out for the U20 side back in 2019. Even at Senior level, it’s greatly alarming that the last Newcastle player to earn a full senior cap was Andros Townsend in 2016 and even then he was only on loan at the club. Yes, things are quite grim overall for North-Eastern football at present – where did it all go wrong?
“Them Basque lads, they seem to know what they’re at..”
Imagine the takeover didn’t go as originally planned? With the help of the FM22 Editor, we will be doing exactly that – wiping all existence of the recent takeover, taking the reigns at Newcastle and gradually converting them to a domestic-only transfer policy. .
Most of you are familiar with Athletic Club de Bilbao’s Basque-only policy in La Liga, whereby the club have implemented their own transfer policy of only signing Basque born/Basque nationality players to play for the Senior team. We aim to replicate this in the North-East of England – taking the reigns at Newcastle United under the guise of new club ownership whose sole mission is to develop football across the entire North-East region and convert Newcastle to a North-East-only club culture. It’s simple really (or impossible depending on how you look at it). We will give ourselves 4 seasons to convert the club to a fully “Basque” model / transfer policy, meaning that by the start of the 2025-2026 season we must have a fully “Northern” squad wherein all Senior players must have been born or raised in the North-East of England – primarily using the search functionality in Football Manager to hone in on players whose place of birth is in the North-East and/or Newcastle and it’s surrounding areas as well as developing our own academy and raising the talent bar locally. In that 4 seasons we must purge the current squad of all non-North-East players, capitalise on any resulting player sales/revenue and then reinvest this back into the region by only signing players born or raised in the North-East as well as doing all we can to pump cash into the smaller clubs in the area. Yes this is absolute madness. Yes we might get relegated or even sacked before we even get going. But for the good of football we will do all we can to revive football in the North-East and return the region to it’s former footballing glory.
Essential Signings: Jordan Pickford; Adam Armstrong; Jordan Henderson; Giovanni Reyna (!!)
Model: Convert Newcastle to a fully “Basque” model and transfer policy within 4 seasons, meaning that by the start of the 2025-2026 season we must have a fully “Northern” squad wherein all Senior players must have been born or raised in the North-East of England.
Transfer Policy: During this transition, all players signed under the age of 23 must have been born or raised in the North-East. A maximum of 2 non-North-East players over the age of 23 can be signed on loan each season until the end of the 2024/2025 season.
Transfer Budget: There won’t be any! Funds will be raised through the gradual sale of all our current players over 4 seasons
Regional Development: Become a lighthouse for football in the North-East, elevating football in the region by injecting a minimum of £2 million per season into clubs in the local area – mainly through youth signings and friendly tournaments etc.
Youth: Raise our Youth Academy system to Elite status, producing local talent that will be molded for the first team or sold locally to teams in the North-East.
Player Development: Become a Senior Affiliate for all available smaller local clubs in the North-East, creating a continuous flow of local players to and from the club and our respective feeder clubs to continually boost their player, squad and club development.
International: Get 3 North-East born/raised players capped at Senior Level for England.
It’s not about winning titles, fighting for trophies, reaching finals or gaining achievements. This is bigger than success. It’s about reviving football in the North-East. Awakening a sleeping giant in terms of football as a region; restoring it’s reputation for producing top-tier talent as has been the case in previous years gone by. This is about legacy. This is about our responsibility as a football club to boost grass-roots football and elite footballers in the region, and above all restoring footballing pride in the North-East though the medium of Football Manager. As a great man once said:
November 9th 2021 – it begins.
Thanks for reading,
Want to get involved and/or get real-time updates or sneak previews? Got players to recommend or advice on North-East geography I need to know about? I’ll be posting regular updates in a brand new MaddFM Discord server as well as on FMSlack (#MaddFM) so feel free to drop by and keep an eye out 👀. You can also catch me most Mondays on 5* Star Potential, your weekly Football Manager podcast.