“A slobberknocker of a season”
WWE Owner Vince McMahon’s multi-million pound takeover of Newcastle United is announced just days after the World Cup final, approximately three weeks after England’s ignominious exit at the hands of Roy Hodgson. The news is met with apprehension from Newcastle fans, curiosity from the press, and raucous laughter from fans of other football clubs (except Leeds United who look on with envy).
With only a couple of weeks until the close of the transfer window, Vince gives his public backing to Manager Alan Pardew, announcing that he will be supplied with a briefcase containing a £50m cheque for new signings. Pardew’s joy is short-lived, however, when it is then revealed that this briefcase would be hanging 20 feet above the goalmouth and he would have to overcome rival manager Sam Allardyce in a “No Disqualification Ladder match” for the “Money in the Bank”.
After losing 3-0 in a tough opening game at Chelsea, Newcastle are unfortunate not to take all three points in a dull 0-0 at home vs. Fulham, the highlight of which is the referee’s bemusement at the corner flags, which now sport black and white turnbuckles.
At the end of the month transfer unveiling, Vince McMahon’s only signing baffles everyone. WWE Hall of Famer “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels is bought in as a “hot prospect” for the youth team, aged 48. Alan Pardew sits hunched over, staring at the floor with his head in his hands, and declines to comment when questioned about Cheik Tiote’s season-long loan move to Friday Night Smackdown.
Suggestions for the new kit score poorly at focus groups. Particularly the away kit…
Vince introduces his “Newcastle Golden Era” by parading reluctant poster boy Davide Santon, dressed in bright yellow and sporting a blonde handlebar moustache, around various publicity events. Misjudging the tasteful tone of former Newcastle player John Beresford’s keynote speech at a charity gala dinner, Vince smiles on eagerly as “Hulk Santon” interrupts Beresford to call out Warren Barton, flexing his muscles and cupping his hand to his ear until ejected by security.
Kick off against Everton is delayed by 37 minutes as each member of Newcastle’s starting line-up enters the pitch individually with all the elaborate bells and whistles of a typical wrestling entrance, which gets out of hand when a stray firework sets alight the feather boa of Tim Krul’s sparkly bathrobe during his performance of “The Worm” on the touchline.
“Bells and whistles” is also an issue faced by the referee; on McMahon’s orders all referees are to officiate Newcastle matches using the *ding* of a bell rather than the *peep* of a whistle. They are also strictly instructed to wear traditional wrestling referee attire of black and white stripes. The cries of ‘it’s like playing 12 men’ from the opposition go ignored.
After “HBK” Shawn Michaels’ red card (high feet) in a 4-0 loss to Southampton, Vince revels in the boos after the game, saying ‘it took months to get this sort of villain-heat for Sgt Slaughter in ’91 – we’re getting it after just three games. This Newcastle audience is great.’
Accused of exaggerating personal details of some of his squad line-up, Vince McMahon leaps to the defence of Gabriel Obertan, stating: ‘At a height and weight of 7 foot 2 inches, 400 pounds, Obertan IS the strongest man in the history of this great sport’, and claiming that his recent (suspiciously rapid) amassing of muscles was purely down to ‘saying his prayers and eating his vitamins’.
Worried about alienating some of the core fanbase, McMahon takes drastic measures to ensure that Newcastle’s game against West Brom is a sell-out by promoting that club and city legend Alan Shearer would be in attendance at the (recently rebranded) “Sports Entertainment Direct Arena”. Trying to win over the crowd in the only way he knew how, Vince presents ‘top babyface in the business’ “The Nature Boy” Alan Shearer, who drawls ‘Wooooo!! To BE the team, you’ve got to BEAT the team! I’m stylin’, profilin’ and why-aye’in!’ with all the charisma of a cold cup of Bovril.
Scandal surrounds Newcastle’s first win of the season, an unprecedented 16 – 14 win against Manchester United which sees McMahon’s remarkably beefy Toon Army come under scrutiny from pundits, as a brawny Ryan Taylor celebrates his 35-yard headed goal by benchpressing a terrified Tom Cleverley into the third row of the crowd.
More controversy follows Newcastle as Vince reacts badly to star player Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa requesting a transfer to rivals Sunderland. Despite promising Yanga-Mbiwa the honour of being team captain in Newcastle’s “Survivor Series” relegation dogfight against Leicester, Vince himself walks out onto the pitch before the coin toss to collude with referee Earl Hebner to “screw” Yanga-Mbiwa by inexplicably showing him a red card before kickoff. Vince hands the captain’s armband over to a smug Shawn Michaels.
More boos from the crowd as Newcastle lose 7-1.
The football world is shocked when Vince opens the month by striding to the centre circle flanked by two scantily clad models. Vince admits that the “Newcastle Golden Era” hasn’t quite gone to plan and he wants his Newcastle to shun over-the-top, cartoony characters with ‘medicinally-enhanced muscles’ and show a bit more ‘Raw Attitude’. Referring to himself and Management staff Alan Pardew, John Carver and Peter Beardsley as “The Corporation”, Vince then outrages the broadsheet newspapers on his exit by sticking two fingers up at the cameras and telling Sir Dave Richards of the FA that he’s got ‘two words’ for him.
After Newcastle’s 2-0 loss to Liverpool, Vince attempts to cheer the fans up by announcing a Christmas giveaway in Santa’s grotto, with Father Christmas giving children copies of new X-Box game “FIFA vs. Smackdown vs. Raw”. In a misguided attempt to shake up the event, Vince sends dullard anti-hero “The North East Rattlesnake”, Alan Shearer to beat up an unwitting Father Christmas as well as several “elves”. “Stone Cold” Alan Shearer then attempts to hype up a confused and frightened crowd by smashing together two bottles of brown ale, and droning that ‘Newcastle are going to tap a keg of whoop-ass on Manchester City, and that’s the bottom line, because Alan said so’.
Newcastle lose to City by eight goals to nil.
The first day of 2015 and the first day of the transfer window, and fans are relieved and delighted at their first proper signing of the season. Vince McMahon, on the other hand, is ‘bitterly disappointed’ when it turns out that he has not, as he has thought, signed 7’0” tall behemoth “Big Red Machine” Kane (originally from “Parts Unknown”), but that he had actually signed 20 year old blonde hair, blue eyed Harry Kane from Tottenham (originally from Chingford).
Vince McMahon announces that he is pleased to be taking part in ‘Football’s King of the Ring tournament’, the FA Cup. However, his glee over Newcastle’s upset 3rd round victory over cup holders Arsenal is somewhat marred by the embarrassment of Vince’s post-match interview where he seems to believe that beating the FA Cup title holders makes Newcastle the new champions. By the time he bashfully realises that this isn’t the case, he has already poured a bottle and a half of champagne into the trophy and taken his shirt off.
The end of the month catches the imagination of Sky Sports News, who lap up every minute of “30 players, 1 contract; the Transfer Deadline Day Royal Rumble”. The event is won by brutish hunk Andy Carroll – although technically the Rumble was only contested by 29 players, as Peter Odemwingie refused to leave the car park.
The stress of such a poor season begins to take its toll on the players. In the game against Hull City it becomes clear that factions are beginning to form on the pitch, with five of the starting XI banding together as the nWo (“Newcastle World Order”), and five players forming “Degeneration X-isco”, led by the newly re-signed fan favourite. The two rival groups only pass to other people in their factions and refuse to track back and help defend for teammates unless they are in their stable. David Moyes accuses Pardew of copying his tactics. Donning facepaint and referring to himself only as “Sting”, Dan Gosling shuns either faction and gains popularity with the crowd by becoming something of a lone wolf, outright refusing to pass to anybody at all and just dribbling forward until scoring or tackled. Adel Taraabt accuses Gosling of copying his tactics.
Although this style of play results in many training ground spats and on-field punch ups (much to the disgust of new Sky pundits Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer) and is highly frustrating for both fans and Manager Alan Pardew, it actually proves to be strangely effective and Newcastle gain their first back-to-back victories of the season, beating Allardyce’s West Ham 5-4 and Moyes’ Norwich 4-3. Dan Gosling wins Player of the Month and overtakes Sergio Aguero as the league’s top scorer.
Although things are improving slightly on the pitch, there is turmoil in the boardroom as once again Vince McMahon faces a controversial lawsuit, this time coming under pressure from the Newcastle Wildlife Fund…
Now entering the business end of the season, or, as Vince McMahon puts it, ‘the road to Footballmania’, Vince reveals that he feels that his Newcastle United “Attitude Era” ‘may have gone too far’. Behind him, returning loanee and current WWE 24/7 Hardcore Champion Cheik Tiote is walloped with a trashcan and pinned by Bubba Ray Dudley for the unorthodox wrestling title. Vince states that he is going to encourage the club to become more family friendly, less offensive, and accessible as a worldwide brand to a “PG TV” target audience.
After much lobbying from the Newcastle Wildlife Fund, McMahon rebrands the club to “The Newcastle Universe Football Club”.
The Newcastle Universe’s first match under the new era is a relegation six pointer against Cardiff. The build up to the match is overshadowed by the egomaniacal ramblings of the club’s villainous billionaire owner Vince..nt Tan. Vince McMahon seems to genuinely relish the opportunity to become embroiled in a feud, his previous attempt to provoke a reaction from other club owners resulted in Deliah Smith politely declining Vince’s ‘confusing’ challenge of a traditional Mexican Lucha Libre “Hair vs. Mask” match.
Newcastle beat Cardiff 1-0 in the dying seconds of injury time in contentious circumstances after Vince McMahon distracts the referee for enough time to allow Craig Bellamy to deliberately score the decisive own goal and celebrate by revealing his old Newcastle shirt underneath his Cardiff one.
There were parties in the streets when the Newcastle Universe FC website announced a shock £350m double transfer swoop for superstar pairing Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. There was considerable unrest however, when this announcement turned out to be an April Fools hoax from Vince McMahon, and the ‘DONE DEAL: Stewart Downing looks forward to debut next season’ article is inundated with angry comments from fans.
Wearing a sporty vest, “bling” and a backwards baseball cap, Alan Shearer tries to win over the crowd in his new family friendly “beefy rapper” gimmick, appearing in some music videos with celebrity tag team Ant and Dec. ‘Watch us wreck the mic, watch us wreck the mic, Psyche!’ mumbles “Shearer Cena” in a monotone bore.
The annual pre-match “handshake-gate” saga this year featured Newcastle’s Mathieu Debuchy, who executed a textbook Irish whip/arm bar combination on Chelsea’s John Terry, resulting in a yellow for Debuchy and a red card for John Terry for eye gouging.
In the final month of the football calendar, Vince McMahon announced that he would be retiring from football at the end of the season and turning his attentions back to professional wrestling.
‘I should stick to what I know, aggressively marketing unrealistic characters and big egos on over-hyped TV events’, Vince told Richard Keys and Andy Gray ahead of the Barclays’ Premier League matches on Ford’s “Super Sunday”, LIVE! and EXCLUSIVE! on Sky Sports.
‘Back at the WWE I can brainwash ever-loyal wrestling consumers to fork out for expensive retro merchandise from the days that they took more interest – that childhood nostalgia dollar isn’t going to exploit itself!’
Reflecting on Xisco’s dramatic late winning goal that narrowly saved Newcastle from relegation in the final moments of the season, Vince went on to say: ‘It was a goal with the importance of Jackie Milburn’s piledriver in the 1955 “King of the FA Cup” tournament final – which fans can see again and again on the “Vintage Newcastle Classics” DVD, available for 50% off when you purchase the replica jersey as worn by Philippe Albert in 1996 when he scored THAT showstopper of a chip against the Manchester Red Devils…’
With Newcastle eventually finishing 16th in the league and reaching the quarter finals of the cup, Vince McMahon left the club by mutual consent and claimed that there would be ‘No chance in hell’ of a return to football.
According to public opinion polls, the general consensus was that most Newcastle fans were ‘happy that the club had a quiet season for a change’.
Written by Chris Burgess, Ben Lidyard and Rob Macdonald.
With many thanks to Robert Burgess for the fantastic artwork.
Don’t try this at home.