Written by Anna-Claire Bevan, CNN
Just eight years ago, Newcastle United were in League One — a lowly division of English football where relegation to the third tier was the ultimate fate.
But here they are today — the richest in the world, relegated to the second tier of English football last weekend — and their fans will do anything to rub it in the faces of their now unwelcome rivals.
The Magpies crowd have (as fans of other football clubs so often do) taken to chanting Newcastle’s old nickname: The Toon Army.
But now the north east club are having to realise that the “Toon” chants may not only be about the club’s great past, but also about how its future is going to shape its soul.
The club were in danger of relegation in 2007, but were saved by then owner Mike Ashley, as the US retail magnate swooped in to pay for the final days of the team’s season in which they won six of their final seven matches.
When Ashley took control in 2007, the club seemed to be rotting at the bottom of English football. In 2006, then manager Sam Allardyce insisted he wanted the club out of the Premier League, the top flight.
After relegation, the gaffer sacked himself
And yet five years on, the team is now a Premier League champion — the first top flight team to win consecutive titles, an accolade the club hadn’t achieved since Kevin Keegan returned to manage the club in 2000.
From low to the top
Now that the Magpies are back in the Premier League, their fans are asking, will this further success ruin their club’s unique identity?
Since the Geordies were famously founded in 1891, the team has symbolized every town’s hopes and dreams, including working class aspirations and hopes of economic prosperity.
When club chairman — and majority shareholder — Mike Ashley bought the club in 2007, the Magpies had hit rock bottom in the Premier League and had been relegated for three seasons.
That was when the Toon Army — as the fans were known in those days — suddenly started rapping the club’s name.
The upbeat tune was actually a traditional national anthem to England called “Ode to a Mulligan,” sung by folk in Newcastle, and particularly by young fans.
At a packed home game on May 14, 2016, one of the fans presented us with this song, which refers to one of the favourite traditions of Newcastle fans: the Magpie pie.
I had the opportunity to hear the song for the first time at a packed Newcastle game last week and still, although it has no message, its length and pluck are so impressive.
The joy and defiance of the song is clear from the play of the first verse and chorus, which sets out the characters in the famous club of the South East of England.