Not since the Bobby Robson Era at St. James Park have I looked forward to the beginning of a Premiership season.
During Sir Bob's reign at Newcastle, United were known for acquiring the sort of players fans wanted to see in the home shirts. Since Robson's departure, the local faithful have looked upon summer with dread.
A procession of mediocre players and managers have found a home with Newcastle in recent years. With the exception of the publicity stunt that was Michael Owen, United's fans haven't had much to shout about during the break in the football season.
This summer, however, was a different story.
The break began with the appointment of Sam Allardyce, a manager held in high regard around the Premier League. To be honest, Big Sam wasn't my favourite Martian when he was at Bolton—but it's my loyal duty to give him a chance at Newcastle.
Allardyce's appointment followed the arrival of millionaire owner Mike Ashley, who brought money and hope to the club. Within a few weeks, the turbulent Shepherd-Hall tenancy had come to an end, as Ashley filled the boardroom with people he knew and instituted a new chairman in Chris Mort.
That set the stage for an exciting summer, which started when Allardyce did what his predecessors never could: get rid of the dead weight.
Titus Bramble, the disaster-on-legs, was sent to Wigan, as was Antoine Sibiersk, whose name will get you 24 points in Scrabble, but who at 33 years old was never going to set the world alight. Craig Moore, the Australian Jonathan Woodgate, was released along with the legend that is Pavel Srnicek, and Alan O'Brien left to start a career in the Scottish Premiership.
With the defense somewhat decimated, Newcastle fans hoped for a center-half to pair with the up-and-coming Steven Taylor. David Rozenthal, a 27-year-old Czech defender, joined the ranks after plying his trade in France with Paris St. Germain. Jose Enrique, a young, talented Spanish left back, and Claudio Capaca, an experienced centre half from Olympic Lyonnais, also joined the Toon Army's back line.
Beyond defenders, Allardyce was interested in strengthening the midfield—especially after the sale of Scott Parker. Parker's replacement, though, came as a complete shock to everyone who follows the club: Joey Barton, the ex-Man City midfield warrior.
The signing was met with mixed reactions.
Some Newcastle fans welcomed the arrival of a player with grit and determination. Others thought back to Barton's days at City—the endless bookings and red cards, and his training-ground bust-up with a fellow player.
Following Barton's signing, ex-Chelsea and Middlesborough midfielder Geremi joined Newcastle. The talented new arrival was one of Allardyce's three free transfers, the others being Cacapa and Mark Viduka.
Up front, the return of Michael Owen and Shola Ameobi, the emergence of Andy Carrol, and the excellent form of Obafemi Martins led Newcastle fans to believe that Big Sam had no need for another striker.
One of Allardyce's first signings was Viduka, the former Leeds and Boro striker. Given Viduka's talent and experience, the local faithful didn't complain.
Most recently, Newcastle have finally managed to get rid of their biggest time-waster: Kieron Dyer. Not meaning to sound malicious—but I was pleased when Dyer broke his leg in two places. At least now he has his wish—to be close to his family.
Also joining the "cheating" Hammers is Nolberto Solano. I wish Nobby all the best, as he gave everything on the pitch during his spells at Newcastle and was one of that rare breed—a true footballer.
Coming to Newcastle in return are Abdoulaye Faye, who played under Big Sam at Bolton, and right back Habib Beye, who was a summer transfer target for Sam before the deal fell through.
Welcome guys—you're in for a bumpy ride.