How Mike Ashley takeover talk dominated Newcastle United’s last trip to Dublin

Mike Ashley

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Newcastle United last came to Ireland in pre-season seven years ago.

Then, as now, the club was coming to terms with a potentially catastrophic relegation.

Miles Starforth is covering Newcastle United's Irish tour

Miles Starforth is covering Newcastle United's Irish tour

The club was in a mess.

And no-one, let alone Chris Hughton and the players, knew what was going on back home.

The club was for sale and Hughton was only in caretaker charge.

Newcastle comfortably beat Shamrock Rovers, then managed by Michael O’Neill, in their first pre-season friendly at their Tallaght Stadium home.

I don’t remember too much about the game, which United won 3-0.

But I do remember interviewing players in the tunnel after the match.

And they didn’t hold back.

Amid talk of potential takeovers, Kevin Nolan spoke for the dressing room when he said: “We want somebody to make a decision – it’s unfair on the players and the staff.

“In the next week we certainly want to know what is going to happen.

“We would prefer to know whether Mike Ashley is going to keep it next season or whether somebody is coming in.”

It was chaotic on and off the pitch – divisions in the dressing room came to a head after a 6-1 defeat at Leyton Orient a couple of weeks later – but, thanks to Hughton and the likes of Nolan, Steve Harper and Joey Barton, a united team emerged from the chaos.

Hughton was appointed as manager on a full-time basis, the club was taken off the market and Newcastle won the Championship.

The team is again training at the luxurious Carlton House Hotel, County Kildare.

But this time it feels different.

There’s positivity, not negativity.

There was uncertainty last time. This time, there’s a certainty that the club is, finally, moving in the right direction under Rafa Benitez.

There have been significant changes off the pitch over the summer.

Hopefully, the changes on the field will be just as significant.

And we’ll get a first look on Saturday when Newcastle take on Bohemian at Dalymount Park.