Newcastle Eagles could be on the cusp of the most exciting period in franchise history according to the man who celebrates 20 years with the club this season.
In the summer of 1997 Paul Blake was appointed marketing manager of the Newcastle United Sporting Club – overseeing the Eagles, Newcastle Falcons and Newcastle Cobras.
And two decades down the line Blake admitted a talented new roster and the prospect of a brand new venue has reignited that youthful passion for the game he loves.
“I’m more excited about what we might achieve on and off the court now than I have been for some time”
“There are definitely parallels to be drawn between my first few days and weeks working at the Sporting Club and the situation we find ourselves in now,” said Blake, who became joint owner and managing director of the Eagles within two years.
“It was my dream job back then but it was a pressure cooker atmosphere. There were three clubs to oversee and it was an all-consuming seven-days-a-week job.
“Fast forward to 2017 and nothing has changed! But I’m more excited about what we might achieve on and off the court now than I have been for some time.
“It does remind me of that rollercoaster ride all those years ago.
“On the court we had crowd-pleasing players like Mark Boyd, Leon McGee and Rob Phelps and off it we were playing out of a brand new arena.
“I look at the current line-up and I see so many exciting players and a similarly deep bench. Throw in the fact that we are edging ever close to moving into a new home and it does have the ring of history repeating itself.
“I’ve experienced so many highs and lows during the last 20 years but this is a very exciting time to be part of Newcastle Eagles.
“Going into Friday night’s first home game against our old rivals Glasgow Rocks there’s a real buzz around the place – just like there was back in 1997.”
Newcastle warmed up for the return of former coach Tony Garbelotto with a record breaking 148-60 BBL win at Leeds Force on Friday.
And if it’s too early to talk of titles on the back of one victory – against a club forced to change its head coach just days before the Eagles’ visit – then there’s no disguising the phenomenal firepower at the heart of Fabulous Flournoy’s revamped roster.
“Nobody is getting carried away,” added Blake. “But as anyone who has seen the team in pre-season will know, the one thing we don’t lack is talent.
“Those fans who can remember Boyd, McGee and Phelps in their prime – backed up by England vets Carl Miller, Peter Scantlebury and Andrew Bailey plus young talents like Adam Barnes and Jon Paul Heron – will remember how exciting that season was.
“In my view this team can be just as easy on the eye. The rotations and the spread of scoring against Leeds were just as impressive as the final scoreline.”
Garbelotto will be in no mood to surrender meekly to the men in black as he prepares for a third meeting in three weeks with his former club.
Rocks lost a pre-season friendly on Tyneside before taking the Eagles to double overtime in last month’s All Stars match at London’s O2 Arena – albeit in a fixture that lasted just 14 minutes and lacked any defensive intensity.
The Scots include former Newcastle guard Joe Hart in their line-up and the GB international’s outside shooting is just one of the threats the hosts will need to guard against in order to maintain their flying start to the season.
Tickets for Friday’s clash at Sport Central (7.30pm tip-off) are still on sale: