There was a great pestilence in the land with much gnashing of teeth among the dwindling ranks of the faithful. The mighty Temple of Light was shunned by many as they succumbed to the glitter of the minor deities Sky, Matalan and an obscure sect known only by the initials B&Q. Too long had they listened to the blandishments of the false messiah Murray and possessed they were by evil spirits. There was need of a great healer for the tribe’s ills.

Suddenly there arose in the west a prophet called Quinn, known also as Niall, clad in wondrous trousers and much given to pleasures of the dance. He gathered the faithful and sayeth unto them as he danced wondrously, “Trust in me, ye Cats of Black, and in my brethren from the land of the setting sun and again there will arise a new leader who shall fill thy Temple of Light with the ranks of the chosen ones.” The faithful heard the words of Quinn, also known as Niall, the trousered one, and thought that they were good but were sore perplexed and there was great debate among them about who the new leader would be. Brother was set against brother as some championed the prophet O’Neill and others Allardyce, also known as Big Sam, while a small yet defiant sect plotted to restore the fallen idol Reid, a renegade monk formerly known as Peter of Huyton.

And lo! Murray was driven from the land and the dancing Quinn came bearing gifts into the Holy of Holies on the north bank of the Wear. Gathering the scribes he sayeth unto them, “Be ye not afeared, goodly Mackems, for it is written that the darkest hour comes just before the dawn. Yea, keep the faith and all will be well with thee!” Verily, it came to pass that on a terrible evening in a dark place known appropriately as Bury, a great suffering was visited upon the faithful and upon their kith and kin and oxen. Many cast their votive season tickets upon stormy waters before throwing their pitiful selves in after them and others were lost on the journey home, lured to their doom by Sirens in towns along the way. A few managed to survive and through their tears they assailed their trousered prophet and threatened to tear him asunder. Quinn, also known as Niall, danced before them before reminding them of his recent words and exhorting them to put their trust in him and all would be good. Then there arose in the north rumours of a wondrous happening. Begat of the mighty Clough and Ferguson the Thunderer, a new messiah known only as Keano, a former centurion in the ranks of an alien power had undergone a miraculous conversion somewhere on the southbound carriageway of the A74 and was heading to the temple at the head of his band of disciples.

Keano soon arrived in the temple amidst much jubilation. He caused the blind to see, the lame to walk and even managed to get the tribe a mention on the front page of The Guardian, which hadn’t happened for many generations. He glowered upon Quinn’s chosen ones with a terrible aspect as they fought to overcome a rival sect called by their supporters the Baggies. And so it came to pass that the Baggies were driven from the land and everywhere they went they spread word of the mightiness of Keano. Keano himself parted the waters of the Wear and leading the faithful into a place known as Mowbray Park fed nearly 25,000 of them on four saveloy dips and a two bottles of Double Maxim. Another triumph soon followed against the followers of the Rams and on a great night near a road that some called Elland a mighty faith was rekindled in the hearts of the tribe. Yea, but some followers became possessed by ecstatic spirits and began to talk in tongues about a League of Champions that the faithful would all soon share but Keano bade them just to keep their feet on the ground and all would come right in time. As if on cue, a lesser sect from a place known only as Leicester entered the temple one afternoon in September and caused many once more to doubt their faith. Keano just smiled and spoke of a reality check and not even when many of his disciples were smitten hip and thigh, forcing them to abandon the following of their leader for several weeks, did he sway from his purpose. A greater reverse was soon to come in the land where the locals had for years celebrated their mysteries with a potion known in their language as Tolly Cobbold. While there, a young new disciple by name of Wallace picked up a mysterious red card and wasn’t seen by the tribe for over a week. Keano knew these cards of old and warned his disciples to avoid them unless they too wished to disappear, though he continued to smile and speak simply to those around him of patience and teamwork. Verily, he was proved to be right and victory against an incursion by the stubborn Owls and their travelling band of minstrels soon restored those of little faith.

“Keano, we are sorry that we doubted thee! Forgive us!” they cried as they lay prostrate before him rending their sacred red and white shirts asunder. Holding up a pink tablet upon which a strange matrix of names and numbers was inscribed, Keano pointed out that three more points, whatever points may be, would put them all in a position from which they could move on to the promised land, known in ancient lore as the Premiership.