For whatever reason, I don’t think the Newcastle fanbase as a whole has really embraced European football.
Of course we get respectable crowds compared to most but for some unknown factor it isn’t really truly love.
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The league takes priority for most and of course the majority are tied to Premier League matches with their season tickets but for me the Euro crowds have been disappointing down the years.
I know they are midweek matches and of course it is all extra money for fans to find but I still don’t think that tells the whole story. People talk an awful lot about qualifying for Europe and celebrate that achievement…then many stay home and watch the actual European matches on TV!
I’m not talking about just the Europa League matches, when we qualified for the Champions League the crowds puzzled me as well.
When Newcastle played the likes of Juventus (48,370) and Inter Milan (50,108) at home in 2002, neither match sold out at St.James’ Park. In fact two years before that United played Bradford in a League Cup 3rd round match in November 2000 and it attracted a crowd of 41,847, yet two years later Newcastle attracted fewer fans to Champions League home matches against Dynamo Kiev (40,185), Feyenoord (40,540) and Bayer Leverkusen (40,508). How do you work that one out?
This season the crowd stats have been Atromitos 29, 242, Bordeaux 30,987, Brugge 33,124 and Maritimo 21,632. The Maritimo one was very disappointing but there was a bit of misplaced complacency all round that nearly backfired, from fans as well as players.
The other three attendances are decent but you would have thought that now we are moving into the knockout stages and the chance to maybe see the likes of Mapou and Hadaira for the first time, plus maybe for many possibly the first glimpse of Sissoko, you would have seen a major jump in the crowd figure for the FC Metalist match?
As it stands though, the whole of Level 7 will once again be closed, knocking around 15,000 off the capacity and meaning a maximum possible crowd of somewhere around 37,000. It isn’t as though there is much more that they could do with the ticket prices, £15 and £5 concessions is great value.
There may still be a fair number of tickets left at the moment of the 37,000 or so currently available but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a big walk up on the night and a bit of chaos as everybody tries to get in, with the club currently advertising that there will be cash turnstiles open. How flexible the club can be with opening parts of Level 7 is open to question but I would love to think that it will be something Newcastle need to do for this match.
What I do know is that I’ll be there for another potentially great European night, will you?