Newcastle United play a vital match at Southampton in 15 days time.
It is Norwich away a week on Saturday (2 April) and then the Saints away the following Saturday 9 April with a 3pm kick-off.
The game at St Mary’s will be the seventh last of the season and in the relegation battle, this Newcastle United team will need every single bit of support possible to hopefully get a point or better.
However, news this morning that Newcastle United have just returned their second batch of unsold tickets back to Southampton.
The ‘Ugly Inside’ (the top Southampton independent website) report that the game is still heading for a sell-out but only because Saints fans are snapping up all the tickets Newcastle have returned for the match in a fortnight’s time.
What they also say is that Newcastle look as though they could have one of the lowest ever away followings, of any team, since Southampton moved to St Mary’s.
The great thing is, that rather than simply laughing at how few Newcastle fans will be at the game, the Southampton fan writing the article clearly understands that this is more than just United supporters can’t be bothered to travel the length of the country to watch their team.
He refers to the fact that in the past Newcastle would take the full 3,000+ away tickets and there could be as many as the same number again travelling there in the hope of picking up tickets on the day.
As for why Newcastle will have so few away supporters at the game, they correctly pick up on the three main reasons.
Obviously the rubbish football and a struggling team doesn’t help, though that hasn’t stopped us countless times over the years!
However, there are two more far significant factors.
Firstly, the disgusting way Mike Ashley has run Newcastle United, bringing us to the point of disaster season after season, employing people throughout the club who aren’t up to the job, starving the squad of proper investment, then suddenly agreeing to a desperate splurge of spending, implemented by some of those people who clearly aren’t up to the job.
Secondly, the Southampton author correctly points to the ridiculous extra hurdles that Mike Ashley has put in the way of Newcastle fans who want to support the team (and help his business!!) away from home.
They refer to the extortionate membership fee that non-season ticket holders have to pay before they can buy a single away ticket.
If you have a Newcastle ex-pat (without an NUFC membership) living right next to St. Mary’s who wanted to support the team in their relegation fight in 15 days time, it would cost them £73 to get a ticket.
It is £37 for an adult ticket, £35 (not £25 as quoted in the article – inflation!) for a year’s membership (even if it was the only away match you will go to), plus the extra £1 per ticket surcharge that Mike Ashley charges his own fans for the privilege of buying every away ticket.
The fact is that matches in the south, especially for the likes of games at Southampton etc, the vast majority of Newcastle supporters in the past would always be non-season ticket holders living in the south. Not able to get home very often but desperate to support the team whenever they got the chance, often taking along their children who were born away from Newcastle, to indoctrinate them in the misery that is Newcastle United.
Amongst the many crimes of Mike Ashley, his ‘success’ in damaging the once unbeatable reputation of Newcastle United’s away following is perhaps the most damning thing he has accomplished.
Diluting the support for the team on the road (13 defeats in 16 aways already this season), hampering the club’s relegation battle and also potentially destroying the future support for the club (if ex-pats can’t get tickets and get their kids into these away games, how on earth will they be able to successfully brainwash them?).
Like so much of what Mike Ashley does, his short-term greed leads to long-term disaster. Believing he is clever at grabbing as many extra £35 memberships as he can, for fans desperate to be able to get away tickets, whilst causing so much long-term harm.
It is almost as though he doesn’t care about the long-term health of the club…
The top independent Southampton website ‘The Ugly Inside’ reported:
‘Newcastle United returned a whole block of tickets to Saints earlier in the week and they have now sent another 500 or so back which are now on sale to Saints fans.
Newcastle United used to have one of the largest travelling supports in the Premier League, older Saints fans will remember back in 2002 when not only had the full allocation of 3,200 in the ground but at least that many again in the City without tickets.
But those days seem long gone and for the game in a couple of weeks they could have one of the lowest away followings of any Premier League fixture ever at St Mary’s .
Of course the fact that they battling with relegation will have something to do with this, this game comes at a time just before the final games when the support rallies behind the team and it is of course their second longest game of the season.
But it is more than this, it is a story of a club whose supporters have been exploited by its owner and have had enough, Mike Ashley was initially seen as the saviour of Newcastle when he bought the club, but his stock is no longer high amongst supporters who feel that the club no longer cares for them and is determined to squeeze every last penny from their pockets.
Charging supporters for the privilege of just being able to buy tickets is totally unacceptable, no one minds a small administrative charge but when fans have to fork out £25 just to be able to buy tickets it’s a case of clubs being greedy.
So in a couple of weeks time there will be few of the Toon Army in the ground, but bear in mind it is a lot lot more than just fans walking away when the team is doing badly…’