Right, that’s Leeds done then, and a very successful operation it was too for Newcastle fans. A quick hop on the train/bus to a canny city for a first visit in thirteen years to a famous old stadium. Three points was a smashing bonus.
Next week there’s another similarly attractive option coming up, as we travel to Hull for a league cup quarter-final that, without tempting fate, is starting to seem like a feasible prospect for our second ever semi-final in that competition.
The hiding taken by them at Sunderland on Saturday is the latest result to suggest they’re not in the greatest of shapes at the minute and, perhaps more crucially, their relegation predicament may tempt the Tigers to disregard the prospect of further cup ties meddling with their schedule.
We’d better win anyway, as NUFC are clearly the forces of good in this one. Unlike Leeds, who limited our allocation so they could sell out to the rafters with their own fans, Hull’s spiteful allocation is actually a mean spirited, underhanded stunt to deny paying customers from the North East an empty orange seat in the belief that it will give them more chance of sponging a poxy win.
They deserve annihilated just for that. If so, it’s a frightening potential semi-final, but Thump the Cat and Butter One’s Arse, we could be one round from Wembley!
The sudden injection of optimism and excitement given to Newcastle United by Rafa Benitez has been an incredibly welcome (and unexpected) development, but it has thrown up a strange dilemma that hasn’t been seen in decades.
In recent weeks I have seen the two aforementioned games create scrambling and squabbling over tickets, a classic sign that things are on the up here.
In amongst this I’ve seen a couple of digs at the current points system, citing its top heavy nature. Basically there’s a school of thought that older fans who have built up a high points score will monopolise the in-demand games, and a fairer system should be implemented that gives youth a chance. This is of course bollocks and if you think otherwise, prepare to be treated with contempt.
For transparency, I should say that I have over 100 points and am in a position where I can go pretty much anywhere. I’m also not that old (30something), although I feel it when confessing that I remember prior to the points system, when you had to write to the club with a cheque and a SAE asking for tickets to a particular away match for them then to be distributed apparently at random. A grossly unfair approach that thankfully had given way to the points system by the time we reached a pair of cup finals in the late 90s.
I was at both of them, and have also been at several Wear/Tyne derbies, a highly sought after Europa league match in Bruges and countless others that spiked interest at the time.
However, I’ve also been to Doncaster on a Tuesday night, seen us ship seven at the Emirates and managed to make my way to Southampton in the middle of a national petrol crisis, just to see us lose 2-0 at the stinking decrepit old Dell.
This is called paying your dues and if anyone has any interest in being a future attendee of big games then this is what you need to do. For every appealing trip to Leeds there is an underwhelming midweek jaunt to Wigan that has plentiful tickets available. Burton’s smaller ground starts at 125 points, but the televised Bank Holiday January trip to Blackburn will certainly drop to 0.
So if you want to gain a foothold, go to these games, tick off a few grounds, visit a few unlikely places. Any suggestions of a percentage of tickets being held back for fans with higher attendances in the past year or so is scoffable poppycock, perpetrated by person or persons who might be a bit of a stupid bollock. It’s the equivalent of saying Ayoze Perez should have a bigger statue than Shearer because he’s scored more goals in the last two years.
I’ll come full circle on this and get back to the EFL Cup. If we go past Hull, I expect Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool to be waiting for us (although I hope for a less horrible set-up).
Even with Rafa’s magic in cup ties, negotiating our way past one of this lot over two legs seems too much to ask. However, should fate conspire our way and we find ourselves negotiating a winnable semi-final, I fully expect all hell to break loose. For anyone screaming at me for potentially cursing us, I should clarify that this is a hypothesis for any future Wembley appearance (it’s got to happen at some time surely).
Recriminations as to who deserves a ticket would be thick and fast, as we would almost certainly have more season ticket holders than the initial allocation.
If handled properly, we have an excellent system that will dish them out fairly.
If anyone fully paid their dues in the past but abandoned their ticket in protest at the regime, it had to be on the understanding they were taking this risk.
If someone has never seen Newcastle play away from St James Park, they shouldn’t go at the expense of others who have.
I only hope the club are stringent in the points brackets as and when this happens. It shouldn’t just collapse from 50 to 0 points, as more incremental stages would ensure younger or more recent travellers got their chance by allowing 15 or 10 points to count when relevant.
Most importantly: backbiting, sniping and one-upmanship amongst fans cannot be allowed to fester. There will be many stories of those that should be there, but if you’ve put enough time in, in the past, you’ll be connected enough to find a way.
For the majority there is a fair and established system in place to ensure you get out what you’ve put in – and for the very young there’s the consolation that it may well be a couple of decades before this match actually bloody happens!
Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf