Newcastle United’s big spending summer had more hinging upon it than being able to put out a team that would survive in the Premier League, let alone challenge any higher up the table or in the cups.
The atmosphere at St James Park at the back end of last season was toxic. There was an organised boycott for the visit of Tottenham Hotspur that saw an official crowd of 47,427, but which in reality was thousands short of that number.
But further, there have been personal pledges from many fans that they would not be renewing season tickets, or going to games, as long as Mike Ashley remained running the show.
This has happened at the end of successive seasons, but there was a real fear that a large number of fans really meant it this time.
Subsequently, a £50m investment in the squad with very little coming back and no top players sold, followed a pledge from Ashley himself that from now on we’d be making our own luck.
This promise and the investment that followed was a real attempt to convince those supporters who were reaching the end of their tether to stick with the club, that Newcastle really would be pushing on.
Unfortunately, the attendance on Saturday against Watford fell 5,000 short of capacity, and although this game was not the draw other visitors might provide, it suggests that the effort may be falling on deaf ears.
This was the fifth time in eleven games that the attendance has dropped below 48,000.
In 30 games prior, attendance had only fallen below that marker twice, supporters showing far more patience with the club than performances warranted.
If the club were going to convince some of those departing fans that they’re missing out, then Saturday was obviously a day to do that.
Unfortunately, Watford left Newcastle with 3 points in their pockets and left Newcastle United with only 1 point from 9 contested at home and 1 goal in 2 games.
None of those casual fans that have decided there’s better things to do with their time and money, will have been swayed to return, and many more might have been swayed the other way.
The visits of Sheffield Wednesday in the cup (cheap tickets) and Chelsea in the league aren’t likely to lead to a further exodus, but the subsequent games against Norwich, Stoke & Leicester yet to go on sale, will need fans to have been galvanised by a tangible improvement in performances if we’re not to see this worrying trend continue.