We approach hopefully the final stages of the Mike Ashley era at Newcastle United.
As we do so, the club have published a feel-good story regarding crowds at St James Park.
The article is headlined: ‘United to set notable attendance feat on Saturday’.
The story goes:
‘Saturday’s game against Watford is already sold out, with more than 52,000 supporters set to pack St. James’ Park.
And that means Newcastle will start the season with seven consecutive home league crowds of more than 51,000 for the first time since 2005/06.
Kicking off the campaign with a 52,077 crowd against Tottenham, United were then watched by 52,093 in their next home game, a 3-0 win against West Ham.
September’s 2-1 victory over Stoke was played in front of 51,795 and the next three matches at St. James’ Park all sold out.
The 1-1 draw with Liverpool was watched by 52,303; 52,251 attended the win over Crystal Palace; and most recently, 52,237 turned out for the match against AFC Bournemouth earlier this month.’
Ironically, the club’s feel-good article actually exposes the negative impact Mike Ashley has had on Newcastle United over the past 10 years.
It used to be headline news if a game wasn’t sold out for pretty much all of the years before Ashley took over.
The crowds have still been phenomenal but have been despite the owner, not because of him.
There was no better example than last season’s 51,000+ average in the Championship, achieved solely because of the presence of Rafa Benitez after Mike Ashley had once again doomed us to second tier football with his chaotic and manipulative running of the club.
If Rafa had walked away then I think so many fans would have done the same, only staying because of belief that whilst Rafa was still there, then there was still hope.
Without him I think we could well have seen crowds go below 40,000 last season.
To never have seven crowds of 51,000 at the start of any of the 10 Mike Ashley seasons tells a story.
Finishing fifth in 2011/12 and all the positivity that brought, he even managed to rip the heart out of that by refusing to strengthen the team and build on that promise. The second home game of that next (2012/13) season seeing only 48,245 turn up for the visit of Aston Villa.
These are the crowds from the first seven games of that 2005/06 season. In fact after the first home game of the season, Newcastle never had less than 52,000 at home until the very final Graeme Souness home match before he was sacked in February, ironically a 1-0 loss to his old club Blackburn.
51,620 Newcastle 0 West Ham 0 – 20 August 2005
52,237 Newcastle 0 Man Utd 2 – 28 August 2005
52,208 Newcastle 1 Fulham 1 – 10 September 2005
52,280 Newcastle 1 Man City 0 – 24 September 2005
52,302 Newcastle 3 Sunderland 2 – 23 October 2005
52,191 Newcastle 1 Birmingham 0 – 5 November 2005
52,267 Newcastle 1 Aston Villa 1 – 3 December 2005
One thing for sure, Rafa Benitez + ambitious new owners will equal guaranteed full houses at St James Park.