So, the battle lines are well drawn ahead of the big game on Sunday 9 December it seems. Except the opponents on either side of this fascinating contest are not Newcastle United and Wolverhampton, with that contest firmly down to second fiddle. The real big match that day is the battle of the boycott, and whether the restless hordes championed by the Magpie Group will make enough of a dent in the attendance to win the battle of wills with the “support the team” crowd.

It’s too late for yet another cry of “respect others decisions” or “fan divides are what the enemy wants” because if social media is any kind of yardstick, the concept of peaceful mutual respect for Newcastle fans is long gone out the window. It’s brutal out there and there are still two weeks, three games and 15 rounds of Brexit negotiations until the game.

I’ve noticed something though, that everyone seems to have missed among all the overblown myths that float about NUFC. People seem convinced that the ubiquitous crowd of 50k plus will always stick by Newcastle United, underpinning its shortcomings, funding its expenses and allowing the owner a longer stretch on easy street. No one has pointed out that this is bollocks. Until now.

So, I give you exhibit A: Newcastle United 3-0 Reading, Saturday 15 August 2009.

To set the scene, United had been newly relegated and this game would set the tone for a season of impressive bouncebackability. Chris Hughton would prove himself to be an excellent manager and heroic players would grit their teeth to regain their dignity in a season of joyful redemption that would lead ultimately to Europe within two seasons (in a team bolstered by the bedrock of Hughton’s solid defence).

Shola Ameobi’s fine hat-trick gave a surreal edge to the carnival atmosphere as the visitors were royally dismantled in front of that trademark capacity 50k crowd…

Except it wasn’t that was it? I’ll save you the google, the attendance that day was 36,944. That’s 70% of capacity for the opening home game, on a balmy Saturday in August with no TV coverage.

People had become pi..ed off, you see. The implosion under Keegan the previous year saw some walk away who have never returned, but the lock-down of the season ticket, meant that absence wasn’t seen properly until this day. Ashley had just let the club drift, with no signings and a cheap appointment of a coach who had looked out of his depth as a caretaker. As tends to happen, he got lucky with Hughton, we came straight back and Ashley learned from past mistakes and didn’t let this ever happen again (lol – that’s not what happened).

The crowd was won back by that promotion year, but not as easily as you might think. The amount of midweek fixtures in the Championship affected the overall average, but a winning run before the next few Saturday home games saw the attendance stabilise around a mere 43k for games against Plymouth, Barnsley and Doncaster. This stayed roughly the same until the final few weeks of the season as promotion beckoned and crowds crept up, finally breaking that magic 50k figure for the first time for the last home game v Ipswich where the trophy was lifted.

The boost this success gave carried momentum through that UEFA Cup run until the misery returned with the latter end of the Pardew era, followed by the Carver embarrassment and the McClaren debacle. By this point, the people that had been drawn back in were likely part of a growing movement of unrest that was quelled, then regalvanised by Rafa Benitez.

The difference between that pessimistic 30-odd thousand against Reading and the 52,079 that rocked up to see Huddersfield after our next daft relegation, was Rafa. That’s a 24 carat fact.

Newcastle fans who were at the end of their tether let it our further because a world class manager could see past the bilious negatives and the lazy punditry to believe in our club’s potential. If he was willing to be there, we’d be behind him. Now, having been repeatedly undermined, he is going to leave, with the last chance saloon of a January transfer window (almost certain to be laden with some pathetic attempts at placatory signings) probably just a moot point. He may leave us in the Premier League, in fact I think he will, but it’s a busted flush.

The hope and enthusiasm that Chris Hughton’s team instilled has driven a core of supporters to stick around for this long, but the remaining hardy and wilful souls will, I believe, shatter at the departure of Rafa and the subsequent inevitable relegation.

That 30% reduction which folk have conveniently forgotten, will be heftier, as people refuse to partake in the owner’s wilful neglect and pi..take by proxy. The movement now; the protests, the boycott, the public meetings, are all a desperate last effort to force change before walking away and signalling enough.

And what will remain when the soul goes? A near silent ground; the only atmosphere an eerie one, as those that sought to support their team when those same seats sat temporarily empty for one televised encounter suddenly realise they don’t like being in a half empty ground watching a team with a journeyman manager fail to compete in the second tier, asset bled to its lowest ebb in three decades. Their thirst for vividly declared support will have been slaked on that afternoon v Wolverhampton, and their attention will go to someone else who is more deserving of their exulted spectating.

I feel drained of hope that this will not happen, mainly due to the vampiric attitudes of some fellow supporters who seem blissfully unaware that we were on the way to bleeding out against Reading eight years ago.

Every winter I stick the magnificent film Field of Dreams on to warm my soul up a bit on the cold nights (when Moonlight Graham leaves the field to become Doc Graham again and save the little girl’s life, it always gets me). The film is well known for the line “If you build it, they will come”. Mike Ashley’s Newcastle legacy will surely be the antithesis “if you wreck it, they will leave”.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to stem the bleeding, please. #boycottwolves

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

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  • Wor Lass

    I think you`re spot on, Jamie. The reaction when it was confirmed that Rafa was staying was like we`d won the cup or something. If he`d gone and the fat Barsteward had wheeled in one of his market trader mates the picture would have been very different. Still will.

    • Kneebotherm8

      It did feel like were on the up after Rafa nearly rescued our premiership season…………yet one or two deluded donkeys on this site are convinced he got us relegated……

  • Pezza

    It was on TV, late evening k.o and IRC, bus replacement between York and Doncaster

    • Toon Arnie

      I think you’ve missed the point of thread.

  • Carverlier football

    Good piece. If 37k is the benchmark, if we’re relegated again and Rafa leaves it could be sub 30k next season

  • Themoscow72

    The attendance that season was a magnificent 43,384. To put it in prospective only three teams Man Utd, Arsenal and Man City had a higher average. We even beat Liverpool 42,801 who had some low gates against the likes of Wigan 41,116. Sunderland averaged 40,350 so in short the fourth best supported team in the land and still you criticise. I have now revised my estimate for the Wolves game to 51,007. By Monday we will have broken through the 50,000 mark thanks to all the loyal fans who have bought tickets when they went on general sale. Wolves will sell their full allocation so make sure you snap up the remaining tickets for chavers corner for what promises to be an great encounter.

    • Toon Arnie

      Support the club Moscow. You need to put them and the team first – not Ashley.

      • KennySamsung

        Some people are happy with average, most people want something else.

      • Themoscow72

        I do at every game 527 away loyalty points.

        • Toon Arnie

          You support Ashley ahead of the club or team. Your fictional 527 points is bluster. I’ve hardly missed an away game in the last 15 years and have 288 points.
          You are a fraud and not a proper fan.

          • Brian Standen

            You must know each other then surely! I know we get good travelling support but although I don’t go away as much at the moment I still see plenty of people I know when I do go!

          • Superdooperhooper

            What does mad Monk Moscow do for a living then? This is the third time of asking

          • Brian Standen

            I actually really don’t know!

          • Superdooperhooper

            He has claimed on many occasions on this site to be a high flying accountant. You say you know him but have no idea what he does for a living. You must have some idea

          • Brian Standen

            Look I knew him from years ago and from recently when he turned up after a game in peppers!
            I don’t pry into private lives – he doesn’t know what I do either!
            I am happy to say NUFC is his life and he really is mad a as a box of frogs!.
            Away trips that he ran years ago were always interesting

          • Superdooperhooper

            What’s that got to do with private lives ? Asking someone what they do for a living? That’s normal polite conversation surely?

          • Toontaff

            He’s a lift attendant!

          • Kev Newcastle England

            I can verify that

          • Squintytoonarmy

            He’s been nicked here there and everywhere (according to his previous posts) can’t see him being a high flying accountant. Perhaps he is a ticket tout – he buys them all up!!

          • Themoscow72

            Not a proper fan. Ask Brian who has met me several times. There are actually 14 supporters with more points than me .
            Also one of the seventy two who made it to Moscow recently.

        • Kev Newcastle England

          Is that all?

  • Rich Lawson

    Even with 50,000 plus the atmosphere at the ground is woeful compared to past days,it’s becoming an urban myth.

    • Themoscow72

      We were voted best atmosphere recently so all the other grounds worse. It’s a seating problem not the people.

      • Toon Arnie

        It’s people like you that are the problem – you have to be a wind up merchant as you would literally have to practice to be this stupid !

        • KennySamsung

          Some people don’t see their own stupidity because they’re concentrating so hard on proving others wrong. The subject matter is irrellevant really. Believe me he doesn’t have to practice hard to be stupid.

        • Leazes.

          Yes he is…. just block him…. use the button

    • KennySamsung

      Its a football quality problem not the seating, I’ve never been a one to care about whether you sit or stand, just about whether you like what you are watching and that is to do with the players initially.

  • Steven05

    #SaveOurFuture

  • Leazes.

    Its not the same 50,000 is it? Have a look around you Jamie, because apart from the guys who put the flag over the tunnel close to you (What hooligan OAP’s are they the Bender Squad or NME)……. they’re a different crowd aren’t they.

  • Kev Newcastle England

    Absolutely half a ground of numpties