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Opinion

Why ‘52,000 Newcastle United fans will turn up next season whatever happens’ is patently untrue

1 year ago
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More and more I see this repeated and repeated, especially on social media, the line that ‘52,000 Newcastle United fans will turn up next season whatever happens’ at St James Park.

It is increasingly used as a cheap insult by a small minority on the likes of Twitter, attacking those supporters who have been attending matches and who will, at least potentially, still be going next season.

A few things.

The vast majority of Newcastle United fans, especially away from the anonymity/distance of social media, don’t go on like this. Being so divisive simply plays into Mike Ashley’s hands and whether you do or don’t go to NUFC matches, depends on countless factors, not just Mike Ashley.

Mike Ashley is the problem, not the fans, whether you go to games or not.

Also, who knows what the tipping point might be for Mike Ashley. He is fabulously rich and could just run NUFC into the ground (even more) and it wouldn’t affect his lifestyle one bit. If St James Park was half empty then yes, it might help make up his mind, but there is no certainty, especially with somebody like Mike Ashley, who has shown time and time again that he will try and annoy/upset Newcastle fans, even if it potentially could negatively affect him at the same time.

If you want to stop going to games and/or try and persuade others to do so, then go ahead, but no need for insults and don’t pretend the whole thing is straightforward.

A bit like he without sin casting the first stone, if for example you are only deciding now to stop going, others might ask why you didn’t do this back when Keegan was forced out in 2008, or any of the other disasters which Mike Ashley has thrust on us have come about. It’s all about personal choice and making your own mind up as to the right thing to do, you don’t need to be part of an all or nothing mass movement to start/stop going.

As for the actual specifics, I can guarantee you that there won’t be 52,000 Newcastle United fans at every match next season.

Indeed, if Mike Ashley stays and Rafa Benitez leaves, I would bet heavy that not a single game will see 52,000 at any game next season when Newcastle are at home.

Last season, before the 23 February there were only the Arsenal and Man Utd matches that saw 52,000+ inside St James Park. Then four of the final five games saw 52,000+ at home matches, a combination of winning, some better football and wanting to show support for Rafa Benitez, putting more bums on seats.

If Rafa had left last summer there wouldn’t have been a single 52,000 crowd and that will be the case for 2019/20, unless ambitious new owners came in.

What those throwing insults around don’t want to acknowledge is that it is a more complicated and lengthy process for loads of Newcastle United fans to stop going. Particularly so in this modern era of an overwhelming number attending matches via a season ticket, not like the old days where it was possible for crowds to fluctuate dramatically due to 80% to 90% paying match by match.

Thousands and thousands have already paid or started paying for their season tickets in instalments, for others a lot will depend on it being a bit of a group decision when deciding with friends/family members what they should so and going with a majority/unanimous decision. Also, if you have children who still want to go regardless, don’t anybody say that it is then a straightforward thing to turn around to an eight year old and say they aren’t allowed to go, possibly for ever, because it might help get rid of Mike Ashley.

I have written about this before and thousands of Newcastle United fans have already been staying away from matches for years thanks to Mike Ashley.

If he stays and especially if Rafa goes, thousands more will follow, guaranteed.

The only question would be how many and how quickly would others follow.

If this summer goes all wrong, I think we would see something around the following when it came to St James Park attendances.

Maybe around 5,000 season ticket holders not renewing this summer and early crowds averaging somewhere in the mid-40,000s, maybe even a little lower (43k/44k). With crowds for the rest of the season depending on performance on the pitch, though with still probably around 30k-35k season ticket holders (considering just how many ST holders would have needed to opt out of long-term deals back in January) they can only drop so far.

I think the following season (2020/21) would be the really big one assuming Mike Ashley still here and Rafa Benitez not here, even if Newcastle had clung on to PL status.

Thousands of those on the long-term deals would have opted out by January 2020 and join a growing groundswell of those calling time. Leading to home crowds in the 30,000s for the 2020/21 season, even if in the top tier.

Newcastle United fans have kept going in such large numbers because of hope, hope which over the last three years or more has been overwhelmingly due to Rafa Benitez not walking away.

Just look at the end of that 2015/16 season when Rafa for some reason thought Mike Ashley’s NUFC was the logical next step after Real Madrid, his ongoing presence by far the biggest factor in Newcastle posting an incredible 51,106 home average in the Championship.

A few example of how Newcastle United fans have reacted to Mike Ashley’s running of the club previously:

2009/10

After the first relegation under Mike Ashley…

36,944 – The first home crowd of the season as Newcastle beat Reading 3-0 with a Shola hat-trick!

43,904 – Second home crowd of the season boosted by Sheffield Wednesday bringing numbers.

38,813 – Third home crowd of the season v Leicester.

The final average at St James Park was 43,388 and crowds fluctuated for the rest of the season between high 30s and mid-40s.

However, the only crowd to reach 50,000 was the final home game of the season when 52,181 watched a 2-2 draw with Ipswich.

2011/12

Amazingly for many of you, Newcastle averaged less than 50,000 when we ended up fifth in 2011/12, a final home average of 49,936.

46,894 – The first home game of the season saw a 0-0 home draw against Arsenal.

Newcastle then went and won 1-0 at Sunderland (Ryan over the wall Taylor) but 8 days later…

42,684 – The second home game against Fulham.

2015/16

Despite the biggest spending that Newcastle fans had seen under Mike Ashley, they were sick of how things were going off the pitch, with Steve McClaren following Pardew and Carver.

49,019 – First home crowd v Southampton

50,388 – Second home crowd v Arsenal

47,806 – Third home crowd v Watford

That was the story of the season as the first 52,000 crowd was actually Steve McClaren’s very final game in March 2016 against Bournemouth. From what I remember I think there was a bit of a call to arms around that match, to try and collectively fight relegation.

After that Bournemouth game, the next one was Rafa’s first against Sunderland (1-1) and the first full house of the season.

However, the crowds that followed under Rafa were:

48,949 v Swansea

46,424 v Man City

52,107 v Palace

52,183 v Tottenham

So it wasn’t an instant massive reaction to Rafa Benitez. It was positive but ironically the biggest crowd after that derby match was the very final day against Tottenham, already relegated BUT fans wanting to convince Rafa to stay!

I think taking everything above together, these 12 years of Mike Ashley rule have seen the Newcastle United fans on the brink of mass desertion/protest and potentially setting off on a path that would eventually convince Mike Ashley to go, only for luck to come the owner’s way.

That luck has surely ran out now and unless he sells the club and/or convinces Rafa Benitez things are going to change, the flow of fans staying away is going to become a flood.

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