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Opinion

Mike Ashley happy to sell tickets to Leeds fans in home areas is asking for Friday night trouble

4 days ago
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Newcastle United will welcome Leeds fans in eight days time.

A rare Friday night match at St James Park sees an 8pm kick-off for the closest thing Newcastle have to a derby this season.

Back in the day, the 70s and 80s especially saw a ‘lively’ rivalry between Newcastle supporters and Leeds fans.

Then the Premier League era saw that rivalry continue to a decent extent in the all-seater era, both clubs always taking the full allocation of away tickets offered. Helping to generate better atmospheres but friction between the two sets of fans always more than possible.

The demise that Leeds fans experienced in 2004 has seen a remarkable lack of opportunities for them to visit St James Park for a period covering almost two decades.

Since their relegation at the end of that 2003/04 season, the two clubs have only been in the same division twice.

Last season of course Leeds beat Newcastle home and away but no Leeds fans able to experience and enjoy it live, due to behind closed doors restrictions.

The only time Leeds fans actually able to get inside St James Park for a league match in this period was April 2017, a Championship (when Newcastle were in the Championship in 2009/10, Leeds were actually in the third tier) 1-1 draw with a Friday night kick-off…

However, that is to change in eight days time, Leeds fans getting the full 3,200 ticket allocation. That allocation sure to swiftly sell out, if it hasn’t already.

A clear case of demand outstripping supply…something that is not the case for Newcastle fans and tickets for home matches at the moment.

Over 10,000 season tickets left unsold this summer, over 8,000 empty seats at the last home (Southampton) game.

Newcastle fans absolutely sick of (especially) Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce, a toxic combination of owner and head coach.

On Monday, tickets for this game went on sale to Newcastle United members (including season ticket holders), then on Wednesday (yesterday) they went on general sale online. With next Monday seeing full general sale including by phone (and in person I presume).

I checked yesterday and there were almost 9,000 ordinary tickets in Newcastle United home areas up for sale for this Leeds match.

Hmmm, a Friday night 8pm kick-off, the two clubs only 90 or so miles apart, first time in over 17 years Leeds fans can attend an away match at St James Park, the attraction of a big day / weekend out in Newcastle city centre, but the 3,200 official tickets leaving most Leeds fans with no chance of getting one…

The only restriction on people buying tickets in the Newcastle United home areas is the official NUFC website states two tickets maximum, no other apparent restrictions. It says Newcastle fans only but…nothing at all seemingly in place to even try and stop Leeds fans buying tickets in home areas.

The obvious measure would be for Mike Ashley to restrict sales to only those Newcastle fans with a previous record of buying tickets for matches, yet this seems to have been simply ignored, with the NUFC owner just desperate to fill those thousands and thousands of empty seats by any means possible.

When Leeds fans came to St James Park for that Friday night Championship game in 2017 there was trouble both inside St James Park and especially in the city centre, the opportunity of taking the day off and all day drinking, obviously appealing to fans of both sides then, as it will this time.

The police are going to be loving this if on top of 3,200 official Leeds fans, there are a significant number of others with tickets for Newcastle areas, plus extra of course around the city in the hours ahead of kick-off.

For those with longer memories, Newcastle fans will recall 1989 and another era where many supporters were boycotting home matches. The first day of the 1989/90 season saw Newcastle home to a buoyant Leeds who looked ambitious and had heavily invested in their squad, with many NUFC supporters boycotting, a lot of Leeds fans were in the home areas on top of the official allocation, with predictable friction between the two sets of fans inside SJP and in the city centre.

That day at least had a happy ending on the pitch, Newcastle winning 5-2 and four goals for the ‘Mighty’ Mick Quinn.

I don’t think anybody will be confident of NUFC getting anything on the pitch this time, though you live in hope. However, regardless of that, here’s hoping that Mike Ashley inviting significant numbers of Leeds fans to buy up his unsold tickets doesn’t backfire big style off the pitch.

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