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Looking at these Newcastle United fixtures again and trying to plan ahead…

8 months ago

I had a distracted morning when the Newcastle United fixtures finally emerged for the new Premier League season.

As a quick recap, I have an annual rant about why these can’t immediately be released within a day of the final play-off match.

Yes, teams need to put in special requests (e.g. Newcastle always ask to be away the weekend of the Great North Run, or this season both Liverpool and Luton asked for early away games while they complete work on their grounds) but surely all of this is known well in advance and can be submitted quickly after the final league places are confirmed.

Similarly, the obvious logistical issues of policing two teams in close proximity need to be considered and I can see how this took weeks in the last century, when a bloke with a pen probably had to sit and sort through it all.

However, with today’s technology these variables are surely just fed into some supercomputer and out come the Newcastle United fixtures and the rest of the Premier League! A quick quality check and they should be with us before the play-off winners have had their open top bus.

Anyway, the Newcastle United fixtures are here and the day was spent with much exchange of WhatsApp messages, planning away trips and assessing what home games people might miss (ahead of the ominous new scheme of passing on digital tickets).

Overall, there was a bit of trepidation about our tricky start to the season, but I think it’s alright. Getting Liverpool and Man City this early gives a chance of catching them cold before new signings have really clicked, and if it goes wrong then at least those games are out of the way. To be honest, my attention was more drawn towards the other end of the season.

In terms of a challenge it’s not that bad, with a trip to Old Trafford in April the only difficult looking moment in the final ten games. However, it’s that last day that’s sticking in my craw a bit, as we head to the Brentford Community Stadium. Not the easiest fixture, but one that we’ve had a 100% record in since the Bees emerged in the Premier League, so could be a lot worse.

My issue is with the location. The Brentford Community Stadium has a capacity of 17,000, with the away allocation of around 1,700 usually hoovered up by the time it’s hit 150 loyalty points. Now, this isn’t a personal complaint, as I would be lucky enough to get one under those circumstances, but there could be serious FOMO for those less fortunate.

The last game of the season has the potential to have all the appeal of a cup final. In most of the recent years, this would be due to the threat of a relegation showdown. These days it is more likely to be for the guarantee of European football, possibly a retention of Champions League status. Whatever you may think of the likelihood, there even now exists a possibility that Newcastle could travel to this match with a chance of winning the Premier League title.

In this slightly unlikely event, I would find it a real shame that such a limited section of Newcastle fans would be there to witness it. Given the fact that club staff and corporate would surely max out any available tickets, you’re almost certainly looking at half the away fans that would get in to most of the established Premier League grounds. This was the exact threat that hung over Man City last season, who fortunately managed to sew up the title in advance of their Brentford finale. However, Leeds the year before had to complete their relegation escape in front of limited visitors from Yorkshire.

Again, this could be worse, as Bournemouth’s pathetic 11k capacity will likely be trumped by Luton’s infamous mid-terrace away end in the season to come. While Bournemouth have to travel on the last day of next season, any Fulham fans sweating on their final outcome will have to battle for the handful of tickets going at Kenilworth Road.

A recent article on The Mag met with general disapproval when it was suggested there should be a minimum 3k of away tickets for all Premier League clubs irrespective of capacity. This may be a bit unfair given the meritocracy by which these clubs have got to the top flight, but I don’t think it’s ridiculous to suggest that the final day, with all the drama and emotion it brings, should be available to as many as possible.

It was only this year that I discovered a rule has been written to keep the “top clubs” apart on both the first and last days of the season. I’m not sure why this is (or if Newcastle are considered part of this elite now) but it’ll be something to do with maximising profit. If such a frivolous rule can be written for this purpose, I don’t think it’s unfair to put Luton, Brentford, Bournemouth and any other smaller clubs away on the last day. I’d even go as far as to allocate home games to all likely title contenders, to allow a trophy lift in front of their own fans.

I realise there’s plenty going on of greater consequence, but to me his is another small sign of how the fans at the match matter less and less with time, although the atmosphere they create is essential to the Premier League’s “product” which helps bring in its grotesque international profits.

There’s every chance that the trip to Brentford will, for whatever reason, be similarly inconsequential to the end of season venture to Chelsea the other week, but if not you can guarantee I’ll be dredging this bit up again.

You can follow the author on Twitter @Mr_Dolf


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