Most of the time football is rubbish. Proper awful. Particularly as a Newcastle United fan. Who is really happy these days? Arsenal fans are in a state of constant crisis with the identity and direction of their club. Manchester United fans have dropped off the radar and boo their side constantly. Spurs are flying, but unease remains between many fans and their chairman. Man City fans just want everyone to like them as their state funded PR project roles on but needs to change managers, again. Most people who follow football, have something to moan about. Therefore this week’s incredible news that Liverpool owners FSG, performed a total U-turn on raising ticket prices from next season is a genuine feel good story for all football fans.
Even if you can comfortably afford tickets at St James’ – how long will it last? There seems to be plenty willing to argue that you have to pay for quality, and that teams like Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea etc pay for what they get – quality. ‘It’s not cheap you know assembling the world’s best sporting product’. That’s why the news was so good this week. Black flags on Liverpool’s cop sent the right message. 15k walking out sent the right message. Fan power does work. Only a third of Liverpool fans at Anfield made a stand, yet their actions have saved all match going Liverpool fans money in the long run. I’ve heard people state this week they wouldn’t walk out at SJP if the rumoured country wide walk out occurred, in protest. I would. Even though I think my NUFC season ticket is reasonably priced at £30 a game, it may not always be that way. What would I do if Ashley sold up, the club became successful, but the club raised prices to £77 a game – or higher? When will it become too much for you, if clubs think you’re replaceable?
Football clubs expect us to turn up if we’re good, bad or indifferent. That’s how it works. NUFC have been largely pathetic this season (AGAIN) and as of today, St James’ Park has been 94% full on average this season. That’s better than any other club in the league competing well below where they should be in the league. Sunderland and Vile are operating in the low 80% range of ground capacity this season. This should make NUFC an attractive proposition to any prospective buyer looking to make a few quid out of the Premier League’s never ending cash flow. In reality, a properly run NUFC could raise ticket prices massively, and people would come, such is the desire to watch the team from people in the region. Only Ashley’s gross incompetence to date is keeping that 94% figure from 100%. One day it could be you or me paying over a grand for a season ticket. Ignore as well the mirage that is cheap child season tickets. It’s great kids can get in for less – a fantastic idea. But think long term. That 15 year old getting into SJP for comparative buttons better have a good job by the time he’s 21. Pay or you’re out. The emotional attachment the club has sold you, made available for you at a cheap price, is essentially a binding contract to get more money out of you eventually. And if you can’t pay, we’ll find someone else who will. Unless fans fight it.
My tenuous link to the first two paragraphs, is that United fans this weekend will be paying £55 for this weekend’s fixture. An obscene amount, particularly as it’s televised. Once upon a time, football fans didn’t hate televised fixtures. Games being moved for TV made them more accessible to thousands of fans. The extra money the club made from televised fixtures would in theory be able to keep tickets prices low. It hasn’t happened. Now TV income is set to be worth more than double the income of gate receipts to many clubs, ticket prices should be decreasing. Not ‘being frozen’ as Arsenal and Manchester United proudly boasted this week. Well in, lads. The fight is only just beginning. Those 15k Liverpool fans had the Prime Minister
Moving onto the Newcastle United match preview. Last Saturday was good. West Brom weren’t. It’s hard to determine how much of an impact the win will have on Saturday considering the last time McClaren ‘assembled’ a side away from home it was the car crash at Goodison. I like the fact that negative, dire sides have been put to the sword at home where traditionally we’ve struggled. It bodes well for when Sam Allardyce’s side rock up to SJP next month, probably without one of their key players. The problem is that as United are so poor – most sides have come and had a go this season at home. Arsenal, Watford, Leicester and Everton all came and attacked and won. So did Norwich but my point stands. Attack NUFC and you will prosper. It makes West Brom’s tactics even more bizarre on Saturday gone, but that’s Pulis for you.
I get the feeling that the chronic lack of confidence in the side away from home isn’t going to fixed by beating an awful
West Brom at home. Here’s some good news though. Only Everton have conceded more home goals than Chelsea’s twenty. That’s mental. Literally mental. Even NUFC have conceded less. EVEN VILE. So we need to go there and have a go. Play a high line, like we did against West Brom. Costa has no pace. Willian aside, no one has any pace in this Chelsea side, and if he’s up against Aarons at left back, I’ll back the young man in black and white. Left Back is a worry as Willian is very good and Aarons is very unproven playing in the back four.
I hope we do what we’re good at. Let’s play football in their half. We were so deep against Everton. Inviting pressure. Let’s have a go at them. Southampton, Everton and Liverpool have both scored three against Chelsea at the bridge this season. Play Mitrovic, get the ball in the box and make their attacking players defend. Chelsea are 13th. There’s nothing to fear. Hiddink is unbeaten as Chelsea boss but they’re drawing too many games under him. Chelsea are only missing Kurt Zouma after his horror injury last week, so they’re at full strength pretty much. The same can’t be said for our lot, though most key positions have players in them you’d be expect to pushing the first team. Earlier this season a certain Jon Jo Shelvey put in a man of the match performance at Stamford Bridge as Swansea were robbed of three points in a 2 2 draw. More of the same would be nice. It would also be good to see the often excellent at home, Moussa Sisskoko, turn up to an away game.
It’s another big weekend for the club. With no game for 18 days – we could find ourselves adrift in the bottom three come the Stoke game. Unlikely but not impossible. If Norwich can’t pick up points this weekend against West Ham at home, the future really does look grim for them. Sunderland face a beatable Man Utd side at home and Bournemouth face a Stoke side in free fall. All at home, all should pick up points. Then while the team are in Spain, these clubs have another chance to pick up points before we play again. We need to be looking to get something from the game. However the fact still remains. We can’t score away from home, and we can’t defend.
Prediction: Chelsea 2 United 0
ALEX HURST – Follow Alex on @tfalex1892
true faith, Newcastle United’s number one fanzine – Issue 124 now available for download and absolutely FREE. Just click on the image below for 100+ pages of Newcastle United related content with some other smashing content chucked in as well.