In the wake of Rafa Benitez’s departure from Newcastle, many fans vowed to stop attending home games until Mike Ashley has sold the club, and gates have certainly dipped this season.
The Shields Gazette claim that over 9,000 tickets remain unsold for the televised game against Brighton and Hove Albion next Saturday evening.
They add that the figure does not take into account tickets for the away fans, and with the Seagulls not expected to bring huge numbers to Tyneside, there is a slight chance that St James’ Park could have a crowd of around 41,000 for the game.
If that is the case, it would be the lowest league attendance since they faced Blackburn Rovers in November 2010.
How many of the missing fans is down to an outright boycott, and how many are just judging their attendance on a game by game basis, is not known, but either way, it should be a concern to Mike Ashley.
Results would go a long way to attracting fans back
What would boost the figure next week, of course, would be a win at Liverpool, with the knock-on effect sure to see a couple of thousand more tickets sold.
But even if that is the case, it would still be far less than at times of comparative runs of results under Benitez.
If the stay-away fans are largely former season ticket holders, then things could get even worse for the owner, as a relegation fight, or lack of belief in the team’s ability to win games, would see the game-by-game sales take a hit, on top of those already missing.
There are two ways to improve the numbers through the turnstiles: Results need to pick up, and see the side climb the table, thus bringing back some semblence of a feel-good factor; or Mike Ashley sells the club, and passes the baton to an owner with a more ambitious approach.
Of course, almost everyone would like to see both those things happen, and especially Ashley shipping out, but it is only the results option that is likely – in the short-term at least.
So it falls to Steve Bruce to ensure Newcastle start picking up points, and only then will the figures start to swell again.