It was a moment of frustration; I'd become sick of watching the same awful incompetence over and over again, as professional footballers – men paid actual fortunes to play football – seemed unable to do what’s an essential part of their day-to-day job. Pass a ball to one of their teammates.
So, as Lee Cattermole hit yet another meaningless ball to no one, I hit record on my phone, and tweeted it.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from that tweet, if anything – maybe other Sunderland fans to go, ‘oh, man’ along with me, with the odd Mag laughing at our rubbish football. What I got, however, was thousands and thousands of mentions in my twitter notifications – about empty seats.
“Where’s the crowd”, “Was there a bomb scare”, “Empty seats everywhere”, etc etc etc.
The misplaced pass from Cattermole, ten minutes before the final whistle, was in the North West corner, which was probably sparse at the start of the game, but by that time, at 2-0 down, was even emptier. The ground looked empty.
The attendance given for the game was 27,702. That’s how many tickets were sold, including season tickets. Whether all those season ticket holders turned up I suppose only the club would know – I certainly have season ticket holder friends who didn’t go. So, what the actual attendance was is anyone’s guess. And given it holds around 48,000, it was always going to look empty.
But you know what? I don’t care. I just don’t care.
I don't care if all 27,000-odd did turn up, or if a few thousand decided to stay at home with the other 20,000 that decided not to go a while back. I don’t care, and I don’t blame them. We’re talking about a club whose home form is the worst of all time – who have only managed a pathetic two home wins in more than a year. A club that’s spent most of the season in the bottom three of the Championship.
A club so disconnected from their fans – from their ‘supporters’ – that the people in there have nothing but contempt for the players donning their colours. No one’s going to the Stadium of Light for fun, for enjoyment. They’re going out of obligation, out of duty, out of loyalty – out of a loyalty for a club that’s long since stopped being loyal to them. The fact that anyone turns up at all is a constant source of amazement – it’s expensive, it’s cold, and it’s a bloody miserable affair. Those twenty-odd thousand, to me, are heroes. They deserve medals. And free Balti piece for life.
Now, if you’re a supporter of Newcastle, this is all clearly hilarious – your great rival having a terrible time of it all. And that’s fair enough. But there’s a point where they have to realise this isn’t about good or bad support; this isn’t about how amazing your fans are, or if your fans are true supporters. This is about a set of people that have watched their club systematically drained almost to the point of extinction, where rumours of liquidation and administration regularly swirl around the streets, each one more convincing than the last.
The simple fact is – if this was their team, enduring the same horrible run of form, the same spineless, effortless performances, week in, week out, then they too would struggle to pack the place out. They don’t want to admit that, but it’s true.
Would any club’s fans do better?
Newcastle, like all clubs, are only a crappy, non-caring owner away from falling into a very similar trap. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t they already have one of those?
Those twitter mentions (most of which seemed to come complete with a laughing smiley, which I think shows either the age or the mental capacity of the tweeter) are still going as I type, and that’s fine, if you tweet stuff you have to expect anything and everything back. And if I’m going to tweet Sunderland players having a ‘mare, then I have to expect Newcastle fans to laugh at it – again, that’s twitter for you.
But if the best thing you can do is point to your club for having a bigger attendance, while club on the very of bankruptcy suffers, then I feel like you need something more in your life. Maybe a trophy? Yeah, been a long time since any of us have seen one of those on the Wear or the Tyne.
So, I’ll leave you with my twitter reply to those notifications...
I have no problem with people having a pop at the team. They’re awful, and they deserve it. But attendance wankers, and their ‘look at all their empty seats’ can fuck right off. NO team, playing like we are, with the home form we have – for so bloody long – would full that ground.
Remember, it’s a quicker trip to the bottom than it is to the top, and, trust me, it’s no fun when you get there.
Feel free to tweet me on the subject - @Evs_Dubai - it seems everyone else has.