Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Negativity Leaves an Empty Feeling

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Negativity Leaves an Empty Feeling

Article excerpt

Byline: By Stuart Rayner

A less than half-full Riverside Stadium for last Thursday's Middlesbrough-Xanthi Uefa Cup game saw the finger quickly pointed at ridiculous ticket prices and saturation TV coverage as causes of top-flight football's dwindling appeal.

But on Sunday Michael Owen identified another problem with the clinical accuracy Newcastle United fans will be hoping he shows on the field this season.

After a year in La Liga, Owen is well-qualified to say: "It is a slightly different Premiership I have come back to. It is quite tight, there is not as much attacking and it is difficult to score a goal."

Ticket prices do need to come down and there are too many televised matches. People are right to keep complaining but must do so more in hope than expectation.

Both boil down to cold, hard cash and asking football chairmen to accept less of it is like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas. But the entertainment on offer is something clubs can do something about.

Owen's comments came after he played in front of 10,000 empty seats at Ewood Park.

Sunderland and Middlesbrough faired no better. Like it or not, a home game against West Bromwich Albion will be one of the most important the Black Cats play this season, but less than 32,000 were in the Stadium of Light on Saturday. Newly-promoted Wigan Athletic attracted just 16,641 for Boro's visit.

Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren voiced his disappointment at Thursday's turn-out but rather than focusing on the fans, perhaps he should look at his tactics. When money gets tight fans question what they are getting in return. If the answer is dull football, it is understandable they might think twice.

Otto Rehhagel is probably most to blame. His Greece team won Euro 2004 with an essentially negative style that inspired a host of copy-cat managers. …

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