John Barnes makes claim on Newcastle United fans amid pre-season unrest

John Barnes says behind-closed-doors football helped Newcastle United last season.

Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 8:49 am
Steve Bruce gives Newcastle United fans the thumbs up at the Pirelli Stadium last week.
Steve Bruce gives Newcastle United fans the thumbs up at the Pirelli Stadium last week.

St James’s Park was empty for all but one home game last season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Newcastle midfielder Barnes, however, believes this worked in the favour of Steve Bruce and his team in their relegation battle – as it meant they were spared boos from frustrated and angry supporters.

“Newcastle didn’t really suffer without fans in the stadium because it meant they weren’t there to boo them,” Barnes told

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“Most of the criticism was on social media and the general atmosphere. If the fans were there booing them, it would make a bigger impact. When they were close to the bottom three, and looked like they might go down, had the fans been there it could have worked against them.

"The fans not being there, while the disharmony was going on, actually helped Newcastle to stay up and finish the season strongly."

United are yet to make a signing – Bruce said last week that the club hadn’t bid for a player as it waits on a decision from Arsenal over Joe Willock – and fans fear another relegation battle.

Barnes, however, believes the club’s fortunes will, at least in part, depend on the response of supporters. Fans rounded on Bruce, owner Mike Ashley and the Premier League during a pre-season friendly against Rotherham United.

“I think Newcastle are in good shape,” said Barnes. “I know the fans are upset, but they have to support the team until the man they don’t like is not there anymore.

"Them not supporting the club and booing the players and the manager isn’t going to help on the pitch. Booing the owners isn’t going to get rid of them.

"I’ve had a bit of stick from Newcastle fans as if I’m supporting Mike Ashley – I’m not. It doesn’t matter to me, I support the players – and want the team to do well.

"How well they do depends on the fans. If they don’t support the team, it could be another relegation battle.

"They’ve got enough quality to look for a mid-table position. I can’t say how the season will go, because I don’t know how the fans will respond. If they respond well, maybe they can finish in the top half.”