BUOYED by a spectacular start to the A-League season, the Newcastle Jets are on track to attract their biggest opening home crowd in five years and possibly ever .
Five days out from the clash against Perth Glory at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday, more than 12,000 tickets have been either purchased through memberships or taken up in a give-away promotion.
The figure has surpassed the 9,145 attendance for the first home game last season and they are on course to push the 14,868 fans on hand for the opening game of the 2012-13 campaign, when former Liverpool and England striker Emile Heskey was the club’s marquee player.
“We want McDonald Jones Stadium rocking on Sunday,” Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna said. “There is a lot of interest in the team after the win over the Mariners. Let’s get people there, lets create a great atmosphere and make it difficult for opposition teams to play.”
The Jets have released another allocation of free tickets, which are available on-line through Ticketsmaster, after 3800 were snapped up by Monday. The promotion, which closes Friday, involves a $4.35 handling fee.
“The idea of the campaign is to get as many people as possible to the first home game,” McKinna said. “Let them enjoy the experience and hopefully they will take out memberships. It costs the club money to give tickets away but we want to engage as many people as possible.”
The Jets’ biggest opening night home crowd was 16,022 for the visit by arch rivals Central Coast in round one of the 2008-09 season. That match was a replay of the previous year’s grand final in which the Jets triumphed.
More than 2500 Jets members made the trip south to Gosford for the 5-1 demolition of the Mariners last Saturday.
McKinna said he had never experienced a buzz like when the “Newcastle” chant erupted as the Jets players walked over to thank the fans at full-time.
“It was brilliant and sent shivers down my spine,” McKinna said. “Myself and Ernie [Merrick] want to thank the 2500 fans, who travelled down to the Central Coast and out-sung the home fans.”
The four-goal win - the biggest in an F3 derby - left the Jets perched on top of the table after round one for the first time in eight years.
Roy O’Donovan scored a hat-trick and fellow new boys Dimi Petratos and Joe Champness also hit the target.
The triumph was the catalyst for a spike in membership sales, with 400 purchased since Saturday night, taking the total to just under 8000.
Perth went down 2-1 to Western Sydney Wanderers in their first game but boast Johnny Warren Medalist Diego Castro, prolific strikers Andy Keogh and Adam Taggart and new import Xavi Torres.
“Hopefully people who have been sitting and waiting to see how the team goes jump on board,” McKinna said. “Sunday is Ronny Vargas’ first home game. Come and support the boys. We are confident it will be a season the fans can be proud of.”
Jets coach Ernie Merrick is unlikely to make any changes for Sunday.
The Jets split their results against the Glory last season. They had a rare 2-1 win in Perth in round 10, drew 2-all at home in round 15, before a 3-2 loss three weeks later in the west.
Taggart, Castro and Keogh supplied all by one of the Glory’s goals.