PRIZED RECRUIT: Venezuelan international Ronny Vargas will be make his home debut for the Jets against Perth on Sunday. Picture: Marina NeilBUOYED by a spectacular start to the A-League season, theNewcastle 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 beeneither purchased through memberships or taken up in agive-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’smarquee player.
“We want McDonald Jones Stadiumrocking on Sunday,” Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna said.“There is a lot of interest in the teamafter 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 offree tickets, which are available on-line through Ticketsmaster, after 3800were snapped up by Monday. The promotion, which closes Friday,involves a $4.35 handling fee.
“The idea of thecampaign 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 ofthe 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 the5-1 demolition of the Mariners last Saturday.
McKinna said hehad never experienced a buzz like when the “Newcastle” chanterupted as the Jets players walked over to thank the fansat full-time.
“It was brilliant andsent shivers down my spine,” McKinna said.“Myself and Ernie [Merrick] want tothank 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 Jetsperched ontop of the table after round onefor 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 Taggartand new importXavi Torres.
“Hopefullypeoplewho 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 confidentitwill 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.