Newcastle United 1 Bolton Wanderers 0: Predator Owen strikes as reality bites at Newcastle

Two good happenings at St James' Park on Saturday: first, not everybody turned up; second, Michael Owen scored a goal. What unites the two events is money.

In case anyone has forgotten, the sponsors on Newcastle United's shirts are Northern Rock, the Tyneside-based bank that in decades to come will be recalled as the symbol of a nationwide economic downturn.

The spasms of Northern Rock's financial earthquake are being felt daily and go far beyond the local 1,300 job losses announced by the bank in July. This is about a feeling as well as the physical experience of financial insecurity.

Those are reasons for the attendance of 47,711 – Newcastle's lowest in the Premier League at the expanded stadium.

There are various schemes to get fans to buy season tickets but £494 is regarded as the cheapest for an adult, though to get it you have to pledge to go for three seasons. In the current climate, it is a commitment to make people think. Add a summer filled with rumours about owner Mike Ashley's intentions – which he has clarified, though much too late – concern about Kevin Keegan's authority and an absence of early major signings, and you have explanations for nearly 5,000 empty seats at a club where the most important element is the crowd.

It was still England's biggest on Saturday, and 4,000 up on Sunderland versus Liverpool. But it was still striking for Newcastle to have cash turnstiles. Reality has bitten.

"You can never take anything for granted in life, never," Keegan said. "I would like to think we're one of cheapest clubs in the Premier League and I think that's right for the area we live in. I don't think we'll be the only club who get affected. The credit crunch is there, there's no doubt about it. Sometimes people think that football can just sail on regardless of what's happening in the world, but it's vulnerable to these things."

Ashley, a High-Street businessman, knows the score, but one wonders if Owen and his advisers are as aware. If we accept that Owen earns a minimum of £5m a year at Newcastle, the idea that he wants more to sign a new contract, or the same again, is breathtaking. A 10-20 per cent cut in the current circumstances would be healthy and heartening for all involved. Owen will not be forced to close his stables.

The argument is that the market dictates these astronomical salaries. Well, the market at St James' has just spoken loudly with its feet.

Owen's talent will endure, as shown when his 71st-minute header won three points. This was a light and decisive touch when others had laboured. Keegan said he has plenty of invention in the team but he needs more. But for Shay Given's 59th minute penalty save from Kevin Nolan this could have been a defeat. Selling tickets for the next home game – against Hull – would have been even harder.

Goal: Owen (71) 1-0.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Beye, S Taylor, Coloccini, N'Zogbia; Milner, Guthrie, Butt, Gutierrez; Martins (Owen, 53), Duff (Geremi, h-t). Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Edgar, Bassong, Enrique, Smith.

Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, A O'Brien, Samuel; Muamba, Nolan, J O'Brien (Riga, 85), M Taylor (Gardner, 65); Davies, Elmander (McCann, 15). Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Shittu, Hunt, Dzemaili.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Booked: Newcastle S Taylor; Bolton J O'Brien, McCann, M Taylor.

Man of match: Given.

Attendance: 47,711.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn