John Carver claims Newcastle fans' boycott was a distraction

Interim manager John Carver has expressed concern over the effects of last weekend's fans' boycott at St James' Park and is hoping there won't be a repeat.

With Newcastle United on a run of six straight defeats in the Premier League, Saturday's home game with Swansea City has major significance as the teams below the Geordies slowly creep nearer, and a relegation battle becomes ever more real.

Carver was adamant that the fans' boycott - which resulted in an official attendance of 47,427 but in reality involved an estimated 13,000 fans - would not influence how his players performed. But in his pre-match press conference on Thursday, covered by the BBC, Carver spoke about a "strange" atmosphere in the stands.  

"I didn't want to use it as an excuse for the players," Carver said "but I think it did affect people. It affected me, slightly, and it certainly affected some of the players, and I know there is another one coming this week, but at least people are coming to the stadium, and if it is a protest for one minute, then at least we've got 89 minutes to get on with the game."

Now Newcastle face five remaining games, and badly need points and unequivocal support to stave off the relegation threat. However, further protests are being planned for the Swansea game this weekend, although these are intended to be merely vocal inside the ground and also at Sports Direct stores in the area, the organisation through which Mike Ashley made his fortune.  

In a statement, the campaign, who are the driving force behind the protests, said: “We will back any fan who continues to boycott the game to make a stand. For those fans wishing to attend the Swansea game, we request them to £StandUpToAshley after 34 minutes of the game, to represent the fact that having no manager and a threadbare squad devoid of quality, yet having £34 million in the bank is not an acceptable situation."

While events on the pitch will dictate Newcastle's Premier League status, off it, the screw is definitely turning on Ashley. In addition to the Newcastle fans' protests, fans of Glasgow Rangers - where Ashley holds an 8.92% stake - are planning to co-ordinate a similar protest this weekend, and Channel Four's 'Dispatches' programme is planning to broadcast a damning documentary next week, which is threatening to expose how Ashley's Sports Direct empire is run.

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