As far as marketing exercises go, you can’t get much better than that!
The financially frozen out fans of Teesside responded to the club’s cut-price ticket offer by cramming into the Riverside Stadium and were rewarded with a sizzling show of positive product placement and an electric atmosphere as Boro crushed Sheffield Wednesday.
The bumper crowd of 28,229 – on a Friday night and for a televised game that many could easily have watched from a sofa or barstool – was fantastic. I hope every single supporter who turned out as a result of the ticket initiative went away gushing with pride, energised by the display and utterly convinced they had got value for money from the team. And I hope they are back soon.
It was a Boro display that proved a point: if the price is right and the team are performing then there is a burning passion for football on Teesside. The historic flame is still very much alight.
It was the highest gate since May 2009 when Boro last faced mighty Manchester United in the Premier League and it fizzed with the same sense of big match occasion. And you can see how that could be contagious.
The prodigal punters saw a motivated Mogganaut sparking with spirit and passion, confidence and cohesion, pace and penetration.
They saw a positive performance from a side that set out to attack and entertain.
They saw a wide range of goals from a side with an impressive offensive skill set: a cracking opening strike with a slide rule pass and sublime Justin Hoyte rocket straight from FIFA or ProEvo, a poached point blank finish by Big Ish Miller after some snapping midfield hustling and a powerful Lukas Jutkiewicz header from a corner.
They saw resurgent Boro blast to the top of the Championship table with a swaggering seventh win in eight games.
They saw some rock solid defending and a couple of superb cracking saves, a superb inexhaustible engine room exhibition of industry and guile and an assertive outlook full of attacking intent.
And hopefully they saw – and felt – the growing sense of unity within the team on the pitch and between the players and the crowd.
Supporters, both the regulars and the returnees, went away buzzing, bubbling and hoarse after singing and chanting throughout an exciting and engaging 90 minutes being part of an exhilarating collective success.
That is exactly what the heady, intoxicating emotional universe of football is about. And Boro are delivering that.
And the 14,000 extra who turned up because of the offer – the disenfranchised or those who have been disillusioned or drifted away disappointed in the aftermath of relegation – need to be told that the win over Wednesday wasn’t a freak. It wasn’t a one off.
Boro have been playing with that impressive steel and determination, that refreshing enterprise and confidence for a couple of months now. They have reeled off an impressive run of results in the currenty sizzling sequence that have been far from flukes.
They went to then leaders Blackburn and won convincingly. They won at form team Brighton. They won at Sunderland in a composed display that had outside observers wondering exactly which was the top flight side.
They have gone eight games unbeaten in a cut-throat and crazy division where even the best resourced sides struggle to impose any kind of consistency on the ever changing landscape of the league.
Historic institutional weaknesses have been quietly addressed on a tight budget and a new mentality forged.
They have learned to shut up shop. The brittle Boro of the recent past has gone. They are not bullied at the back (no one can bully Bikey), they do not crack under the pressure of a long ball barrage. They stay calm and commanding and play their way out of trouble.
They are not swamped or outworked in midfield by limited sides with more hunger. This Boro have allied prodigious energy with intelligent use of the ball, they control and stretch games with crisp and patient passing and combine the solidity of closing and tackling and running with the subtlety and creativity of a well weighted lock-picking pass.
And upfront they have added a cutting edge. Boro now have a potent palette of striking options to work with that gives tactical and technical variety and make it difficult for defences to get to grips with.
In Scott McDonald and Lukas Jutkiewicz Boro have strikers who are currently firing at close on a goal a game plus they have pace and trickery of Marvin Emnes and the physical presence of Miller to call on. By mixing and matching they can always find a weakness to exploit.
And crucially the goals are flying in from every other position too. Hoyte became the 17th different goal-getter this term with his worldie.
Mentally they are stronger. Two years ago if they leaked a goal it was game over. Now they regularly hit back from behind to win. No game is beyond them now.
It is all starting to fall into place. As the season has gathered momentum it has been a pleasure and a thrill to watch them in action.
The outline of a new Boro is starting to emerge from the debris of a depressing couple of years. The club are finally starting to shrug off the long post-relegation hangover and are gradually finding a new sense of purpose
Tony Mowbray is slowly slotting all the bits into place of a team that can restored pride in Boro and build a platform for a realistic promotion push.
Much of that has happened under the radar. Boro have had little national coverage – the blipvert highlights are rarely on before midnight – and a lot of estranged supporters may not have realised exactly how far-reaching the Mogga transformation has been.
The emphatic win over Wednesday in front of a massive audience will have helped put that in the spotlight.
Those watching on the box will have seen the change. Those there will have felt it too.
It was a display that should have chipped away a few layers of cynicism.
With an opportunity to go top and the expectations created by a big crowd and the cameras a lot of battle-scarred pessimists haunted by the historic “typical Boro” failures of the past may have expected a fruitless and frustrating night.
But this team delivered. In style. And that more than anything will help put bums on seats and harness the emotional energy of Teesside.
The Mogganaut is rolling. All aboard.