Monday 18 October 2021

Newcastle United - St James' Park

Newcastle United FC
St James' Park
Strawberry Place
Newcastle Upon Tyne

0844 372 1892
Official Website

Ground Number: 123
Sunday 26th November 2006
Newcastle United 1-0 Portsmouth
FA Carling Premiership



The club was established in 1892 following a merger between Newcastle West End (established 1881) and Newcastle East End and Newcastle West End (established 1882). The two clubs joined forces following financial issues at West End who were the original tenants at St James Park before East End took over for a short while before the merger.


ST JAMES PARK has an all-seated capacity of 54,000 and has been home to the club for the entirety of its history. It is the largest stadium in the North East and the eighth largest overall in England. It had a slightly larger capacity of over 60,000 at one point but further expansion has been hindered by the presence of the local Metro line which would need to be rerouted to accommodate the foundations if one side of the stadium was expanded. The highest attendance recorded at the ground of  68, 386 came for a game against Chelsea in 1930.


The club played their first season in the Northern League, finishing as runners-up behind Middlesbrough Ironopolis. In 1893, they joined the Football League Division 2 and have remained in the top two tiers for the entirety of their history. They have been top-flight champions on four occasions, though not since 1927. They have been runners-up more recently in 1996 & 1997. The first of these came just four years after their lowest ever league finish of 20th in the second tier in 1992. The man who saved them from relation, Kevin Keegan, also took them to both of these runners-up spots.


Newcastle United have won the FA Cup six times, their last trophy coming in 1955 as they beat Manchester City 3-1 at Wembley. They've also finished as runners-up seven times, most recently in 1999 when they lost 2-0 to Manchester United. In terms of giant killings, in recent years, the club lost 3-0 to Oxford United in 2017 and 3-1 to Stevenage in 2011. The Stevenage game was notable as the two sides had met in 1998 with a bot of bad feelings created as Newcastle tried to get the tie reversed to their home ground due to safety concerns. On that occasion, non-league Stevenage held the Premier League giants to a 1-1 draw before succumbing 2-1 in the replay at St James' Park.


Newcastle United reached the League Cup Final in 1976, only to lose 2-1 in the final at Wembley to Manchester City. They also won the 1909 Charity Sheild. At the time, the competition was played between the Football League champion and the Southern League champions. The Magpies defeated Northampton Town 2-0 in front of a crowd of just 7,000 at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge. The Northampton manager that day was one Herbert Chapman who would go on to achieve great success at both Huddersfield Town and Arsenal.


Newcastle United won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969. It was a competition set up to represent the individual cities across Europe with only one club from each city allowed to participate. Newcastle United overcame Feyenoord, Sporting Lisbon, Real Zaragoza (decided on the toss of a coin after the two sides were tied at 4-4 over two legs, Vitoria Setubal and Rangers to reach the final. They then overcame the Hungarian side Ujpest Dosza 6-2 over two legs in the final to lift the trophy. They also reached the final of the 2001 Intertoto Cup, losing to Troyes on away goals. In  2004, they reached the UEFA Cup Semi-Final, losing to Marseille.


The fiercest rivals are Sunderland with plenty of bad blood and angry words down the years. The two sides have met 154 times with Newcastle edging out their rivals with 53 wins to 51, with 50 games ending in a draw. Slightly less fractious relations are enjoyed with Middlesbrough, though this is generally felt more by the Smoggies - a nickname given to Boro folk due to the industrial pollution that once engulfed their town. The Tyne-Wear derby is unlikely to be revived any time soon with Sunderland stuck in the third tier and instead, trying to forge a rivalry with my own team. Wycombe Wanderers due to them not liking us playing to and slightly bending the rules. But aside from a few trolls on the internet, they are generally a decent bunch and it isn't really considered a real rivalry, more of a grudge match.


Being a one-team city, Newcastle United have many fans. There are too many to list here but the best include Jimmy Nail, Ant & Dec, Tim Healy, Sting and Brian Blessed.


This includes players from 1993 onwards, as I have set the rules to only include players that have been playing whilst I have been watching the game in a wider interest. May include some 1990s nostalgia and questionable selections due to Wycombe links

Tim Krul

Warren Barton
Phillipe Albert
Steven Taylor
Stuart Pearce

Barry Venison
Gary Speed
Rob Lee

Peter Beardsley
Alan Shearer
Faustino Asprilla


Players to have played for both clubs include Rob Lee, Steve Guppy, Steven Taylor, Mike Williamson Stuart Green, Viv Busby and Rolando Aarons. The two sides have never met in a first-team game but they did meet in the FA Youth Cup in January 2000 with Newcastle United winning 1-0 thanks to a late penalty.


I don't recall a whole lot about my first match visit to Newcastle United although I remember going on a tour of the ground the previous year and that is where my photos are from. It had become a tradition between me and my bunch of Wycombe supporting mates to have a weekend in the North East whenever we played up there. My ground-tour visit was on Sunday 27th November 2005, the day after Wycombe had beaten Carlisle United 1-0. I recall us staying in Alnwick for that one as that was where my mate Paul's Dad from and we also took his wife. The following year it was more of a lads based holiday but I forget where we stayed. I was joined by Paul again, along with Matt (who got the tickets) and Andy. This time the Wycombe result was not what we wanted and we lost 2-0 to Hartlepool United on the Saturday. Sunday came and we watched Newcastle United beat Portsmouth 1-0, thanks to a goal by Antoine Sibierski. I remember having to wait behind so the others could watch Manchester United draw 1-1 with Chelsea and we eventually headed for home around 7. I wasn't such a big drinker in those days, which was just as well as I was on driving duties.

I'd hankered after a revisit for a long while, especially as Newcastle is my favourite city. The opportunity finally arose in October 2021 when their game against Tottenham Hostpur was moved to 4.30 on Sunday for live TV coverage. I waited until tickets went on general sale which happened to be whilst I was at work. I ordered them whilst in a toilet cubicle skiving for a little bit. The process was not the easiest, with the cheaper £31 tickets only available in the family section. This was not a fact that they told you until you went to check out, so in the end, I had to pay £41 for my seat in the corner of their stadium. Whilst cursing Mike Ashley for his greediness, I knew that it would be a good weekend and that afternoon I booked coaches and hotel rooms for my stay away. There were significant developments in the ownership of Newcastle United in the intervening fortnight. Their owner, a flogger of cut-price sportswear and exploiter of staff decided to sell up. The new Saudi owners would potentially make Newcastle the richest club in football. There were cries of what about human rights as it was backed by the Saudi government who don't have the best record in that regard. But with the previous owner a big fan of zero-hour contracts and a warehouse that was described as like working in a gulag, it was all par for the course.

The day of the game came and I'd been to a Sunday League game at Easington Colliery. I had to wait 25 minutes for my bus so killed time by getting an energy drink and some mini eggs from a nearby shop. I was on my bus by 12.45 and after a change in Sunderland was at Eldon Square bus station by 2.10. There was a bit of a delay on the metro so I had my two cans of cider that were leftover from yesterday. I put my bag in a luggage locker for £4.50 and headed off to the Mean Eyed Cat. I had a superb pint of Myners Dry but stuck at the one pint as I'd had cans already and wanted to remember the game. The next stop was Taco Bell, a 10-minute walk away where I got a Volcano Burrito meal and a crispy chicken taco on the side. After that, it was to the ground with me on my seat half an hour before kick-off. There was a party atmosphere with their hated owner departing. It was a crazy place with people in Sheikh outfits and Saudi Arabian flags. It got off to the best possible start too, Newcastle taking the lead in the first couple of minutes. The only negative was the mobile signal. Utterly atrocious meaning I couldn't send or receive anything. The match report from Monday morning's paper is below.


It was a strange old game that Spurs won in the end. The game was held up for 20 minutes due to a medical emergency in the stands but if it saved a life, it was the correct decision. After the game, I went and picked my bag up from the locker and headed back to the Mean Eyed Cat for a pint of Twisted Desert Dry. Another pint was had Severn Cider New Orchard before I headed out for dinner. Dabawaal Bridge wasn't my first choice but all the other places were full. I had some kind of Madras with Masala chips along with a Mango juice. It was nice but the portions were very tight for the money paid. I then got the Metro to Gateshead Stadium and went to a brilliant pub called the Schooner. On the way, I met a fellow groundhopper who recognised me from Twitter, and we had a brief chat. At the pub, I had a pint of Ross Apple-Colypse for a bargain £3.50 before heading back to Newcastle. There was time for one more pint - a pint of Cheddar Valley at the Head Of Steam, one of the few late-opening places in a place that parties all day and night long. I was back at my coach stop 15 minutes before it was due to leave and despite it being nearly full, managed to get a double seat to myself for the journey. I must have got a few hours sleep and we were back in London at about 6.30. After getting a few trains and driving home, I was back within two hours, having enjoyed an unhealthy but fun weekend.


ST JAMES' PARK is one of my favourite grounds in the Premiership and is one f the larger in the Premiership. The capacity is around 54,000 and is unlikely to increase with the underground Metro train system and local university impeding further expansion. It is very close to the city centre, so there is no end of pubs and places to eat, which makes for a great day out. Views and legroom are great and with a passionate and friendly set of fans, I'm looking forward to a revisit.


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