Hello, and welcome a new series on ‘In The Dugout’! Here I will discuss my opinion on Premier League stadiums, and discuss the different features of each ground that I visit.
So, the other day I had a few hours to kill in Newcastle on the way back from a trip to County Durham, but I only had two hours before I needed to head back home, so I thought “hey, I know what I can do, I could visit St James’ Park, and make it into a feature for The Dugout!”, so I booked myself in for a tour, followed the instructions of the confirmation Email and headed over to the Milburn stand.
The first thing to strike you at the entrance is the bigger-than-life-sized bronze statue of geordie legend Alan Shearer, which is clearly there in honour of the now Match of the Day pundit, but the slightly distorted facial features do add a slightly scary look to him.
Then, I walked over to where I was meant to begin the tour, collected my Newcastle United Lanyard and tour-pass and was greeted by the virtual presence of legendary Magpies captain, Bobby Moncur, being projected onto a cardboard cutout of the man himself. He proceeded to explain why he is regarded as a toon legend and what would happen during the course of the tour.
Our tour guide, Patrick, then took us up in a lift to the executive boxes. He told us about the ownership of each box. My personal favourite was the YI box (say each letter aloud).
Patrick then took us up to the top tier, which gave a fantastic view of the iconic stadium. One thing I found particularly interesting about St James’ was the use of glass, combined with the abundance of white, which was a great way of allowing as much natural light in as possible. Another prominent feature is the contrast in height in the stands. It’s like two different stadiums have been cut in half diagonally and stuck together. One half is a super tall, modern stadium, and the other half is a traditional, simplistic ground. Patrick the tour guide explained that this was because of the row of grade-one listed buildings next to the stand and because if the stand had to go up, the foundations would have to go down, which would cause trouble with the subway station below. Hence, there are no plans to expand the stadium unless The Toon are achieving regular European football every year.
We then took a look at all the different boxes where the owners of each club and all the behind-the-scenes staff sit on matchday. Patrick explained how Steve McLaren would like to sit about 6 rows up from the field, rather than in the dugout, he even had a tactical desk with a stream on a 15-second delay installed. This contrasts with current manager, Rafa Benitez’s style, a very old fashioned, authoritative coach in the dugout, barking instructions.
Next, we went down to the dressing rooms and were told about the different styles of room in use. What’s now the away dressing room is a small, old fashioned and tight space, where the coach can’t make eye contact with every player at once. The strange thing is, that was, during Newcastle’s most successful years in recent times, the home dressing room. Kevin Keegan believed that a tight-knit, Sunday league style atmosphere would help to give the players a sense of pride to play for the club and give them the best feeling of togetherness, rather than the modern, pampered dressing rooms with fridges and ice baths. Patrick also said that Alan Shearer would always sit below a clock, in the centre of the room, which supposedly gave him the ability to score goals, but when St James hosted a few games at the rugby world cup in 2015, the all blacks were in there, and the clock disappeared when they did.
Finally, we walked out through the dugout and onto the pitch-side. We were told that the pitch is one of the only remaining Premier league pitches to be 100% real grass and that the different colour stripes on the pitch are created by the grass being cut at different angles. After some time to take pictures and take in the surroundings, we went back out, through the away side entrance and finished the tour.
Overall, the tour of St James park is a great experience, for both Newcastle fans and non-Newcastle fans. The stadium is very unique and has one of the richest histories of any ground in the UK. I would definitely recommend it to any football fan. If you ever go to Newcastle, go here!
I’d also like to say a massive thanks to both Newcastle United and our tour guide, Patrick, for making this whole thing possible, and for providing a really interesting, informative experience.
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