A nuthouse to rival Manchester City. It’s nigh-on impossible to predict what is going to happen at Newcastle United next: the club has endured dizzying highs, death-defying lows and some truly bizarre decisions over the years. But one thing is for sure: a match at St James' Park is a truly superb experience, and the tremendous atmosphere – in its day, arguably the best in the country – will leave you as just as exhilarated as a boozy circuit of the city centre may do later on.
But while United fans back the Toon to the hilt, there’s a true sense of loathing towards owner Mike Ashley and bewilderment at the way he’s running the club at present. The bizarre sacking of Chris Hughton – the popular boss who won Newcastle promotion in 2009-2010 – intensified this feeling, and Alan Pardew has got his work cut out if he’s going to stay the course of a five-year contract.
Baffling though the decision was, it wasn’t entirely unusual given Newcastle’s recent history. They’d endured relegation in 2009 after the brief and confusing returns of “Messiahs” Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer as managers. Prior to that, the Magpies have spent years veering between triumph and disaster – coming achingly close to winning the league under Keegan in 1996, but not quite making it over the line, despite an entertaining, goal-happy side including players like Shearer, Tino Asprilla, Les Ferdinand and David Ginola.
These days there’s a very English feel to Newcastle’s squad, with Steve Harper, Kevin Nolan, Sol Campbell, Joey Barton, Danny Guthrie, Wayne Routledge and Shola Ameobi all regulars. Geordies worship their No.9s, especially when they’re local lads like Shearer, or 6ft 3in Gateshead-born wrecking ball Andy Carroll, who burst into the Premier League and the England team – and was then sold to Liverpool on January 2011's deadline day, without a replacement lined up. That's Newcastle United for you.
Football is uppermost in many a Geordie mind, and appropriately, the unusual white cantilever roof of St James' Park is visible from all over town. With a capacity of 52,387, the ground is the third largest club stadium in England, and the sixth largest stadium in Britain. In full voice, it’s a genuinely menacing prospect for away players and supporters. In 2009 it was briefly and ludicrously renamed as “sportsdirect.com@ St James' Park”, which didn’t add any members to the Mike Ashley fan club.
The stadium is in Newcastle city centre – walk the half mile from Central Station or take a bus from the Gallowgate or Haymarket station. The underground Metro service also has a dedicated stop, St James Metro.
If you’re driving from the west, follow the A69 into Newcastle, cross the A1 roundabout and follow the A186 signed City. After two miles turn left, signed Arthurs Hill. After 200 yards turn right at traffic lights and continue into Stanhope Street – you’ll see the stadium from here. From the south, follow signs for Newcastle from the A1(M). Pass the Angel of the North and continue for a further three miles before turning off left on the A184 signed Newcastle. Continue for 1.5 miles then take the right hand lane signed A189. This takes you over the Redheugh Bridge which leads into St. James' Boulevard.
Explore the area using our interactive map – click, drag, zoom
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