It seems many fans agree the atmosphere at St James’ Park isn’t what it was.
For those who remember the terraces heyday of the 1970s and 80s, and the high-octane ‘Entertainers’ era, the match-day stadium of 2017 is sometimes more like Sleepy Hollow than the fearsome bear pit it once was.
The irony is that more people today watch Newcastle United week in, week out than at any time in the club’s history.
The Magpies pull in more than 50,000 for every home Championship game.
Incredible numbers, but if most of us are sitting with our arms folded, waiting for something to happen on the pitch, it’s not generating much atmosphere.
It’s a universal and long-standing issue, of course. Roy Keane’s famous “prawn-sandwich brigade” comment about the passive crowd at Old Trafford came as long ago as 2000.
All-seater stadiums are preferable in almost every way to the free-for-all, and sometimes dangerous world of 1970s and 80s terraces.
Unfortunately, they have also nullified, to a large part, the spontaneity, excitement and edginess that was once part and parcel of going to a football match.
At St James’ Park, the commendable Gallowgate Flags fans’ group is trying to address the sometimes sterile atmosphere at the stadium.
Spokesman Alex Hurst says: “It’s evident that a large proportion of like-minded fans want to sit together at St James’ Park. Until we have safe standing it would be great to see the club allow like-minded supporters who want to make a noise, do so.
“This doesn’t just have to be one block of the ground, but to spread noise it could be one block per stand across the ground. Whilst it would involve some fan relocation, it is not an impossible task.”
Another fans’ group, Wor Hyem 1892, also wants to “bring back the noise”.
Matt from the group says: “Negative atmospheres never create motivation. Backing the team, the manager and the staff is what we need to see at St James’ Park.”
There is nothing like the sound of a roaring, baying St James’ Park in full voice. You can feel it in your guts.
We’ve picked 10 games from between 1974 and 2010 which “probably” had the most rip-roaring atmospheres.
It’s purely subjective, of course. Any others we could have included, do let us know.
10. Newcastle 5-1 Sunderland, 2010:
One of the few occasions the enlarged, post-2000 stadium has come fully to life. Three-nil up at half-time, Titus Bramble sent off, and a Kevin Nolan hat-trick. The city of Newcastle partied long, hard and noisily into that Halloween night.
9. Newcastle 5-4 Leicester, 1990:
There were only 20,785 fans at a very ramshackle St James’ for this game, but what was lacking in numbers was made up for in genuine passion and enthusiasm. United found themselves 4-2 down, only for three quick-fire goals to spark a late, late 5-4 win and pandemonium on the terraces.
8. Newcastle 4- 3 Manchester United, 2001:
Bobby Robson had quickly turned the Magpies into a potent Premier League force. This was a barnstorming end-to-end game. With eight minutes to go, and the scores at 3-3, a Wes Brown own goal brought the house down, before Roy Keane lost the plot and saw red after a head-to-head with Big Al. Priceless.
7. Newcastle 3-2 Barcelona, 1997:
Just a few years earlier we’d been playing Brentford and Barnsley. Now, seeing Luis Figo and Rivaldo stepping out in the colours of mighty Barca felt somewhat unreal. The first half was, arguably, the most frenetic ever witnessed at Gallowgate. All hail Faustino Asprilla.
6. Newcastle 5-0 Manchester United, 1996:
The high point of the ‘Entertainers’ era . We’d never had it so good. The match stats are well-documented, but the 36,000 crowd sounded more like 72,000 with grown men leaping across the seats as the goals rained in and Fergie’s face turned puce.
5. Newcastle 7-1 Leicester, 1993:
A veritable carnival of a match. The sun blazed as already-promoted United ran riot in the last game of the season. The Gallowgate End terrace erupted six times in celebration in the first 45 minutes alone as Andy Cole and co went to work. The official attendance was 30,129, but thousands more had managed to get in.
4. Newcastle 2-0 Sunderland, 1976:
Ah, the Leazes End. Fifteen thousand of us were jam-packed in there for this game, with banners, scarves, flying toilet rolls – and the odd bottle whizzing overhead! There were 10,000 Sunderland fans opposite in the Gallowgate End. Talk about battle lines! In the first Tyne-Wear derby for six years, goals from Alan Kennedy and Paul Cannell sent the bulk of the 50,000 crowd wild.
3. Newcastle 1-0 QPR, 1982:
Kevin Keegan brought much joy to the fans of Newcastle United as a manager and player. When the England superstar first arrived at St James’ Park, it was one of the most sensational stories in the club’s history. For those of us in the Gallowgate End who celebrated his winning debut goal like 12,000 leaping dolphins, it was an experience that will never be forgotten.
2. Newcastle 3-1 Sunderland, 1985:
The ‘New Year’s Day’ victory that would be celebrated in song. Under the floodlights and a black Tyneside winter sky, this encounter was one of dark intensity and almost tribal hostility. On this occasion, yours truly was in the Gallowgate ‘corner’ where fans went berserk as Peter Beardsley transcended the warlike atmosphere to bang in a hat-trick.
1. Newcastle 4-3 Nottingham Forest, 1974:
Video will play in
Gallowgate Flags’ Alex Hurst on their new plans
A mass pitch invasion and a result declared void notwithstanding, anyone who was at this FA Cup quarter-final will have it scarred into their memories. With United trailing 3-1 and reduced to 10 men, they were seemingly down and out. Cue a surging St James’ Park roar from the 54,000 present as the Toon fought back. When captain Bobby Moncur made it 4-3 in the dying seconds, St James’ Park went into unabashed, ear-splitting meltdown. Relief, redemption and exaltation dressed in black and white. The best.
Check out Gallowgate Flags at www.gallowgateflags.co.uk and Wor Hyem 1892 at www.worhyem1892.org.uk
Source : Chroniclelive