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St James' Park
Newcastle United v
Queens Park Rangers
Sunday 15th January 2012
Premier League, 2pm
By Mark Buckingham
(QPR fan)

1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):

From a young age, I have always had a soft spot for Newcastle.  Possibly because my Nan is a Geordie, possibly because I have a great amount of respect for Sir Bobby Robson and Alan Shearer (back when he was a national hero rather than a dull Match of the Day pundit).  I agonised at how close they came to taking the Premier League title from Fergie’s United before Keegan lost his marbles live on television.

The atmosphere at St James Park is legendary and I had always wanted to see QPR play there; when Newcastle were in the Championship a few years ago it was the first fixture I looked for…a midweek game coming just three days after I started a new job was not what I had been hoping for!  Now, two seasons later I decided I couldn’t miss the chance to visit St James Park again and as regular contributor to this site Ben Buckingham and the other QPR away day usuals decided they couldn’t justify the expense on the second weekend in January. I convinced 3 mates (who support Charlton, Blackburn and Brentford) to come up to sample Newcastle’s famous nightlife and take in the game the next day.

2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking?

We got the train up to Newcastle on Saturday afternoon. It took less than 3 hours from London Kings Cross and as there were four of us we had reserved seats round a table, armed with a crate of beer and looking forward to sampling the delights of the Newcastle nightlife.  The journey flew by and was so easy and direct. Coming out of the station, our hotel was a 10–15 minute walk over the Tyne Bridge.  When we got there I was pleasantly surprised to find the QPR team coach parked outside and Joey Barton in the reception area (probably tweeting!).  The ground itself was at the opposite end of Newcastle but still only a 10 minute walk from the station with plenty of pubs, bars, restaurants and fast food joints along the way.

3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?

Me and my mates spent Saturday night drinking large amounts of alcohol and not returning to our rooms until the not-so-early hours.  Newcastle provided a great night out with a big choice of pubs, bars and clubs and nearly all of them had free entry (a novelty for us London types). Needless to say come Sunday (matchday) we were all a little ropey. We started the day with Goals on Sunday. Zola was a studio guest and after a clip of one of his most famous pieces of skill he laughed and, in a thick Italian accent, said “for the rest of the game, the other team kicked the sheet out of me” which we found hilarious. As I mentioned previously, there were plenty of pubs to choose from for the pre-match build up, but we decided to chow down on some KFC and head straight to the ground, after bumping into a few more QPR players at the hotel and wishing them good luck.  Over the course of the weekend the locals were very friendly and there was never any sign of trouble.

4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?

Wow, where do I start? St James Park is massive. The away end is up in the Gods and it probably took us an age to climb the stairs to our seats. I think there were a few lifts which I would seriously advise those less able to take advantage of. The four of us are young-mid twenties and we struggled, although this is may have something to do with the horrendous state our bodies were in after the night before.  From our seats we could see the Newcastle skyline which was nice. The facilities were good, it was easy enough to get food and drink but I can’t help but feel the whole stadium is just starting to look a little dated and could use a lick of paint.  It was still a fantastic place to watch football however, despite the away fans (and anyone else sitting on the top tier) being so high up and far away from the action.

5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, toilets etc..

The game itself was a poor one. Mark Hughes had just been appointed QPR manager so there was a lot of interest from Sky (who were showing the match live) and QPR did indeed start brightly; hitting the bar twice from range and having a few other decent chances early on. Then Newcastle started to control possession and Best scored with a well taken goal about half an hour in and that was his side’s first (and last) attempt on target. The fact that QPR never really looked like equalising after a poor miss in the second half tells you all you need to know about the game. 

The atmosphere was a strange one.  It was very good in the away end at first, but much like the performance of the team, the energy and enthusiasm seemed to drain as an uneventful second half played out.  The Geordies seemed a bit lethargic too; the atmosphere was good at times but for much of the game they were quiet. The game was brightened up by some colourful characters sitting near us; there was an Asian Elvis who would shout manically to everyone and no-one whenever a QPR player made a mistake (very regularly) and there were a group of about 30 Dutch fans towards the back of our stand.  They were clearly made of stronger stuff than us as they looked like they hadn’t stopped drinking all weekend. They spent the entire second half jumping up and down, waving scarves and chanting.  One tried to climb up the stairs about 5 minutes after half time and could barely hold himself up, after some serious swaying and using the railings for support he still managed to fall into the laps of the 2 blokes between me and the aisle. The stewards duly led him away…only for him to return to a standing ovation and even more enthusiastic pogoing about five5 minutes later!

6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:

Again, the journey down the flights of stairs seemed to take forever, but getting out the ground was very easy.  In a nod to my usual away day routine of going to Frankie and Bennies with the Buckingham Boys before a game, I suggested to my mates we got some dinner there before heading back to the train station and London; another incredibly easy journey home although the amount of rubbish we were talking must surely have driven everyone else on the train mad.  The alcohol had probably worn off by that point but had been replaced by a touch of hangover insanity as we spent well over an hour coming up with words/music video/dance moves for a very simple song to accompany the drinking game ‘ping pang pong’. It was understandably too much for one member of our group who tried to block us out with headphones whilst trying to sleep.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out

Despite the game itself (which I left feeling pretty miserable about QPR’s lack of invention or quality going forward) the weekend as a whole was brilliant. I would thoroughly recommend a night out in Newcastle to anyone making a long journey there to see their team play as there are plenty of restaurants and nice bars for those who don’t wish to spend their evenings making shapes on the dance floor with a high level of drunken confidence but a very basic concept of rhythm.  The journey to and from London was so easy, and good fun with mates as well.  I would definitely go back if time and finances allow.

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