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St James' Park
Newcastle United v Stoke City
Saturday 21 April 2012
Premier League, 3pm
By Dominic Bickerton
(Stoke City fan)

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

I was really looking forward to this game as it was a chance to have a day out with a few mates and visit a ground that none of us had previously been to. However, I wasn't looking forward to the inevitable result of this game; Newcastle were on an impressive run that saw them 5th in the league with the chance to move into the Champions League positions should they beat us. Meanwhile, Stoke had only won 1 of their last 6 games and were currently producing some rather pathetic performances.

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

Finding the ground was no problem at all. We arrived at Newcastle Central Train Station a few hours before the game and followed the mass of black and white shirts up to the ground which took us about 10 minutes.

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

Before the match we visited Shearer's bar, which is actually part of the ground. I was thoroughly impressed with the bar as it serves a wide selection of beers on tap and the locals seemed to be very friendly; this could have due to the fact that we weren't wearing colours, however, I saw a few other Stokies in colours that seemed to be getting along well with the Geordies.

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

Our first impressions of the ground was just amazement at how big it looks from the outside, so we couldn't wait to get into the away end and see the ground from the inside. I had seen a few pictures taken from the away end, but they can't prepare you for how colossal the ground really is. After going through the away turnstiles we made the tough journey up God knows how many flights of stairs before reaching the concourse. Whilst trying to catch our breath we ventured out into the away end and were simply in awe of the place. It is huge! The view is simply incredible and is the best I have experienced at any football ground I have been to. If you haven't been, then you're missing out on what has to be one of the best grounds in the country.

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

As I mentioned earlier, we weren't expecting a good result here and we certainly didn't get one. We started the match fairly well with the goal-shy Jon Walters ballooning an early chance that should have at least tested Tim Krul. We were made to pay for our wastefulness when, on 14 minutes, Cabaye put Newcastle 1-0 to the good after reacting quickly to nod in Cisse's header that had bounced back off the bar. This didn't spell good news for the Potters and 4 minutes later we were punished again. Cabaye slid a ball through our paper bag defense and Cisse easily directed his shot past Begovic to all but seal the 3 points with 18 minutes on the clock. After an awful start from the Potters we somehow managed to get to half time only 2-0 down.

During half time I ventured down into the concourse. The toilets were fine but the bar quickly ran out of food which was quite annoying considering that we hadn't taken a large following. After watching the latest scores from around the country, I made my way back out for the second half.

The second half started much like the first had ended with Newcastle completely dominating and nicking an early goal, which, to our relief, was ruled out for offside. However, our relief was short lived when the ball broke to Cabaye, who curled in a sublime effort from just outside the box. 3-0 down after 57 minutes and the game was well and truly over.

The atmosphere in the ground wasn't as good as I was expecting, but then I imagine that most Newcastle fans were far too busy wondering how Stoke are in the Premier League with performances like this one! Despite the Newcastle fans not being as vocal as I first expected, the noise when they scored was absolutely deafening. The was the only downside of the away end being so high; you can see almost every Newcastle fan celebrating. Not fun when it happens three times! The travelling Stokies were in good voice and even did a conga through the away end - with such poor away performances our travelling fans have to do something to keep their spirits up.

As for the stewards, they didn't really get involved and seemed to be decent.

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

After full time, we left the ground quickly and were back at the station in about 10 minutes.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:

The day was brilliant. Having a few drinks with mates and visiting a new ground is always a good experience, but we agreed that it was the best ground we had been to in some time and thoroughly enjoyed our time in Newcastle despite the result. I would thoroughly recommend it those who haven't been.

Are you an away or general football fan who has visited St James' Park recently?
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