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St James' Park
Newcastle United v West Ham United
Premier League
Sunday September 23rd 2007 - 1.30pm

By David Brown
(West Ham United fan)

1.We set off EXTREMELY early for this one knowing it was a 1:30pm kick-off, fortunately traffic was good and we might have pushed one or two limits along the way and made it to Newcastle shortly after 10am. We obviously had our expectations on how big the ground was going to be but the sight of it looming over the whole city as you drive towards it is something I’ve seen nowhere else! Despite being a good few miles away from our destination we could see the sheer size of it! We managed to find a parking space in a multi storey car park near the Newcastle Arena thanks to following another car adorned in West Ham colours. We jumped straight out of the car and headed in the general direction of where we knew the ground was “hiding“, a couple of streets later the stadium was gawping at us again (or maybe the other way around).
Once we had taken in our first look at the ground and found out exactly where we needed to be come kick-off we were given a few directions by a group of Geordie boys, the options we had to choose were listed in order of atmosphere, we had A) family B) one for the ladies or C) “gentlemans banter“. We asked what they thought we should do and they frogmarched us to the bar they were going to, a couple of minutes later we reached a bar called Sam Jacks, now this place IS MENTAL! As soon the doors opened I feared for my life as the place was jam packed full of black and white shirts chanting at the top of their voices, once the initial shock had sunk in I became apparent that there was no hostility here whatsoever, we were patted on the back and asked “alreet mate” pretty much every step of the way to the bar.

Stood for a while at the bar having a conversation with one of the natives, I must admit I didn’t fully understand a word he was saying but it appeared he didn’t like Craig Bellamy, still seemed nice enough though and offered to buy my pint, his offer was soon rescinded when I pointed out my three pals behind me, I reversed the offer and bought the guy a drink, I think he said thanks but it sounded like “cars”?, I’m still getting to grips with the Geordie accent! I was given a lesson in Geordie by another lad I got talking to which included how to say Newcastle correctly (apparently its Newca-sle not Noo-car-stle??), and was finally told what TOON means, apparently its Town? (no, I’m not sure either?!). The atmosphere in the bar was amazing, almost as amazing as the girls on the stage! the DJ was full of jokes and we had a good laugh throughout (at the bits we understood obviously!). Luckily I managed to duck out of the ’away fans challenge’ which involved drinking a pint of cream, a pint of soda water, a pint of fresh orange and a pint of beer, I don’t think this would’ve been half as humorous had I been on the stage!
We set off for the ground at 1:10pm, once though the turnstile took on the task of climbing the 14 flights of stairs, we thought it would be good to race up these as quickly as possible but made it to the 6th flight before nearly passing out. Once at the top a few seconds were allotted to dancing like Rocky whilst shouting "adrienne!" before grabbing another beer served in the finest away fans plastic glasses. The prices seemed average for an away day and the food seemed to be going down well with the other fans who had travelled up.

On finding our seat the view was something else! We could see right across the city and despite our height had a brilliant view of the pitch. Although after only two minutes I wouldn’t have really cared if the pitch wasn’t visible at all as Mark Viduka headed Newcastle 1-0 up. We tried to give a good vocal account of ourselves against a loud contingent of the Geordie faithful to our left. A fair bit of noise seemed to be coming from the opposite corner of the ground too. Luckily our day was boosted on 30 minutes when Dean Ashton volleyed us level! Plenty of leg room means you can jump all over! Brilliant! Disappointingly though less than ten minutes later Mark Viduka shinned in his second of the game to put us 2-1 down. Half time came and went as did all hope we had of getting back into the game when the brilliant N’Zogbia put Newcastle 3-1 up on 75 minutes. Still leaving enough time for our defence to gift Martins a free run at goal, he took it past Rob Green yet only managed to hit the outside of the post with his shot, giving us at least one thing to cheer in the second half.
On full time we descended the stairs (seemed a breeze coming down) and shuffled our way to Shearers Bar which is built into the ground! This place is quite impressive, with pictures of the great man himself hanging on the walls. I had my first (and probably only) bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale in here whilst watching the Man United - Chelsea game on one of the million TV screens! Before our nominated driver who by this time had drank about as much Coca Cola as is humanly possible to stomach had the unenviable task of driving us home. On reflection it was without doubt one of the best away days I’ve had, everyone you meet seems to be there purely for football and to have a laugh and I think I'll be pulling stories from the day out for a good while to come! I’d recommend this trip (and Sam Jacks) to anyone. I’ll be back next year for sure! “wey aye man!!"
David Brown
Forever Blowing Bubbles

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