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St James' Park Stadium - Newcastle United

St James' Park Stadium - Newcastle United
It only seems like yesterday that we were last planning a trip to the toon.

Who in their wildest dreams would imagine that less than 6 months later we`d be going there again but this time for Premiership points. Last time our expectations were high following a decent run and after turning the Magpies over at Bloomfield. We were brought back to reality with a 4-1 thumping. One thing this league is, is that it`s unpredictable so after we won 4-0 at Wigun and Newcastle won 6-0 against the Villa I reckon the only bloke going to be close to getting the score right will be the last blokes to predict on Soccer Am = 18-12 but god knows who to..

How To Get There

M55, M6 NORTH. Leave the M6 at J38 then take the 2nd exit onto the A685. After 4 miles join the A66 (Scotch Corner). Join the A1 North at J56. At the end of the A1(M) continue on the A1 and then the A184 towards Newcastle. Along this road, bear left onto the A189. Continue over the River Tyne on the Redheugh Bridge, from which the ground can be seen. Carry on straight up the dual carriageway (St James Boulevard). This leads directly to the Gallowgate end of the ground. Plenty of pay and display car parks in the area.

Alternatively stay on the A1 until the exit for Westerhope. Leave the A1 go straight over two roundabouts and then follow the signs for the Royal Victoria Infirmary (Queen Victoria Road) - parking here is in a multi storey and allows a reasonably quick getaway after the game'.

For The Virgin Lovers Amongst Us

Newcastle Central Railway Station is half a mile from the ground and is a 10-15 minutes` walk. Come out of the station, across the two zebra crossings and then head up the pedestrianised Pink Lane. Then cross Westgate Road at the top. Then up pedestrianised Bath Lane with the old city walls on your right. Turn right on to Stowell Street (Chinatown). At the end of Stowell Street bear left up St Andrews Street by Rosies Bar, under the ornate Chinese arch. Then left up Gallowgate. St James is on your right.

For those flying up on Samm Airways -Newcastle Airport is located seven miles away from the City Centre. The easiest way to get into Newcastle is to go by the Metro transit system. The airport has its own Metro station which is situated next to the passenger terminal. The journey time is 23 minutes. Change at Monument Metro Station for a Metro to St James Park Station

The Ground

St James` is the seventh largest football stadium in the country with a capacity of 52,387.

The site of St. James' Park was originally a patch of sloping grazing land, bordered by Georgian Leazes Terrace, near the historic Town Moor, owned by the Freemen of the City, both factors that later affected development of the ground, with the local council being the landlord of the site. Leazes Terrace was built c1830. The site was also near the gallows of the city, last used in 1844, lending name to the Gallowgate End. The stadium was first used by Newcastle United in 1892 after the unification of Newcastle East End and Newcastle West End, although football had been played there since 1880. Local resident`s opposition to football being played at St James' dated back to the first games in the Football League following the building of the first small stand at the Gallowgate End. A redeveloped gallowgate and further stands followed in 1899, bringing the first official capacity to 30,000 (standing).

In 1905, a doubling of capacity to 60,000, with a main stand on the Barrack Road (now Milburn Stand), and major other stands, produced a state of the art facility, even boasting a swimming pool. The second ever rugby league test match, and first test victory by Great Britain was played at the ground in 1908 against the touring Australian Kangaroos side on January 23, 1909.Between 1920 and 1930, plans were drawn up for a double tiered stand by notable football architect Archibald Leitch, however, after planning disputes, all that was achieved was a small roof over the Leazes Terrace side (East Stand).

In 1958 3 supporters attempted to bury a tunnel under St. James' Park so that they could play on the pitch at night. 5 days after they started work on the tunnel it collapsed, killing 2 of the men. Up until the 1960s planning difficulties continued, culminating in lack of development of the ground being cited as the reason for failure of Newcastle United to secure the right to host a group stage of the upcoming 1966 World Cup following political disputes. In the late 1960s further attempts were made to develop the site, and the council proposed a multi-use sports development of St. James' Park. This was rejected for not being financially viable, plans were drawn up by the club for a move to a stadium in Gosforth, or even a groundshare with Sunderland A.F.C. in a new stadium on Wearside. These plans were withdrawn in 1971 after agreement to redevelop St James' Park was finally reached, after mediation by the then Minister for Sport, Denis Howell. In 1972, work started on the East Stand, 50 years since it was last permitted to be developed. In 1978 the Leazes End was demolished, but relegation and financial difficulties meant the new stand was not built.

Investigations following the Bradford City stadium fire in 1985 identified a need to replace the ageing West Stand which was demolished in 1986. Its replacement, the Milburn Stand, was named in honour of Jackie Milburn and opened in 1987. Further development was again shelved for lack of finance.

Until the early 1990s the ground had received only modest expansion under various owners, with plans dogged by dispute and lack of finance due to poor on-field performances. In January 1992 businessman Sir John Hall, who had led the Magpie Group consortium in a hostile takeover the club, was installed as chairman. John Hall used his experience in property development to rapidly gain approval and invested heavily in the stadium with finances gained from success under new manager Kevin Keegan.

The Leazes End that had been demolished but not replaced was finally rebuilt, and opened as the Sir John Hall stand for Newcastle's debut season in the Premiership in 1993. The Gallowgate End was rebuilt, the Milburn Stand modified, and a new pitch, drainage and floodlights were installed. With all four corners filled in with seating, by 1995 the stadium had reached a capacity of 36,610.

The club proposed expansion of St James' Park to over 52,000 capacity, through major construction of a second tier over the Milburn Stand, Leazes End and adjoining corner, replacing construction that was itself just 4 years old. After a refusal by the Secretary of State to take the application to an enquiry, permission was obtained in July 1998. For minimal disruption to seating capacity during construction, the project required 3-day shut downs of work on home match days. Just 750 seats were lost during construction. During this expansion, executive boxes in the East Stand were demolished and replaced by seating blocks from pitch level up to the existing rows, in a mirror image of the Milburn Stand. The executive boxes were transferred to the new Milburn/Leazes complex, with more added to the Gallowgate End. During development, the additional stand and roof was constructed while leaving the existing cantilever roof intact until the last possible moment. These developments increased capacity to approximately 52,143. The construction was completed in July 2000 at a cost of 42 million. Ironically, after opposition from local residents to the relocation plan, the expansion of the current ground at the Leazes End has further reduced the view of Leazes Park from Leazes Terrace, although this is now student accommodation.

The 1998 redevelopment caused controversy when the club informed 4,000 season ticket holding fans that their seat prices would be increased to corporate rates, with the option of paying it or being moved to seats in the proposed expanded sections. Half of these fans were 'bondholders', who had paid a 500 sum in 1994 which they asserted guaranteed them option on their specific seat for 10 years. Some fans resisted, and after two high court cases and a Save Our Seats campaign, the club was allowed to move the fans, due to an exceptional circumstances clause. As a gesture of goodwill, the club did not pursue the fans for legal costs awarded over their insured limit. In late 2003 in pre-emption of proposed relaxation of the UK gambling laws, the club signed a deal with MGM Mirage to hand over the land above St James Metro station, behind the Gallowate End, in return for an equity investment, to build a jointly run complex centered on a 1,000 square foot Super Casino. These plans failed when the proposed number of super casinos was reduced to 1 in the UK, and in January 2008 5 million was repaid by the club to MGM.

In 2005 the Gallowgate was redeveloped, with a new bar being built beneath the upper tier of the Gallowgate End, named 'Shearer's'' after Newcastle player Alan Shearer. During excavation underneath the stand during building work, the builders uncovered the original steps of the old Gallowgate End stand, which had simply been covered up when the stadium was fully renovated in 1993. These steps were removed for Shearer's Bar. The completion of the redevelopment of the Gallowgate saw the creation of Shearer's Bar, an expanded club shop, a club museum and a new box office.

It was announced on 2 April 2007 that the club intend to submit plans for a new 300million development of the stadium and surrounding areas, to include a major conference centre, hotels and luxury apartments. The proposals also include a plan to increase the Gallowgate End, eventually taking the capacity to 60,000. This expansion would be funded by the city council and linked to redevelopment of the land behind the stand and over the Metro Station previously earmarked for the casino project. Expansion of the Gallowgate involves difficulties due to the proximity of a road, Strawberry Place, and issues surrounding reinforcement of the underground St James Metro station.

The 2007 redevelopment plans announced under the previous regime were put on hold since the takeover of the club and its plc holding company by owner, Mike Ashley. One of the first noticeable changes in the stadium in the new era was the removal of advertising mounted underneath the roofs (facing the crowd) for Shepherd Offshore and Cameron Hall Developments, companies associated with the previous regime. A large advertising sign for Sports Direct appeared on the lip of the roof of the Gallowgate, visible from the pitch. This was criticised by certain fans as 'tacky'.

A full review of the club performed by the new management team concluded that stadium expansion was not a priority. For the start of the 2008-09 season, the away section was moved from the corner of the Leazes stand/Milburn stand to the other end of the Leazes stand where it butts onto the East stand, at the same upper level. Its white cantilever roof is visible across the city, and is the largest cantilever in Europe.

Besides club football, St James' Park has also been used for international football, will be used as a football venue for the 2012 Olympics and has been chosen by England as a venue for the 2018 World Cup and will also be used as a rugby venue for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

We`re located in the Upper Tier of the Sir John Hall Stand.

Where To Drink

The ground is right in the city centre. Take your pick, Quayside, Bigg Market all full of boozers. Away designated pubs are located around the train station. Shearers Bar seemed popular last time round.The 'A Head Of Steam' 'The Lounge' and 'O'Neills' Wetherspoons - The Union Rooms etc.

Ale is on sale inside the ground.

Plod & Stewards

Took all of 5 minutes before plod came and paid us a visit, 'please sit for your own safety`, stewards kept a relatively low profile until the end of the game

Fear Factor Rating - 2.

There`s a terrible run of away games coming up and out of the next 3 this looks our best chance of getting any points on the road. There`s not much time to learn in this league as I`m sure Newcastle realise too, here`s hoping that history doesn`t repeat itself and that come 5pm the tangerine faithful are living the dream.

Onwards + Upwards

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Date:Wednesday September 8 2010
Time: 8:10PM

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