When Neil and I got engaged back in December we received some pretty fantastic messages, cards and gifts from our lovely friends and family. Amongst these, to my delight, was a stadium tour of the glorious St James’ Park bought for us by our friends Aimee and James. Despite having been a Newcastle fan for my entire life I had never done this tour and was pretty excited to have the chance to tick this one off my Newcastle list!
We headed there today in the beautiful sunshine and were introduced to our tour guide – the funny, friendly and informative Carol. Over forty of us were on the tour and it was lovely to see many of Newcastle’s international fans there – we had people from France, Germany, the Netherlands and even Canada in our group!
Carol took us first to see the executive boxes at the stadium. Prices for these at Newcastle range from £28,000 to £65,000 for the season. I thought this was pretty ridiculous until I was told that the most expensive box at Chelsea is £1000,000 and at Arsenal is £1,400,000. What is actually wrong with London!?
That price, at least in St James’, doesn’t include alcohol and, what I hadn’t known until today, is that it’s actually illegal to drink alcohol when facing a football pitch. If those in a box want to enjoy a drink when watching the game they have to draw the blinds of their box and watch it on a television screen instead. Madness.
After discovering how the other half live we headed to the highest level to enjoy some fantastic views of the stadium and of Newcastle itself. We discovered at this point that due to it being such an old stadium Newcastle have loads of problems with their pitch and it’s currently being completely dug up, meaning it didn’t look quite its usual lovely self…
We were then able to head to the area of the stadium where the media sit and where there are seats dedicated to special people associated with the club. I took great delight in sitting in the seat of the late, great Bobby Robson and made Neil take an obligatory photo of me with the Newcastle crest.
Having admired the stadium from its best viewing point, we were next taken to the home and away changing rooms where Carol filled us in on all of the psychological tricks played on opponents. I literally had no idea, although I can see it makes sense, that away changing rooms are designed to just completely ruin the opposition. Apparently St James’ Park offers one of the better away changing rooms simply because it used to be the home one, but awkwardly shaped rooms painted in hideous colours, uncomfortable room temperatures and freezing showers are pretty much a given. The away changing room at Everton has toilets with no doors, Arsenal’s has a high table in the middle of the room to prevent the manager from making eye contact with their players and Southampton have a mirror that means that when away players go to the toilet they see themselves wearing a Southampton shirt. The exception to this rule was, apparently, Mourhino at Stamford Bridge; he preferred to use reverse psychology by giving away teams comfortable dressing rooms so that they let their guard down and could then be hammered on the pitch.
Our final stop on the tour was a trip down the tunnel and into the dugout. Carol blasted Local Hero for us as we walked down and we got to see the spot where the team sit during the games and learn about a couple more psychological tricks; the home dugout has 19 heated seats while the away dugout has an unlucky 13 seats which are, of course, unheated!
It wouldn’t be a proper blog activity without a pint and so after the tour we popped to one of Newcastle’s most famous pubs – the Strawberry – and enjoyed a quick drink whilst surrounded by memorabilia of this wonderful club!