Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Newcastle United - St James' Park

27th October 2010

Newcastle United 0-4 Arsenal

“Look after your car, Mister?”  Those five words imbued with a mixture of pleading and threat, I am sure most of us Groundhoppers have heard at some point or another.  

I had only ever encountered the request previously around Parkhead, from the mouths of some of the most ragged arsed, bedraggled looking kids imaginable.  Each seemingly with 50% of their teeth missing, and the same weasely, ferrety look on their hard street-wise little faces – Macaroon Faces, a friend once described them.  One almost felt one was contributing to the Welfare State by shelling out.

So when I heard the words spoken in Newcastle after parking a few hundred yards up Stanhope Street, I was for a moment taken aback they were not uttered in an East End of Glasgow brogue.  Son and I had arrived a good couple of hours early, thinking we may get away with looking like locals and not have to fork out the protection money.  

But Son foolishly decided to get changed into his Arsenal top in the car (we had tickets for the away end), and four eagle-eyed urchins picked us out as easy prey - although they must have been more than slightly puzzled by our accents.

I only had a few pounds change so I handed this over, whilst attempting to smile and ingratiate myself with them.  As you do, or at least I do.  The look of disgust on their faces at the pittance I produced told me I should probably expect to lose at least two hub-caps and a wing mirror before the evening was out.  

Walking towards the ground, my paranoia shifted into overdrive and I began to fret – Arsenal supporting Jocks!  We almost deserved to find the car up on bricks after the match.  So I turned around back up the hill, got into the car and drove on – the little oiks whom I had paid to look after my car were, of course, nowhere to be found.  We eventually parked a mile further on.

Two Angels?   I think not.

I had no such trouble the only previous time I had visited St James Park, back in the early 1990s to witness the Toon eliminate Peter Shilton’s Derby County from the FA Cup.  Playing for the home side that day was a very well-nourished Mick Quinn, who made even my rotund figure look rather svelte. 

This match this evening was another cup tie, but of the Carling Cup variety and whilst both sides fielded a number of their big names, Joey Barton, Andy Carroll, Bacari Sagna, Cesc Fabregas and Andrei Arshavin all started on the bench for their respective clubs.  I felt Newcastle probably just shaded the first-half, with both Alan Smith and Nile Ranger coming close, but the home side conceded a silly own goal seconds before the break, Ryan Taylor whacking a clearance off the back of his own ‘keeper Tim KRUL and into the net.

Arsenal took just seven minutes of the second period to kill off the game, with another very odd goal.  Nicklas Bendtner returning from an offside position, simply barged into chasing United defender Mike Williamson, leaving Theo WALCOTT free to run in and score.  How the Gooners around us laughed, but I could not help sympathising with the home players who had been the victim of a gross injustice.  

Newcastle manager Chris Hughton threw on Andy Carrol and Jonas Gutierrez at this point, but it changed little, and Arsenal put a barely deserved gloss on the result with two further strikes through BENDTNER and WALCOTT again in the dying moments.   

Panorama of St James' Park, Newcastle.


  1. Would have been better if who ever took this photo had turned the flash off. The reflected light from the back of the fans heads draw all the attention away from the wonder that is, and always will be (regardless of the name change), St. James Park

  2. You are, of course, quite correct. But being a poor photographer is just one of my many character flaws. At least these fans had hair, I suppose. Had they all been baldies, the reflected light would have been retina-scorching.