Having held season tickets at Roker Park and the Stadium of Light and very much considering myself a Sunderland fan, this was a difficult one to write.
Not because I have any dislike of St James’ Park, far from it, but I fear any critique of the stadium will have me accused of bias. But I have to point out there are flaws, and not just the ridiculously narrow turnstiles for us famously slim line Geordies.
The flaws are, of course, that this feels like two or three entirely different stadiums. Two sides of the ground have been redeveloped into towering skyscrapers that dominate the city skyline and are nothing short of spectacular. I have no doubt that if Newcastle United had managed to have four sides of their spectacular cantilevered stands this would be the best stadium in Europe, if not the world.
As it is, it just looks a bit lop-sided and having two spectacular glass exterior stands alongside a concrete monstrosity is weird. I love the weird concrete 60s multi-storey car park look, it’s genuinely fantastic, but you turn a corner and there’s the modern Milburn Stand. Either stick with weird dated character or sexy sleekness. But the two don’t mix and match.
I was pleased whilst walking past the Milburn Stand that a topless Geordie waltzed ahead, enforcing every north east stereotype ever, and I can only apologise for the smutty flesh-fest that this previously family-friendly blog has become.
Another weird quirk of St James’ is how much of the ground is a car park. Any available space around the stadium is available for pay and display parking, you can even drive into the bloody stands and park up! I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.
There are plenty of stairs around St James’, always a fantastic sight to see these packed with fans making their fortnightly pilgrimage, and overall you can’t really knock the home of Newcastle United.
This could be a stunning world-class stadium. As it is, it’s still great fun, very nicely decked out and yet still full of character.
Oh and they have a paper mâché Alan Shearer playing handball in the foyer. Or at least I think that’s what it is.