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Exclusive…Newcastle United, If You Know Your History!

11 years ago

You may have seen healthy coverage today of ‘Iconic Gates’ that are going to be restored to St.James’ Park.

I’m for anything that is positive on and off the pitch at Newcastle United/St.James’ Park and these gates will look canny BUT the actual facts have become a bit lost!

The ‘Iconic Gates’ rescued today.

This is what has been reported today, from Newcastle United and right across the media.

‘They were removed 14 years ago, during the redevelopment of the stadium, but soon the historic St.James’ Park gates will be back where they belong.Official NUFC Website

‘They were removed during the 1998/99 season during the rebuilding of the Milburn stand at the city centre ground and are being returned following discussion between the club, fans and the money-lending company.The Northern Echo

‘Following positive discussions between Club Officials, members of the NUFC Fans United group and Sir John Hall’s Magpie Group, on whose land the gates have been stored, Wonga has stepped in to provide the necessary funding for a famous homecoming.’ Official NUFC Website

SKY Sports News referred to the ‘Iconic Gallowgate End Gates’. SKY Sports News

‘Entrance gates that once welcomed Toon fans to St.James’ Park are beginning their journey home. They had pride of place at the Gallowgate End of the stadium for decades but the gates were removed in the 1990s and have been in storage at Sir John Hall’s Woolsington Hall in Northumberland ever since.’ Evening Chronicle

The real ‘Old School’ Iconic Gates

‘Historic gates which once stood proud outside St.James’ Park will today be hauled from a Northumberland estate to return to the Tyneside stadium. Sir John Hall’s Woolsington Hall has been the home of the rusting wrought-iron gates which stood at the Gallowgate End for decades during the last century .The Journal

We are very pleased to have worked with our supporters to see plans for the gates come to fruition. St.James’ Park is already an iconic stadium and the gates will create a focal point that Newcastle United fans will be proud of, and that all football fans will want to see when they visit the ground and the city. We look forward to seeing gates back in their full glory where they belong ahead of the new season.Derek Llambias – Managing Director Of NUFC

“Every fortress needs some imposing gates and it’s time for St.James’ Park and the fans to be reunited with these old friends.” Darryl Bowman – Marketing Director Of Wonga

This is an ongoing and lasting tribute to every Newcastle United supporter, player and club official who has ever entered the hallowed shrine that is St.James’ Park. Over time the gates can become a focal point that all Newcastle United supporters, as well as visitors to this great city will embrace.NUFC Fans United Spokesperson

Newcastle United fans will be able to step back in time next season. The famous old gates which used to stand at St.James’ Park, are to be restored and returned to the Magpies home. ITV News

The real story is slightly different from what has been said above, let me explain.

The gates that the story has been about today (pictured at the top of this page – click on image to enlarge and view a massive range of NUFC related photos including of St.James’ Park at The Mag’s Flickr Channel) did indeed stand at St.James’ Park but they weren’t at the Gallowgate End as some of the press comments above state, rather they were at the Barrack Road entrance to St.James’ Park, more or less level with the Leazes End of the ground.

As for the ‘Iconic Gates’ having stood for decades as mentioned several times above – well actually they stood at St.James’ Park for just over nine years, less than one decade!

Plus, where things really go awry is the comments regarding how old they are and references to their historic significance, they were actually only unveiled on Tuesday 12th December 1989! (See Journal article reproduced)

I have had loads of people ring/email me today asking what this is all about because they didn’t recognise these ‘Iconic Gates’ at all, well no surprise because in terms of the history of St.James’ Park/Newcastle United, nine years (taken down in 1999) is just a blink of the eyelid, particularly when it was so recent.

A lot of fans/friends who got in touch were quite excited because they thought it was the proper ‘old school’ gates that used to stand at the bottom of the car park at the Gallowgate End of the ground, on Strawberry Place. Now that would be a story if somebody located them (see photo – click on image to enlarge and view a massive range of NUFC related photos including of St.James’ Park at The Mag’s Flickr Channel) and they were put back up at the ground.

I still think the gates is a positive story but unfortunately for many fans I have spoken to it has been blighted by disbelief and disappointment that so many people, inside and outside of the club, are ignorant of Newcastle United and St.James’ Park’s history. As for the journalists at the likes of the Northern Echo, Journal and Chronicle, they should hang their heads in shame, particularly those at Thomson House. Regurgitating a press release is not reporting, a bit of care and attention should be the very least we expect when dealing with something so important to so many fans as the history of our great club.

One of the big ironies of this story is that it was under the Chairmanship of Gordon McKeag that these gates (the ones ‘discovered’ today) were erected. As most of you will be aware, Sir John Hall fought a bitter campaign to seize control of the club from the McKeag administration and now Sir John is wanting to be a big part of this ‘success’ story.

As for the fans involved not having any idea of where these gates sit in the history of Newcastle United, it seems very strange – maybe they weren’t around in the late eighties, it is the only explanation I can think of.

Why the club didn’t bother consulting their official historian Paul Joannou is a mystery, he no doubt could have given them chapter and verse in seconds.

Similarly, the legend that is John Gibson at the Chronicle could have again straight away explained the context of the various ‘Iconic Gates’.

I feel a bit like a cruel parent telling the kids that Father Christmas doesn’t exist but facts are facts and getting things right is important for those of us who really love the rich history of Newcastle United.

I welcome any initiative which involves the fans working with Newcastle United but everybody needs to up their game, remember this is the good name and history of Newcastle United we are dealing with here.

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