St James Park has been named as one of the best stadiums in the world by former referee Keith Hackett.
Hackett reffed all over the world in a career during the 70s, 80s and 90s, eventually retiring in 1994.
When making his choice of Newcastle United’s St James Park at number five in his list of top stadiums, Keith Hackett relates a story from a Newcastle v Sunderland match that he refereed.
The game he refers to was the derby match on 25 April 1993 in the promotion season, when torrential rain beforehand meant the pitch was pretty much unplayable.
I have seen it suggested by a number of people in the past that the police had insisted that the match went ahead, but now we get confirmation from the horse’s mouth that this was the case.
A Scott Sellars free-kick (photo above) won the match and this could well have been the last time Keith Hackett refereed at St James Park as he retired the following year.
Keith Hackett talking to website You are the ref:
‘The Geordies make a hell of a noise and they cheer every ball.
I can remember arriving here to referee the North East derby between Newcastle and Sunderland, whose fans are equally passionate.
It had been pouring down with rain all night and the pitch was totally waterlogged.
It was obvious that there was a strong possibility the game would be called off but a senior police office explained that the city was full of fans of both clubs.
He said there would be a risk to public order if the game were called off – so we decided to go ahead.
When we tossed the coin the Newcastle captain looked at me and I said: ‘Just don’t kick it into the far corner, it’s a bit deep and I am a bad swimmer’.’
Keith Hackett’s 10 most memorable stadiums
2) Anfield (Liverpool)
3) Bernabeu (Real Madrid)
4) Old Trafford (Man Utd)
5) St James Park
6) Azteca (Mexico)
7) Highbury (Arsenal)
8) Hampden Park (Scotland)
9) Stamford Bridge (Chelsea)
10) Giants Stadium (New York Cosmos)