If you have been a regular at Newcastle home matches, then you will have experienced some brilliant atmospheres at St James Park.

You will have also experienced some games played out in almost a deathly silence, especially taking into consideration there are over fifty thousand people inside the stadium.

The days are long gone when it was taken as a given that there would be a great atmosphere at St James Park whatever the circumstances.

It is a whole different ball game compared to back in the 70s and 80s and the days of terraces, we made our own fun back then and arguably the biggest attraction of going to the match, especially if you were younger, was the singing/atmosphere…the ‘experience’, rather than the actual football.

Which was just as well much of the time…

These days, the St James Park crowd is very much like the team, uninspiring a lot of the time and lacking spark, but still capable of better when the opportunity comes along…

Despite this reality, it doesn’t stop the media and former players of falling into the lazy cliches.

‘Always a brilliant atmosphere’…’The famous St James Park atmosphere’…’The crowd will be guaranteed to be right behind the team’…and so on.

That isn’t the case though. It is really an all or nothing thing at Newcastle home matches now (away games are a different matter naturally with everybody standing and spent time and money going to wherever).

When there is something for the Newcastle supporters to get behind, then it can be brilliant, as pretty much everybody joins in.

Whilst media and former players delude themselves, Rafa Benitez  knows the score.

In the lead up to the game he has been asked about the atmosphere.

He states that if Newcastle can play at a high tempo and get Manchester United on the back foot, then the fans will respond.

The United boss clearly understands that much of the time the football his team is playing, isn’t conducive to getting fans off their seats. It is just simple fact that Rafa hasn’t really had the players to try and play a pressing game and/or committing numbers forward, except against the handful of teams who are as weak as Newcastle – the likes of West Ham and Stoke.

Rafa Benitez has said a number of times since he arrived that he wants to add more pace to his team and just maybe we are now getting closer to that point.

Loan signings Kenedy and Slimani definitely add pace, whilst Murphy is now also emerging as somebody who deserves a more regular chance and also has pace. When you add in players such as Yedlin, Atsu, Hayden and Gayle who also have the necessary pace/energy, there is definitely the possibility forming of being able to play a more attacking, pressing game in these remaining matches.

Whether we see that today might be another matter.

Man Utd may not give us that many opportunities but if the Newcastle players who are selected today, can get the opposition on the back foot, then the St James Park will respond.

The best chance is if, as Rafa Benitez indicates, that Newcastle get at Mourinho’s team from the start. Getting the atmosphere going from the first whistle can only be a positive for both the crowd and players, and I think Rafa will be picking a team to try and do that.

Rafa Benitez:

“We have seen our team playing against top sides like Chelsea and Manchester United, scoring early and before them.

“We have been competing but not having enough to hold on to the result, so we have to learn to do that.

“If we start with a high tempo, push, and score a goal we need to keep doing it.”

Rafa asked if the atmosphere can be like that of Newcastle v Man Utd matches in the past:

“Hopefully it will be like that again.

“If we can create this type of pressure from the beginning and have an atmosphere, it has to be a positive for us.

“The only thing is we have to be sure we don’t lose our heads because we are too open because they will punish you on the counter-attack.

“But if we can keep the atmosphere hot it will create pressure for them.

“We want to be on top of them and be on the front-foot from the beginning, that would be fantastic.”

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  • StevieB

    They’ll need to be on point today , cause if it’s like a mortuary and Man Utd get into a rhythm we’ll get picked apart

  • Leicester Mag

    As someone that did not miss a home game from 1981 until early 2000s I agree that things have changed and no longer is the support automatic, however not once in that time did a Newcastle team however good or bad go out with the intent of sttiffling the game. Not once was the mindset that we could not hope to out play the opposition. Maybe Rafa has little choice with the lack of quality at his disposal. Underinvestment has given us a team that is workmanlike and that’s being kind. The reality is that most matches are turgid, lacking guile, skill and at times ambition. The fun and hope, the lifeblood of any club, has been squeezed out by Ashley and his pathetic minions. 11 years and counting sadly.

    • Martin Rooney

      TBF the premier league is like that for most clubs and fans, so technical these days can be a bore…..until days like today.

  • Leazes.

    The tactic of keeping the goal difference down is worth precisely one point. an imaginary point, and only when you are tied with someone in the bottom three does it become valuable.

    It means Rafa has it in mind and has done from the start of the campaign that this squad was going to suffer because that is where this owner has positioned the club.

    In can’t see what his inducement to stay is apart from being the third highest earner.

  • Geordiegiants

    I think this article has just been blown out of the water!

    • Paul Smith

      It’s the atmosphere in games where the fans expect us to be winning but things don’t go our way that are the problem. Games such as Burnley, Bournemouth etc.

      • Geordiegiants

        Its a 2 way street as far as I’m concerned. A bit of effort from both sides is what is needed these days.

  • Mitros gotta start

    Stunning today…..just stunning