No better feeling than getting on the pitch at St James Park
With the end of the Sunday league season fast approaching, it was time to come up with ideas for something to do to celebrate our season.
We had achieved 26 points, doubling our points tally from the season before!
It’s not much but it’s progress.
One of the lads suggested playing on the pitch at St James Park, something that is available for a limited time after the end of NUFC’s season.
After looking into it, for 22 players it was going to cost £140 each. This would get us use of the changing rooms, 20 minutes warm up and a 60 minute match with FA officials.
I’d just spent all season pulling my hair out trying to get eleven lads to turn up on a Sunday morning, I was sure twenty two wouldn’t agree to that.
I was wrong, it took just two days to fill the teams.I split the sides as fairly as I could, although it is amazing how many of my friends had suddenly become centre forward when they are playing at St James’!
Monday 21st May 7.30pm arrived, we all met up at Shearer’s bar and headed in. We were given the changing rooms to the left and right of the tunnel, which are currently where the referees and away teams get ready. Luckily I was in the away changing room which used to be the home and straight away noticed the tile under a peg with “Bellamy” scratched into it. What a creative fella! Quickly changed I was off down the tunnel for a warm up on that hallowed turf.
Coming out of the tunnel onto the pitch was quite surreal. Having been to St James Park hundreds of times, I can’t say I’ve ever been when it’s empty and for some reason it felt twice as big. I just stood a few yards onto the pitch and looked around, I’ve spent so many hours of my life looking down at players on that very spot, it was a very strange sensation and well worth the money.
Warm up time and we were told that we could use the warm up goals and not the match goals before kick off.
Well that wasn’t happening, I was playing centre back in the match so probably my only chance to stick it in the back of the net was right now.
As the lads set off to each end of the pitch to warm up, I set off towards the Gallowgate. Knocking the ball ahead of myself I reached the edge of the box and thought about the shot. Too risky from there, didn’t want to miss. I took another touch pushing the ball to about 10 yards out and smashed it! The ball hit the back of the net and I did what every toon fan would do and set off with one arm up in the air!
As for the match itself, I think the less said the better. I’ve never seen so many missed chances since Papiss Cisse’s last season on Tyneside! When speaking to the lads at half time they explained that once they were through on goal the thought of scoring at St James Park was putting so much pressure on them that they ended up bottling it, maybe the same happened to Papiss!
Eventually some scrappy goals actually crossed the line and the game ended a very pleasing 2-2. Now the best time came after the full time whistle and if I can recommend anything about play on the pitch in the future it’s this, get the final slot of the day. They run to such a tight schedule that after the game you have 10 minutes to get changed and out, however, as we were last there was no hurry at all.
We sat on the pitch for about 15 minutes after the game. Then we went away and got our phones to get some pictures on the pitch, dugouts, tunnel and changing rooms. After that I even had time to have a quick bath! I had to, just to say I possibly had a bath in the same place as Shearer, Speed, Robert and Given. Or since it’s now the away changing room, Salah, Aguero, Kane and Sterling.
All in all we spent about an hour after the match still in the stadium, which made the price more than worth it.
If you get the opportunity, do it. As a lifelong Toon fan it was one of the best days ever, if not the best. Don’t tell the wife that though!!
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