ST James’s Park has hardly been a fortress for Newcastle United in domestic football over the past decade.
Yet in Europe, it’s another story.
United – who face Metalist Kharkiv tomorrow night in the first leg of their Europa League Round of 32 tie – are unbeaten in 22 games on home turf if the now-defunct feeder competition the Intertoto Cup is excluded.
Their last defeat at the stadium was the agonising loss to Partizan Belgrade in a Champions League qualifier in 2003.
Newcastle went out on penalties that night, with Aaron Hughes – who famously made his debut against Barcelona at the Nou Camp – missing the fateful last kick.
Since then, United have won 18, and drawn four, of their European outings.
Even if the Intertoto Cup is included, Newcastle have an impressive 11-game home unbeaten run.
Of course, the club was out of Europe for five long years.
And Alan Pardew’s side, having negotiated the group stage of the Europa League with a weakened team, need to play every game as if it’s their last from now on in.
Pardew will undoubtedly play a much stronger side against Metalist, who entertain United on February 21.
His team were well beaten 2-0 by Bordeaux at the Stade Chaban-Delmas in early December in their last group stage game.
Put simply, an inexperienced Newcastle side just weren’t good enough on the night. With the club already through to the knock-out-stages, his team lacked both experience and edge.
Pardew, rightly, was angry with the performance after the game.
It’s do-or-die time now.
Supporters – who know the odds are slim on European football returning to St James’s Park next season given the club’s lowly Premier League position – want the club to go as far as it can in the competition.
And given last month’s arrivals – three of which are eligible to play in the competition – why not? There’s now strengthen and depth in the squad.
But if Pardew and his players don’t pay Metalist the respect they deserve, the club will be out of Europe.
And who knows when it’ll next be back at St James’s Park?