Miles Starforth's pre-season tour diary: Why Newcastle's draw against Porto was the exception to the rule

If I'm honest, I like pre-season, but I don't like pre-season friendlies.

Sunday, 29th July 2018, 7:04 pm
Updated Sunday, 29th July 2018, 7:12 pm
Miles Away From Home.

That might sound contradictory, but it's not.

Friendlies, all to often, are dull and sedate, but pre-season itself offers journalists a chance to spend more time with the manager and players, new and old.

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It's an opportunity to better understand what's happening off the field each summer and what will happen on the pitch during the season proper.

It's more relaxed and informal, and reporters get a better insight behind the scenes. Rafa Benitez and his players have been open, honest and available, and supporters back home should be better informed because of that.

The only problem in pre-season is the games, which are rarely memorable and often dreadful.

But there's always an exception to the rule, and last night's goalless draw against Porto at the Estadio do Dragao was a case in point.

Miles Away From Home.

The scoreline might be unremarkable, but as friendlies go, it was remarkable.

First, there was a crowd of 40,000 for the fixture, which was part of the club's 125th birthday celebrations. Sir Bobby Robson – who guided Porto to successive league titles in the mid-1990s – was also remembered before the game.

The sight and sound of the crowd rising to applaud Sir Bobby when a video montage was played was spine-tingling.

There was noise and there was colour inside the Estadio do Dragao. Hours before kick-off time, Porto fans were milling around the stadium, which came to life long before the first ball was kicked.

Estadio do Dragao.

The game itself was anything but dull or sedate, despite the scoreline suggesting otherwise.

Porto, the Portuguese champions, were a level or two above United. That was to be expected.

Yet they couldn't score. They were denied by DeAndre Yedlin, Jamaal Lascelles, Martin Dubravka, Karl Darlow and the woodwork.

Newcastle, defensively, were superb, though Benitez, understandably, was unhappy with his team's use of the ball. They lost possession time and again, and Porto kept coming back at them.

But Benitez got what he wanted, a competitive game played at a good tempo. United will be better for it.

United's 1,000 or so fans got a unique pre-season experience in one of Europe's most beautiful cities.

Can we play Porto every year?