Inside an empty St James's Park: The story of a remarkable Newcastle United restart

Three goals and a home win. Is this the new normal at Newcastle United?

Sunday, 21st June 2020, 5:57 pm

Just imagine how a full St James’s Park would have reacted to this 3-0 win over 10-man Sheffield United – and Joelinton’s first Premier League goal since last August.

So 113 days after a last outing at St James’s Park, a forgettable draw against Burnley in late February, Bruce’s side returned to the field at a disinfected, sanitised and near-empty stadium.

Fortunately, the outcome was more memorable. Newcastle played with intelligence and intensity, and the only shame was that supporters had to watch it at home.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Joelinton.

And that’s the thing. The players were the same and the stadium was the same, but everything was different.

So much has changed off the field since Allan Saint-Maximin was mobbed by his team-mates in front of 2,900 fans after scoring the club’s winner at Southampton’s St Mary Stadium on March 7.

There was no social distancing then as fans celebrated the goal, and the world has changed, dramatically, over the past few months.

We just don’t know when fans will will experience the joy and pain of watching their team at St James’s Park and around the country.

Matt Ritchie.

What we do know is that it will be a very special day when they do return to worship their team at the city’s footballing cathedral on the hill.

That day will come. For now, they must watch at home. And there were millions watching the return of Premier League football to St James’s Park.

Some of the matchday rituals were the same – the teams were read out and music was played on the PA system – but the sight and sounds of a Premier League game being played in an empty stadium were very unusual, even surreal.

It had been suggested beforehand that an empty stadium might help Joelinton, who had laboured up front before the lockdown. The striker, however, scuffed a first-half shot after being played in by Miguel Almiron.

Applause from the pitch and the bench, which had an overflow in the seats given the need for social distancing, punctuated the game as well as shouts from Matt Ritchie.

The sidelines were disinfected during the break by staff in hazmat suits, and thankfully Allan Saint-Maximin washed away the memory of that Joelinton miss in the second half after the visitors had John Egan sent off for a second bookable offence.

Enda Stevens swung and missed a low, left-wing cross from Ritchie, and Saint-Maximin beat Dean Henderson with a right-footed shot at the far post.

Then came a fierce strike from Ritchie, his first of the season, and the afternoon was capped by Joeltinon, who started and finished a move in the 78th minute.

In the sparsely-populated directors’ box, Lee Charnley, the club’s managing director, was sat alone.

Charnley may not be there for too much longer if the proposed £300million takeover is given the go-ahead.

Newcastle fans, at least, have something to cheer about while they wait for a Premier League decision which has seemingly been coming longer than that Joelinton goal.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper.

Thank you

How to subscribe to the print edition

It’s easy to subscribe to your local newspaper. We have arranged a special 20 per cent off subscription offer for people to take advantage of. Visit www.localsubsplus.co.uk, choose the newspaper title, the type of subscription and enter your details.