Miles away from home: The Hoppings, California style! And a cackling Dick Advocaat

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Think of The Hoppings. Then multiply it by 10.

That’s the scale of the California State Fair.

Well, they do say everything is bigger in America.

It’s so huge there’s a monorail which circles the sprawling site.

The fair was in full swing, literally, when Newcastle United took on Sacramento Republic on Saturday night.

Bonney Field is nestled on the edge of the Cal Expo site, and monorail passengers got a good, but brief, view of the game as they passed the stadium.

California State Fair

California State Fair

It made for an unusual backdrop to the club’s second tour game in the USA.

I wandered through the fair to get a taxi after the match. There were the same over-sized stuffed toys being offered as prizes, and similar rides, to its equivalent on Tyneside.

However, unlike The Hoppings, there’s no danger of of the California State Fair being rained off.


For one night, Newcastle United and Sunderland were staying a block away from each other in Sacramento.

With Premier League teams spread far and wide across the world for pre-season, the North East’s two representatives found themselves in the sun-baked state capital of California.

Unbeknown to me, Sunderland had checked into my hotel, which was a few hundred yards from where Newcastle were staying.

I heard a loud cackle as walked towards reception the other afternoon.

The cackle, it turned out, belonged to Dick Advocaat, who was presumably less cheerful after his team’s disappointing 3-1 defeat to Club de Futbol Pachuca at Bonney Field that night.


I took a taxi to watch Newcastle United train at California State University, Sacramento, late last week.

The team were preparing for Saturday night’s friendly against Sacramento Republic.

It just so happened that the cab driver, a Californian, supported Sacramento – and Newcastle.

What are the odds?

But the taxi driver’s loyalties lay with Steve McClaren’s side for the match.

United, well suppported in the USA, won the game 1-0.

And they also won a few more friends during their stay in California.