THERE was a chill wind inside St James’s Park.
The skies were blue and clear, but it was another grey, cold day for Newcastle United.
There were thousands of empty grey seats.
And the football played by John Carver’s side in yesterday’s 3-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur was a shade of grey, and it left those fans inside the ground cold.
Supporting the club used to be black and white.
Under Mike Ashley, it has become a grey area.
Those fans who chose to boycott the game in protest at United’s direction under Ashley – who was not at the ground – made their point.
The empty seats made a noise of their own in stadium which was, for the most part, quiet apart from the 3,000 travelling Tottenham supporters.
Newcastle need another win to be safe, but it’s hard to see this team getting a Premier League point, let alone a win, between now and the end of the season.
Carver’s side are 14th in the Premier League and botton of the six-game form table.
Those fans who chose to boycott the game in protest at United’s direction under Ashley made their point. The empty seats made a noise of their own in stadium which was, for the most part, quiet apart from the 3,000 travelling Tottenham supporters.
Only seven points separates them from third-from-bottom Leicester City.
And the only way is seemingly down for a team short of leadership, character and ability.
There have been some strange afternoons at St James’s Park over the years.
But surely few stranger than this one, which also saw a banner flown over the stadium celebrating Sunderland’s recent win over the club.
It was joyless, with the lifeblood seemingly having been long sucked out of those who chose to back their team.
Joyful and triumphant afternoons at the stadium are, sadly, a distant memory.
It seemed most eyes inside St James’s Park were on the stands as the players kicked off.
The game itself? Maybe not surprisingly, it lacked intensity. It had the feel of a pre-season friendly.
Played against a backdrop of grey seats, there was little colour to United’s play.
Ayoze Perez forced a near-post save from Michel Vorm with a shot from a Yoan Gouffran right-wing cross, but there were few moments to get fans from either side off their seats until Nacer Chadli’s 30th-minute intervention.
Yoan Gouffran, restored to the starting XI in the absence of the suspended Moussa Sissoko, gave the ball away, and Chadli took possession 30 yards from goal.
United backed off him, and the winger took several strides forward unchallenged before picking his spot.
Chadli squeezed the ball between Krul and the left-hand post.
The rest of the half was a non-event. Newcastle lacked intent, ideas and inspiration.
Carver made a double change for the second half – Sammy Ameobi and Gabriel Obertan replaced Gouffran and Mehdi Abeid – and within 20 seconds, United were level.
Newcastle broke down the right, and Jack Colback beat Vorm with a neat finish after Daryl Janmaat had a shot blocked.
But the relief was shortlived, with Christian Eriksen restoring Tottenham’s lead seven minutes later with an inswinging free-kick which evaded everybody – including Krul – on its way into the net.
It was a poor goal conceded by a poor team, a team that will do well to stay up this season.
Carver put on Adam Armstrong for the last 15 minutes, but there was an inevitability about Tottenham’s third goal, scored – inevitably – by Harry Kane.
Kane’s 30th goal of the campaign came from a quick break upfield, and led to a mass exodus of those left inside the stadium.
It was almost empty as referee Kevin Friend called time on a depressing afternoon on Tyneside.
The past few months have left United’s fans feeling empty.
Where the club once used to bring joy, it now brings pain.
No wonder so many are feeling numb.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Krul 5; JANMAAT 6, Coloccini 6, Williamson 5, Anita 5 (Armstrong, 75, 6); Abeid 5 (Obertan, 46, 5), R Taylor 5, Colback 6; Gouffran 4 (Ameobi, 46, 4), Perez 5, Cabella 5. Subs not used: Woodman, Sterry, Kemen, Riviere.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: Vorm, Dier, Fazio, Vertonghen, Rose (Davies, 82); Bentaleb, Paulinho (Mason, 88), Chadli (Dembele, 78), Eriksen, Lamela; Kane. Subs not used: Friedel, Yedlin, Townsend, Soldado.
Man of the match: Daryl Janmaat. United need more like him.
Highlight: There wasn’t one, though boycotting fans, at least, made their point.
Lowlight: Newcastle’s defending. Again.
Goals: Chadli 30, Colback 46, Erikson 53, Kane 90
Bookings: Colback 41, Paulinho 42, Lamela 45, Vertonghen 62, Cabella 63
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicester)