Newcastle

For a fix of football and beer in a party city unlike anywhere in England, Newcastle is the place. Here in the once industrial North East, football was an escape from coal, ship-building and fishing. The landscape may have changed but the religion hasn’t.

Since 1892 and the foundation of Newcastle United, locals have flocked to a hill in the city centre: St James’ Park. Here, before the war at least, they witnessed one of the England’s most successful football clubs.

Main_Tyne bridge
Welcome to Newcastle/Maureen Davison

But United owe their existence to two cricket clubs, whose members formed rival football clubs, East End FC and Newcastle West End, in 1882. Playing at St James’ Park, West End were founding members of the Northern League and competed in the FA Cup. Rivals in both competitions, East End, operated on a more professional footing.

Merging in 1892 to form Newcastle United, the new club dominated the English game after the turn of the century.

A rivalry with Sunderland, the Tyne-Wear derby, was soon struck up, with historic ties dating back well before the arrival of football. Newcastle West End had already lost to Sunderland, in the FA Cup, on Guy Fawkes Day 1887, before the two modern-day clubs met in the league on Good Friday, 1901. A riot ensued. Hooliganism has marred the fixture ever since. It has also been responsible for managerial upheaval, for example, Ruud Gullit’s sacking after United’s defeat in 1999. In 2013, manager Paolo Di Canio enjoyed a rare moment of glory, a 3-0 for Sunderland at St James’ Park, their first there for 13 years.

Though not as fierce, the Tyne-Tees derby with Middlsbrough enjoys an equally long history – in the late 1880s, the wonderfully named Middlesbrough Ironopolis were the dominant side in the Northern League, over Newcastle East End and West End.

Beehive inside
Beehive/Maureen Davison

United have always been the dominant club in Newcastle but there’s always been a thriving junior and lower-league scene in and around the city.

Paul Gascoigne played for Gateshead Boys before being taken on at Newcastle. Gateshead FC, in adjoining Gateshead, compete in the Conference Premier, England’s de facto fifth division.

Revived from liquidation in the 1970s, the club are best known for signing the great Wembley Wizard Hughie Gallacher, shortly before the war – and their heroic cup runs shortly afterwards. Taking notable scalps, including Liverpool’s, Gateshead also made quarter-finals of 1953, when Bolton could only beat them 1-0 on the way to the Matthews final.

In May 2014, Gateshead came within 90 minutes of a place in the Football League, but lost out to Cambridge United in the play-off final at Wembley.

‘The Heed’ play at the Gateshead International Stadium, a world-famous athletics arena, but are building their own ground in the city centre. When a new running track was being laid down in 2003, Gateshead played at Filtrona Park, home ground of South Shields FC, currently in Northern League Division 2 after a chequered history. Opponents include local rivals North Shields, FA Amateur Cup winners in 1969. One division higher, Whitley Bay won the FA Vase in 2011.

At the far end of Hadrian’s Wall, in Wallsend, players of the calibre of Peter Beardsley, Alan Shearer and Michael Carrick started their careers at Wallsend Boys Club, who were able to open their own football centre in 2011.

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Newcastle

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Newcastle/St James\' Park: 54.975556, -1.621667
Gateshead International Stadium: 54.960732, -1.581321
Newcastle Central: 54.969071, -1.617264
Sandman Signature: 54.973688, -1.621817
Malmaison Newcastle: 54.970803, -1.600420
Jurys Inn Newcastle: 54.965988, -1.622058
Copthorne Hotel Newcastle: 54.967234, -1.611094
Hilton Newcastle Gateshead: 54.966366, -1.605556
Premier Inn Quayside: 54.968787, -1.606023
Surtees Hotel: 54.970091, -1.609595
The Vermont Hotel: 54.968875, -1.609872
Grey Street Hotel: 54.971024, -1.610443
The Centurion: 54.969063, -1.616403
Head Of Steam: 54.969521, -1.615563
Mile Castle: 54.970076, -1.616546
Keel Row: 54.972510, -1.617613
Five Swans: 54.977800, -1.611773
Akenside Traders: 54.969400, -1.608054
The Beehive: 54.971176, -1.613161
The Old George: 54.971576, -1.612375
Fluid Bar: 54.973953, -1.618416
The Back Page: 54.973430, -1.618668
The Ware Rooms: 54.973358, -1.607772

Bearings

Newcastle Airport is 10km (six miles) west of town. The Tyne & Wear Metro takes 25 minutes to reach the city centre, trains leaving every 12mins from the platform by the airport. Tickets are £2, £3 return and £3.50 for a day travel pass. If coming straight to the stadium, then just change at Monument for St James’s Park metro station.

Bus No.353 also runs to the city, the X77, X78, X79 back to the airport – Traveline provides ticket and timetable information. Official airport taxis (+44 191 214 6969) deliver you to the city in 20mins for around £25.

Newcastle-Gateshead Hilton
Hilton Newcastle-Gateshead Hotel/Maureen Davison

Bed

The Newcastle Tourist Information Centre has an online booking service. The swish four-star Sandman Signature, in the shadow of St James’ Park, stands on the site of the famous Newcastle Brown Ale brewery. As well as offering match-day packages, it houses the Shark Club Bar, popular pre- and post-match.

A spot in lively Quayside also allows easy passage from bar to bed. The pick are Malmaison overlooking the Tyne and the Jurys Inn, with views of the Tyne and the stadium. The Copthorne is the home of The Quayside Bar, while the Hilton is worth the money for its bridge-side location alone. More affordable are the Premier Inn Quayside and Surtees.

For upscale downtown, try the Vermont and Grey Street.

Fluid bar outside
Fluid Bar/Maureen Davison

Beer

From the moment you arrive at Central Station, you hit bars. The Centurion, a former British Rail first-class restaurant built in 1893, has been lovingly restored. Opposite the station, the recommended Head of Steam is another ideal starting point. TV football is close at hand at the Mile Castle. Keel Row and the Five Swans are other busy venues in the same Wetherspoon chain.

Another great place to watch the game is the Ware Rooms, all bare brick and contemporary design, with DJs at weekends and big-screen sport. It’s also attached to upscale hostel accommodation.

For a night on the Toon, venture down to the Quayside via the Bigg Market. Among the many options, Akenside Traders is good for sports. Equally old school and sport-focused are the Beehive (2 High Bridge) and the Old George, behind the Bigg Market, while the Fluid Bar is handily located on Gallowgate.

BackPage Front
The Back Page/Mick Edmundson

Shop

There can be few better football stores than The Back Page in St Andrew’s Street, an oasis of football DVDs, programmes and postcards from the Toon and way, way beyond.


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