January 28, 2009 – Gateshead International Stadium
Under consideration for my second night away in Newcastle was a trip to the north of the city and Kingston Park where Newcastle Blue Star play their home games.
Unfortunately, their Unibond League match against Lancaster City was called off – for what reason I am not sure – leaving a quick Metro ride across the Tyne to Gateshead as an obvious option for the season’s sixtieth game.
I had my doubts whether this one would be on either. The area was engulfed by thick fog in mid afternoon prior to the game, but thankfully it cleared so that conditions were more or less fine at the kick off time of 7.45pm.
The Gateshead International Stadium has it’s virtues, one being it’s eponymous Metro station which is about five minutes walk from the stadium, but being an athletics venue it’s not altogether ideal for the purposes of watching football.
I know I should be more accepting of running tracks, I was once a Meadowbank Thistle supporter after all, but unless you have a huge stadium with an equally big crowd in attendance (a la the Stadio Delle Alpe or similar) then you can pretty much guarantee that they contribute heavily to ghostly atmosphere.
This game was attended by 463 people, with maybe a bus full hardy fans over from Cumbria. That sort of number rattling around in an arena that holds something like 11,000 it’s always going to be difficult to stir up much enthusiasm, so kudos to the ‘Heed Army’ who situated themselves at the top of the stand and sang and chanted ceaselessly throughout the game. I couldn’t help but think they were maybe wasting their time a little, but you have to admire the effort.
Onto the game itself… it wasn’t a classic. Gateshead got themselves ahead in 11 minutes after a couple of near things at both ends. They were pegged back by Workington shortly after half time but within a few minutes got the second goal which proved decisive.
Workington had a man sent off, which took the sting out of most of the last twenty minutes or so, with Gateshead content and comfortable defending their one goal cushion.
This was my first taste of the Blue Square North and I’m not sure what to make of it. The pitch didn’t help the quality of football and neither, I suspect did the dense fog which drifted in towards the end of the second half.
It seems to be a division stuck in between a rock and a hard place. I think it lacks some of the authenticity and brutal honesty of the likes of Northern League, yet there’s a fair gap in standard in comparison to the Blue Square Premier and it’s increasing number of full time sides.
There were bizarre big-time touches, like the sides doing that lining up and shaking hands thing before the start which is more in keeping with international football than the second tier of non-league. There was a fourth official too – something I find superfluous at the best of times.
At least we didn’t get a short blast of pumping dance music after the Gateshead goals. Words cannot describe how much I hate that pseudo-American shit!
Fundamentally, I wasn’t overly impressed from a value for money aspect, given that the admission was £9. Perhaps this was a poor example of the level, but with both sides going well prior to the match, I expected a bit more in terms of entertainment value.
My views are sullied also by the lack of facilities in the Stadium. I hunted for an open food kiosk at half time without success. There was a bar but a stampede from the centre stand meant that by the time I got there the queue was a mile long.
That said, the Gateshead International Stadium is a class apart from its Scottish doppleganger Meadowbank Stadium.
Both were built around the same time in the early Seventies, but the Gateshead Council have certainly maintained their facility far better than their counterparts in Edinburgh. On visiting Meadowbank earlier in the season I was shocked at how tired and rundown it looked. With it’s bright red seats on all four sides, Gateshead still looks the part.
The only one failing in that respect was that one of the four tall floodlights was out of commission for this game. In it’s place were a couple of temporary rigs, one of which failed on at least two occasions in the second half. Had both gone out I might have had an abandonment on my hands.
Anyway, to sum up, it wasn’t a bad evening out. It’s just that it was not as good as it could have been.
I am sure groundhoppers will want to tick the Gateshead International Stadium off their lists for the sake of completeness, but if you are simply in the north east and at a loose end, I would probably look at other games before commiting yourself to a Gateshead home game.
Scoring – 1-0 Armstrong (11), 1-1 McLuckie (49), 2-1 Gate (55)
Attendance – 463
Admission – £9
Programme – £2
Ground – 3/10. It’s an athletics stadium at the end of the day.
Game – 5/10. Started well, petered out.
Overall experience – 5/10. Better than sitting in a hotel room.
Match report links