After stops at both Stamford Bridge in London and Old Trafford, Manchester, the partypoker Grand Prix Poker Tour moves on to the North East in February, as we bring you all the action from St. James Park, the home of Newcastle United.
Everyone wants to book themselves a seat at the home of former Premier League legends such as Alan Shearer, David Ginola and Les Ferdinand. But what about the ground itself? St. James’ Park is one of the most famous stadiums in world football, so let’s find out more about the home of football in the North East. We’ll put it in ‘black and white’ for you!
St. James’ Park is right in the centre of Newcastle for a kick-off, with the train station only a few minutes walk from the famous old ground, which has been the home of The Magpies since 1892. Holding a capacity of 52,405, it is the sixth-largest football stadium in the UK, with the biggest cantilever roof in Europe. The stadium is visible right across the city, and hasn’t only been the home of Newcastle United, but also played host to international football, several rock concerts, the 2015 Rugby World Cup; and even the 2012 Olympics despite being some way from London! Football-wise, it is known for bringing plenty of players from the Wallsend Boys Club, famous for producing many professional footballers, to its youth system at Newcastle United
Not only is St. James Park the latest stop on the Grand Prix Poker Tour, it has been a Grade 1 listed building for many years, built near the gallows area of the city in the distant, hence the nickname of one stand being the ‘Gallowgate End’. The ground itself has grown from the original capacity of 30,000 and the stadium has played host to many dramatic football matches over the years. Possibly the most important was a defeat for Newcastle as, in 1996 and marching towards what would have been their first top division title in decades, they hosted Manchester United in what has become one of the Premier League’s most famous matches.
With players such as Les Ferdinand, Keith Gillespie, Peter Beardsley and the late Pavel Srníček in their side, Newcastle had held a ten-point lead over their nearest rivals United at Christmas. By the time the two sides met in March 1996, that was down to just four points, and after battering United’s goal for the majority of the game, Eric Cantona went up the other end and struck a sucker punch to bring Newcastle’s lead at the top of the league to a frail-looking solitary point. The Magpies would lose five of eight matches as their title challenge stuttered, and while their manager Kevin Keegan famously and passionately declared that he would ‘Love It!’ if they won the league, they finished second and have never been as close to the title since.
These days, of course, Newcastle are back in the Premier League after suffering a recent relegation with their Geordie hero Alan Shearer at the helm. New boss Steve McClaren took over from Alan Pardew when the London-based manager switched sides to Crystal Palace. McClaren, a former England manager, has been in charge for a year to date, with Newcastle currently in the relegation places but fighting a game battle to survive.
Newcastle’s bitter rivals on the football field are Sunderland, so just as we saw a few players in Liverpool shirts going for a memorable victory at Old Trafford (a United supporter won the tournament and the Red Devils won at Anfield on the same day!) many ‘Mackems’ will be going all out for a victory at their nearby enemies. In football terms, Sunderland are in the middle of enjoying an unprecedented run of success against their Geordie rivals….but can the players in the Grand Prix Poker Tour do the same?
St. James Park went through a major expansion in its 90’s heyday as Sir John Hall, who had a stand named after him, pushed forward plans to expand the stadium to over 52,000 capacity helped in no small part by the success that Keegan’s team enjoyed. With executive boxes, an ultra-modern facility is now in place and the stadium is not just Premier League standard, but one of the best in Europe under the new stewardship of Mike Ashley.
Over the years, Newcastle have triumphed in glory against the mighty Barcelona, and hosted players of such flair and style that they have rightly earned the reputation for a club who put those qualities almost above any other. Fans may not always see their team win, but they’re almost always entertained. February 20th & 21st should see just the same, with 3,646 entries at the Old Trafford leg genuinely expected to be equalled at the sporting hub of North East. Can you take down the latest Grand Prix Poker Tour title and win a guaranteed $35,000 in the process? There is a $250,000 guaranteed prize-pool and entry is only $109, with satellites and Tickets tournaments available! What are you waiting for, start your qualification to the GPPT St. James’ park leg today!