For my final match (a mere three days after Swansea — lucky scheduling for me, probably not ideal for players), we had Bolton back @ SJP on Easter Monday. Back when I was planning the trip, I zeroed-in on this one being the best chance at a win — never thought I’d be gunning for a 3 game sweep! When selecting tickets for this game, I decided I wanted to get a different perspective — mostly because it wouldn’t be quite as fun to be in the middle of the Gallowgate fray without my compadre. So instead I opted to splurge for a Platinum Club ticket — the Platinum Club being a midfield area with separate facilities, not all that far from Mike Ashley’s Director’s section. I knew the atmosphere would be less intense but I wanted the ultimate view for my final game. Ticket costs are obviously more expensive for this but it’s a once in a lifetime trip and I was sleeping cheap so why not, eh?
I was right about the atmosphere — nobody said a word! But I have to say that I had a beautiful view of the pitch and it was much easier to follow the game action itself than from the endlines. I guess it really depends on what kind of experience you want. If you want the chance to sit back, take in the sights, and analyze the run of play you can’t beat a Platinum Club seat. If you want deafening cheers & constant energy, the Gallowgate’s the place to be. Accommodation-wise, the main difference is that the Platinum Club area is carpeted — it didn’t look all that different from a hotel lobby. Beers & food are pretty much all the same: Guinness, Caffrey’s, Worthington’s & Carling. Everything was just kind of subdued. (apologies for the crappy phone pics)
You get a free program in the Platinum Club but someone stole mine at halftime (grrrrr):
You also get a sticker:
Apparently you can bet on games inside the stadium which is unheard of in the States:
My view of the pitch — gorgeous:
The game: Well the first half was pretty boring, actually. Bolton had control of the game throughout — how they didn’t score is beyond me. There was a definite restlessness throughout the crowd at times — lots of impatient calls to push forward, something that never happened in the Liverpool game. Maybe it was because of the short rest, though Bolton had actually had a shorter turnaround since their last game (2 days). I overheard the word “shocker” quite a few times @ halftime.
2nd half started much the same though Shane Ferguson’s halftime replacement for James Perch seemed to give the club a slight burst of energy. (Perch did fine in the 1st half but didn’t contribute much offensively that I could tell) This all changed, however, in the 73rd minute when Frenchman/virtuoso/mad genius Hatem Ben Arfa scored an un.freaking.real. goal that spanned nearly 2/3 of the pitch & left 3 defenders in the dust. The little ball flip he did towards the end to preemptively avoid the last defender was absolutely ridiculous.
I’ve gone back to watch the highlight a million times and what’s cool is that the camera was kinda similar to my sight lines so it’s almost like seeing my own memory over & over again. Here’s the post-goal celebration — not quite as exciting as the highlight but it proves I was actually there:
Not long after, Papiss Cisse added another goal assisted by Shola Ameobi to bring the game to my usual 2-0 standards(!) which stood for the rest of the match. A perfect 3 for 3 for the trip. Insanity.
Not much else I can say other than WOW. When you plan a sports-related trip like this, only so much is under your own control — you just kinda go along for the ride with the club you’re following. The combination of Jim’s company, good drinks, game results, locations, and stadium perspectives was just perfect — way better than I’d imagined. I had a chance to personally thank Tim Krul the GK @ airport security the next day (he was right behind me) for never conceding a goal in the 3 matches I attended, but I decided it would be better to leave him alone outside of the stadium area. Figured there was probably a reason why he had the brim of his hat pulled low over his eyes.
Newcastle United and its Geordie faithful were amazing to witness in person. I don’t think I would’ve had the same experience if we’d gone to the Emirates or Old Trafford, though I’m sure those places have their own charms. I think it’s cool that NUFC fans don’t seem to expect to win like some supporters of other higher-spending clubs might — so when they do they appreciate it 500 times more than anyone else. It was a blast to be a part of it even if it was only for 12 days.