Newcastle are continuing to rise after their new owners took over during last season

Sometimes a history lesson helps, so here is one. Newcastle’s first home kit back in 1892 was red and white.

Hardcore home supporters used to gather at the Leazes End of St James’ Park, rather than the famous Gallowgate, while on three occasions, and as recently as the 1990s, the club looked seriously into the possibility of leaving their famous stadium.

I mention this because of a fuss brewing in the North East. Newcastle’s new Saudi owners have mooted selling the naming rights to St James’ Park. They have said that they will consult their supporters but the plan is on the table.

Newcastle are continuing to rise after their new owners took over during last season

 Newcastle are continuing to rise after their new owners took over during last season

Newcastle¿s new Saudi owners have mooted selling the naming rights to St James¿ Park

Newcastle’s new Saudi owners have mooted selling the naming rights to St James’ Park

We tend to react pretty badly in Britain to things like this. We don’t take well to things that threaten what we call tradition. But sometimes the past and what needs to be done to secure a successful future have to find a way to sit together.

Another story. A while ago, the future of Old Trafford cricket ground, five miles from my house, was under threat. Redevelopment was threatened by finance and a messy planning dispute.

Lancashire was on the verge of losing Test matches. Briefly relocation was looked at. A site off the M6 near Wigan was examined but it never came to that. The club found a way through and now boast a fine, modern Test venue officially named Emirates Old Trafford.

Except, nobody I know ever calls it that. It’s on the website and the tickets and they say it on the TV because they have to, but nobody who goes there ever does or will. To them it’s Old Trafford and always will be. The members are, quite understandably, just happy not to be on an industrial estate near Wigan.

The stadium has also been used for Rugby League World Cup Pool games for England

The stadium has also been used for Rugby League World Cup Pool games for England

And this is how it would be in Newcastle. Whatever happens, it will always be St James’ Park. The nearby Metro station will never change its name. If the club’s owners decide it’s worth putting the name of an airline, a bank or retail chain up there next to it in order to help circumnavigate spending rules that may yet restrict their progress, then it may well be a price worth paying.

This all sounds like heresy and to some it always will do. But the alternatives are less palatable.

Moving out of town would be a huge blow to Newcastle’s economy and indeed to an English game that needs to value its inner-city stadiums more than ever.

Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi during the Magpies game with Brentford

Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi during the Magpies game with Brentford

There are few finer sights in football than that which greets visitors crossing the Tyne. The Cathedral on the Hill is what they call St James’ Park and from that viewpoint it’s easy to see why.

Football fans get emotional about lots of things but it’s funny how success calms everybody down. Remember the tiresome fuss about West Ham’s new stadium? Strange how it quietened once they hired a manager who knew how to win football matches there.

And so it will be in Newcastle, if this proposal ever comes to pass. Red and white shirts became black and white. One end of a stadium was swapped for another. And on it goes.

The name of a football stadium doesn’t count for as much as we perhaps think it does. It’s what a stadium means to people that really matters.

The king of exports to Italy 

The fuss made about the performances of former Chelsea defender Fikayo Tomori for AC Milan has been quietened by two dismal efforts against his old club in Europe. 

He will recover, for sure. But the outstanding English export to Serie A is Chris Smalling. 

The former Manchester United defender has been at Roma since 2019 and is now speaking Italian in media interviews. Bravo! 

Chris Smalling has been thriving for Roma since leaving the Premier League for Serie A

Chris Smalling has been thriving for Roma since leaving the Premier League for Serie A

Rulebook is killing art of defending

Writing in his second autobiography, Sir Alex Ferguson talked of the qualities of Nemanja Vidic and bemoaned the dying of a breed. ‘Where are the defenders who want to defend?’ asked the former Manchester United manager.

Watching Liverpool against Rangers, there was a glimpse of the answer.

Seeing the ball played into Ryan Jack, Liverpool’s French defender Ibrahima Konate read the situation, got there marginally before his opponent and took the ball with a firm tackle. It was fine defensive work, but as Jack fell to the floor under the weight of it, Konate was penalised for a foul.

That’s where all the real defenders have gone. They’ve been swallowed whole by the rulebook.

Liverpool's Ibrahima Konate was penalised for what seemed a fair challenge against Rangers

Liverpool’s Ibrahima Konate was penalised for what seemed a fair challenge against Rangers

Potter is having the last laugh on football snobs

Suddenly there are an awful lot of Graham Potter lovers around, but it wasn’t always like this for the Chelsea manager.

I still think about the Tottenham fan who told me two summers ago that he ‘wasn’t spending a grand on a season ticket to watch a Graham Potter team’.

Then there was the Manchester United supporter who said three months ago that ‘the club would never get an appointment like Potter past the fans’.

Snobbery is everywhere in English football, from the top to the bottom. And sometimes it gets exactly what it deserves.

Potter is earning himself a lot of praise but it wasn't always like that for the Chelsea boss

Potter is earning himself a lot of praise but it wasn’t always like that for the Chelsea boss

Forest bumble on 

Chaotic Nottingham Forest bumble on and have now sacked their chief scout and head of recruitment. At some point, you suspect, manager Steve Cooper will follow.

 But if owner Evangelos Marinakis has decided after nine games that the people who identified and signed 22 players in the summer didn’t know what they were doing, then his club is in even greater trouble than we thought. 

You May Also Like

Roman Reigns makes a huge decision regarding Sami Zayn ahead of WWE Royal Rumble 2023

Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns is heading into WWE Royal Rumble…

Arsenal see improved £70m offer for Brighton star Moises Caicedo REJECTED

Arsenal see improved £70m offer for Brighton star Moises Caicedo REJECTED, despite…

Arsenal Women 9-0 Leeds United Women: Blackstenius scores brace as Arsenal progress

Arsenal Women 9-0 Leeds United Women: Substitute Stina Blackstenius scores brace as…

Current WWE Champion’s undefeated streak comes to an end at the Royal Rumble

The Men’s WWE Royal Rumble was filled with record-breaking performances, most notably…

Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Novak Djokovic – Australian Open: Live score and updates

Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Novak Djokovic LIVE: Serbian star takes a two-set lead…

Australian Open champ Aryna Sabalenka pinpoints the crucial decision that helped her win grand slam

Aryna Sabalenka has recalled her ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ moment as…

Roberto De Zerbi states ‘we will see the best solution’ with Caicedo’s Brighton future uncertain

‘We will see the best solution’: Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi remains…

What is Mark Chapman’s net worth, franchise fee, salary and brand endorsements?

Mark Chapman is a professional New Zealand cricketer. He plays the role…