St James’ Park hailed as ‘hotbed of football’ as ex-Manchester United star labels atmosphere ‘crazy’

Former Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand has hailed the ‘crazy’ St James’ Park atmosphere, and admitted he thought Arsenal could have wilted in Sunday’s Premier League showdown.

The Magpies’ own hopes of securing Champions League football took a hit in the 2-0 defeat to the Gunners in a pulsating St James’ Park occasion, though it remains firmly in their own hands with four games of a terrific campaign remaining.

Having drawn with Liverpool and Southampton, before being thumped at Manchester City, many, including Ferdinand, expected the Gunners to struggle amid the Tyneside fervour, but Mikel Arteta’s men survived an early scare to go on and win courtesy of a Martin Odegaard cracker and Fabian Schar own goal.

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“St James’ right now is an absolute hotbed of football,” Ferdinand told his Five podcast. “When you go into a stadium before a game, the form that they’re in, it’s fireworks going off in there, it’s a crazy atmosphere.

“When they’re not even playing well it’s a hard place to go, but when they’re doing well, the crowd get behind them and it makes it a hard place to go to.

“If I was a betting man, I’d have backed Newcastle in that game or a draw, one hundred per cent – it wouldn’t have been a wild bet given the form that Newcastle are in, after the month they’ve (Arsenal) had in the last four or five games, I just thought Newcastle would be too strong, the crowd would be a big factor you (Arsenal) managed all those aspects and came away with three points, deservedly so.”

Eddie Howe’s men will look to respond to that setback against the Gunners when they face a familiar face on Saturday lunchtime, newly-appointed Leeds United boss Sam Allardyce at Elland Road.


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