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The best sports clubs for football fanatic Freshers

Written by Sport, Sport Features

You Freshers will come to learn that Newcastle is an amazing city, with a variety of fantastic daily outings. COVID-pending, here’s The Courier Sports’ top sporting destinations that you should visit during your time at Uni!
Heaton Stannington – Football

When you think of Newcastle’s biggest sports clubs it’s likely that Heaton Stannington won’t be the first name to spring to mind, but with £2 student entry and £2 pints, who could say no?

Heaton Stannington were formed in 1910 and have played at Grounsell Park in High Heaton since 1935. Plying their trade in Northern League Division 2, they regularly attract some of the largest attendances across the Northern League – including a Northern League-high 257 fans on Non-League day 2019. An unexpected guest made an appearance.

You never know if you’ll see a star in the making. In 2012 Aubameyang made his first appearance on English soil against Heaton Stannington – as Bizzare as it sounds – when Heaton played Gabon’s Olympic team in a friendly at Grounsell Park. Gabon won the game 4-0, and years later, Aubameyang is one of the Premier League’s deadliest finishers.

If this isn’t enough, Stan’s clubhouse has won numerous awards, including the 2018 (Campaign for Real Ale) Club of the Year. The clubhouse is open six days a week and is best enjoyed on match day, serving a wide selection serve real ale for only £2.20. For those of you itching for your football fix on a student budget, look no further than “Newcastle’s alternative black and white’s”, Heaton Stannington.

Andrew White

Newcastle Falcons – Rugby

The Newcastle Falcons, established in 1887,  are one of only two professional rugby union clubs in the North East of England.  They play their games at Kingston Park in Newcastle.

The Falcons had an extremely successful 2019/20 campaign. They were relegated in 2019 to the RFU Championship, however following 66 points from 14 games in the Championship, found themselves sitting at the top of the table when it was ended prematurely and as such were eligible for promotion back to the Premiership for the 2020/21 season. They will also play in the European Challenge Cup in the coming season.

The team have recently announced that Logovi’i Mulipola, a Samoan international, will rejoin the team for the 2021 campaign along with Tom Penny, who came through the Falcons academy before spending some time with the Harlequins.

Their crowd turnout has steadily improved over the last 5 years, with some fixtures seeing over 10,000 spectators. For a great atmosphere and great rugby at the top level of the game, get down to a Newcastle Falcons game this season.

Elana Shapiro

Newcastle Benfield FC – Football

Local non-league side, Newcastle Benfield FC, play in the first division of the EBAC Northern League. Founded in 1889, it is the second oldest league in the world after the English Football League itself.

They play at Sam Smith’s Park in Walkergate, which is about a 20 minute journey from the city centre via public transport. For the 2020/21 season, Benfield are offering one of the cheapest season tickets for students in the local area – just £25 for all league and cup games.

The club formed in 1988 as Brunswick Village and have been playing at the current ground on Benfield Road since the 1990’s. As the club grew over the years, they merged with local North Shield’s side, St. Columbus, at the turn of the millennium. After league-title success in the early 2000’s, the Lions have been playing in the Northern League since 2007.

The club also has a reserve side, playing in the Northern Alliance league, where local talent is nurtured, as well as under-18’s who play in the Durham FA. 

Philip Etchells

Newcastle United – Football

It is impossible to miss the presence of Newcastle United within the city. From the hundreds of locals who will be wearing various shirts home or away out and about to the iconic St James’ Park Stadium visible from almost every point, it is a club etched into the fabric of Tyneside. Founded in 1892, Newcastle are a team that have arguably underperformed for a club of its stature. The last of their league titles came in 1927, and if it were not for three FA Cup wins between 1951 and 1955 the post-war record would look particularly barren. Despite this, there has been some more recent success, finishing second in the 1996 and 1997 Premier League seasons and reaching the Europa League quarter-finals in 2005 and again in 2013.

It is since 2006 that the Geordies have become increasingly frustrated with their team, or more accurately, their owner. Mike Ashley took over the club and has overseen highs and lows, with two relegations (the only times Newcastle have been relegated in the Premier League era) as well as seeing European football again. Many fans consider Ashley to show a lack of ambition for a club of Newcastle’s size and his involvement to be damaging to the club. When the club have splashed out, notably their record signing Joelinton for £40 million, there has been underachievement with the Brazilian only scoring twice last season. Although the Geordies in the Ashley era can at least take solace in the fact their fierce rivals from Wearside, Sunderland have fared far worse in the last decade and now reside in League One. Summer 2020 saw talk of a potential takeover by a Saudi consortium, although scrutiny from MPs over piracy and human rights allegations led to the takeover being withdrawn in July. In September, Ashley hired lawyers to argue the blocking of the takeover was unfair.

This is where we find Newcastle now, into their second season under manager Steve Bruce. Astute signings including relegated players Callum Wilson and Jamal Lewis, as well as Jeff Hendrick on a free transfer, looks to be far more promising summer business than previous years. A mixed bag of results in the opening matches shows there are indications of heading in the right direction, although some reminders of defensive frailties as the club aim for a steady mid-table finish. In the post Covid-19 world, it is sadly unlikely for fans who are not already Season Ticket holders to be able to attend matches for at least another season, although if students want a great way to integrate themselves with local life there are a host of brilliant pubs in and around the city centre which show sport, international pandemics pending of course.

Sam Slater

Featured Image: Twitter @NUFC

Last modified: 29th September 2020

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