The importance of atmosphere

Once upon a time there was atmosphere....

Bringing back the atmosphere.
A lot has been made of the atmosphere or, lack of, at St James Park in recent times but one word I never thought I would hear attached to the stadium is ‘library’.

It`s not quite there yet but the mere rumblings of that word being touted in relation to Newcastle should be a sure enough sign that something needs to be done.

Atmosphere is essential for home advantage. It is drastically overlooked in terms of influence on a match in the modern game and there seems to be an element of expectancy that the team is responsible and should play well enough to get bums off seats and tonsils strained.

This is not exclusive to Newcastle. It seems to be a growing trend at a lot of clubs. The prawn sarnie brigade are multiplying and it is killing atmospheres around the country. Maybe it is just a working man thing to destroy your voice-box of a Saturday afternoon and with it being increasingly tough for the average Joe soap to afford to go to every game it has given the prawn sarnies a chance to grow.

I genuinely think there`s more to it than that though. No matter the social background, supporters are one in the same in my eyes. We all support Newcastle and are there to get behind the team. We just seem to have lost something in recent times. Maybe instead it has something to do with the hardships of recent years beating the enthusiasm out of many. Who knows what it is but whatever the reason it is something that needs addressing.

As far how to get it back I have no idea. There are so many elements to creating an atmosphere. It isn’t simply a singing section. It isn’t getting behind the teams only when they do something to encourage it. It isn’t even something that should be there upon kick off. It should be something that is there from the second the stadium begins to fill and everyone has their part to play.

The now displaced level 7 supporters have highlighted the atmosphere issue, or lack of, in more recent times, and while I disagree with their claim to fame as the only source of noise and atmosphere within the stadium, many would agree that they were pretty much solely responsible.

I don`t dispute they were the main source of it and credit where it`s due, it is great to see. I just don`t think it helps the cause to separate and single out a section, in doing so essentially putting down all the other loyal fans who show up to support the team week in week out.

I`m more an advocate of a philosophy of inclusion, togetherness and the collective. I know that sounds all world peace, kumbaya around the camp fire type stuff but division is never good among fans and scenarios such as the ones reported during the opening home games are not something we should see happen in future.

The report in the Chronicle about the old lady being disrespected and abused by fans standing in front of her. On the other side the story of two young lads looking to stand and sing and enjoy the match as they see fit being physically assaulted by grown adults. It is well out of order and nobody wants to see scenes of that nature become a common occurrence.

I think what it has done is highlight the the Level 7 issue being one which needs addressing by the club in the near future and a resolution agreed upon, but it will take time, probably more time now that the season has started. In the meantime ugly scenes such as the ones mentioned do not help the cause one bit, no matter whatever your take on the right way to show support at matches may be.

There will be a waiting and transitional period in which displaced fans who wish to stand and support in the fashion they like will have to be more accommodating to the seated fans they now find themselves among until something is sorted out.

On the other side of the coin seated fans have to understand that these lads are not hooligans there to cause trouble. It is simply a clash of fan culture, a method of supporting and enjoying games. Are we going to take the approach of stay quiet and watch the game or get banned? It will become a library in no time if that`s the case, and I don`t think anybody wants that.

Getting back to how the atmosphere can be improved upon. I personally think this was a problem that existed before the Level 7 displacement to be honest. As I said, how to bring back the noise I don`t know. What I do know is the fortress that St James Park once was needs to return and an electric atmosphere can have a massive influence on our side, and in turn the visitors.

In the past it wasn’t the quality of our team alone that made St James such a nightmare of a place to come for opposition sides. It was everything about it. We had an element of the Galatasaray effect at one stage. Every Premier League club eyeing up their fixtures at the start of the season would be dreading the trip up to the North-East knowing it was up there with the toughest away games of the season.

Of course the atmosphere has a lot to do with it and although I was aware of this I had always seen the 12th man as a bit of an overly hyped concept until I got a bit older. It is a cliche but as with most cliches they don’t exist without a ring of truth. When you see fans get behind every kick of the ball, every player, supporting and pushing them on from the first minute to last, how often do you see teams respond and lift their game.

For the away team an electric atmosphere can be an unnerving situation to find themselves in, especially in a stadium such as ours. When the stadium is buzzing, pressure from players and fans combined increases. Every touch and decision is under intense scrutiny and more often than not will lead to a mistake at some point.

To use one example of a great atmosphere aside from Newcastle for a second, the Kop end at Anfield is famous for a reason. Any player who has played at Anfield or fan who has visited can confirm it has an influence, not just the Kop end but the atmosphere around the stadium in general. No matter your affiliation, the heartfelt chorus of ‘You`ll Never Walk Alone’ immediately preceding kick off has an impact, no question.

To use another more general example mentioned briefly in comparison earlier, remember the big European nights for English clubs going to play Galatasaray. Many an English club managers heart has sank seeing Galatasaray being drawn in their group, safe in the knowledge that away game is going to be as tough as they come.

The atmosphere in that stadium, albeit a bit too hostile for my liking, without a shadow of a doubt has a direct impact on results. Their team has been massive underdogs on certain European nights yet their record at home is second to none. Time and time again I have heard players, managers and people within football speak of Galatasaray and say that it is one of the hardest places to play in the world. To come out with a draw even if vastly superior to the team themselves is considered a good result.

This to me proves that atmosphere is a bigger factor than some give it credit for and it is essential that St James’ gets that kind of atmosphere and reputation back. It is one of the very few stadiums with the capacity and potential to become a real fortress in English football. I wish I had the answers, power or influence to find a quick fix or make it happen overnight because I miss those days but sadly I`m just a lad with an opinion, no more.

As far as what constitutes creating a good atmosphere I think there is so much to it, half of which I will probably not even think of mentioning. For me, it begins with a packed stadium. I understand there`s talks of boycotts etc based on recent events and I can see why, but that is probably a subject best left for another article. All I will say is that in terms of atmosphere and the fans having a real influence and getting the very best out of the team, the first step has to be fifty odd thousand Geordies there to support the lads every week.

Next up for me would be the bring back the scarves campaign. Personally think it is a really great idea and anyone who witnessed the scenes at Alan Shearer’s testimonial will understand exactly why. I was hoping it would have taken off more than it has so far but if everyone who supports it pushes for the cause I`m sure it will grow and grow.

As well as that I think it has to be pushed in local businesses. Things like pubs giving free scarves for every few pints. The club themselves sending free scarves to members and season ticket holders. Even the new Newcastle lingerie should come with a scarf for those cold winter nights. Well maybe not but you see what I`m getting at.

Aside from the scarves I think chants have important part to play. Apart from the tried and tested favourites I think every new player needs their own chant. I’ve seen a few good Cabaye ones doing the rounds on twitter but imagine how much of a lift it would give you as a new player to hear the fans chant your name each and every game, have their own personalized song for you, essentially showing them you`re one of us now. The bit of humour thrown in obviously helps from a fans perspective too as everyone has a laugh with it and wants to get involved.

I think another important aspect or moment is when the teams leave the dressing room and line up side by side before hitting the pitch. There is a lot that can put a seed of doubt in opposition heads in these final moments. Entrance music is one of them, and not something you would normally think about, after all we`re a football team not Hulk Hogan. I do believe it does have a subtle but important part to play in the minutes leading up to kick off though, maybe its just the feeling I get as a fan.

I just remember thinking in days gone by, even watching on TV as the teams hit the tunnel, lined up side by side awaiting the signal to hit the field. The deafening sound of O Fortuna playing with a packed stadium of football mental Geordies as background noise, chomping at the bit in anticipation of their team giving whoever came to St James’ 90 minutes of hell.

To this day I remember thinking time and time again seeing that scene, my god I would hate to be that away team now. It helped create an atmosphere right before kick off, an extremely intimidating one for any away side, and as much as the sound of Local Hero is good to hear and appreciated by many it doesn’t exactly create the most intimidating of atmospheres lets be honest.

There`s so many different aspects to it I could go on all day. I’ll leave it there for now but I would be interested to hear peoples thoughts. What are the underlying reasons for the lack of atmosphere? Can it return to what it once was? Is there a science to it or is it something that comes naturally?

What could be done to help the cause and make St James’ Park a fortress once more?

50 thoughts on “The importance of atmosphere

  1. I can only comment on from what I see on television, but it certainly doesnt seem anywhere near like it was 6 or 7 years ago. In fact I hear the chants more at away games.

    Also that whole “bring back the scarves” iniciative seems to bomb completely as I didnt see on supporter waving a scarf around as the players entered, or when we scored.

    I expected at least a small pocket to replicate the Shearer testimonial if the opportunity arose.

    Certainly not an atmosphere worthy of calling ourselves some of the best fans in the world.


  2. I would love us to have a club song like ac/dc thunderstrike before games! On night games lights off and just flashes off light with the fans shouting thunder at the players as they come out! haha

    Seriously though i also support celtic and get up to most of their big games in europe etc and ynwa before that is special. So much so barca played it when they went back to play there. I don’t think we have a proper club anthem like ynwa delilah or something like that. We have blaydon races but it isn’t a great one for inspiring the players i think. Didn’t get to the match v fulham but looking at the reaction when we scored it saddened me. It just showed some guys stand up and clap. When i go to matches and we score i jump up and down start cheering and hug randoms etc. Don’t know whether it was like that stadium wide or it was just where the cameras were focussing on


  3. As someone that went to the Fulham game I can vouch that the atmosphere was like a library, in fact so was the Arsenal game. The only two sections of the ground that made any noise were the Strawberry Corner and the Leazes Corner. This idea that the whole ground can be a singing corner isn’t going to work in my opinion, there are too many fans that aren’t interested in creating an atmosphere for that to happen (That isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with that).


  4. The stadium isn’t the same any more.

    When the manager promises signings that will get us out of our seats and we limp in with free transfers and players we know nothing about (even though they did a good job with zero resources available to them – in fact the dossier stated that they had to slash the wage bill) then do you expect the fans to get out their seats?

    The disbandment of the singing section may have looked good on paper but it has seriously backfired to the detriment of the fans AND players. We have lost the 12th man. The only people who benefit are ‘apparantly’ the board.

    Which is also nonsense as they have to deal with 100 complaints and low attendances.


  5. If they board gave the fans something to shout and cheer about, they would turn up in their droves, aiming for mediocrity and waging a war with the fans is hardly attracting or inspiring them, fair dues to Pardew he is giving them football advice but they are not listening.
    The team and club need get behind the supporters first, not the other way around.


  6. It’s a knock on effect.

    If the club shows no ambition, psychologically the fans don’t have any or even expectations. The atmosphere goes one of two ways for me, positive expectation or apprehension.

    We know we won’t get relegated and will finish mid-table. How exciting!


  7. Plus, it’s different when you have characters at the club like Andy Carroll, Kev Nolan and Joey Barton. They are the type of lads to gee up the crowd and the sort of lads you gave your support to as they were battling northern lads.

    I used to brag to other fans that most of our team were Northern English, like I am and like my club is and really enjoyed that aspect of NUFC last season.


  8. alreet tossers 😉

    I dont know if you go to games, and it dosent matter if you do or dont.

    But it is very difficult to make a atmosphere if as soon as you stand up you get told to sit down otherwise you will be removed and banned, imo its nothing to do with the fans, and more the club/stewards.


  9. I think the Fatman and Co has knocked the heart out of alot of the Fans through the way the football side of the club has went, then add onto that that they done away with the level 7 boys just to stop the chants, as there can be no other reasonable explanation for it.
    I can remember reading many stories about how other teams dreaded playing at SJP and some players even admitted that they were almost beat before they started.


  10. Spencer,

    That accounts for about 10% of the people who go to the games to be honest.

    It’s deeper than the ‘standing up’ argument for me.

    If you have 40,000 – 50,000 people in one place with the same mentality, passing it on to just 11 people on a field, the 11 people will undoubtedly be effected. If that mentality is a postive expectant one we are laughing. If it’s a negative nervous one then we ain’t.

    the power of the crowd isn’t to be underestimated, huge tool to be used by the club but it can also backfire, which we will see this season. Then we’ll see what our French lads are made of.


  11. A few pundits seem to think we are going to lose. Funny how impressed they are with QPR signings. Sorry, but I am not impressed. We should win the game comfortably if we suffocate them for the first 20-25minutes.


  12. Robert Wilson stated this on the previous thread: Apologies. I have this blog confused with
    Somehow arrived here thinking it was
    Thanks to Lionel Speed for pointing that out in an earlier post.
    I must say I’m a bit embaressed by all this.
    Sincerest apologies to Toonsy and co.


  13. And too right Moreno, if the crowd had started to turn on the team that day then I don’t believe that we would have pulled it back to 4-4, in fact the defecit probably would have been worse. But instead the crowd encouraged the players, screamed abuse at the ref and opposition and sang their hearts out.


  14. The Kid I agree we should win, but I do worry as we had games like this last yr and we just didn’t put the same effort in, so hopefully we can win and I wont feel as nervous this season when playing games against the teams that we need to pick up points from.
    0-2 or 1-3 for me and I expect Joey to have a mare


  15. TheDimpleboy
    You left out the part where he told Army its past his bed time 😉
    Oh ye and he told Big Dave to get behind the team 😉


  16. Moreno….exactly mate, great atmosphere v Arsenal, Villa, Scum, Barca etc, with people sitting. I prefer standing but it’s not the main cause of the crap atmosphere. It’s probably a combination of things but the atmosphere has got steadily worse for years. Relegation has made it worse, the fans are still nervous if we’re 2 nowt up with 5 mins to go, we’ve come to expect the worst and that affects the atmosphere.


  17. Ive got us down for a 2-1 win over QPR but now think it may be 1-1.

    I would love our fans to give Howard Webb more stick when he refs at St James.


  18. Moving big Dave, ere the Geordie lasses are living up to expectation, and they all love the Yorkshire accent for some reason haha


  19. arm chair fan 😉

    should be back with you now like, proving there’s no problems with the internet


  20. Alright lads 🙂 Been very busy this weekend and had the first game of my season today.

    I think atmosphere is key, when we are playing well the crowd gets behind the team and that certainly lifts them. When it goes quiet I think the players don’t know what to do. Having the crowd singing all the songs I think does help to get the players motivated


  21. Thanks ICE, no we weren’t. Playing a ladies team so they are a bit older than most of us.

    Richie you were close ahaha


  22. Agree Moreno mate mid-table doesnt scream exciting times ahead but did anyone really expect we`d be aiming any higher this season. With the strength of the league I think top 6 to 8 is out of reach for another two to three season earliest to be honest. Should we only cheer or be optimistic if and when we`re back there?

    Agree the board not delivering on a striker was piss poor. I`m as annoyed as anyone given I backed the gits but trying to focus on the fact we have a few good signings that should draw optimism from fans still, and in turn be excited even prior to the kick off to see them play in black and white. I know players like Cabaye, Santon and when Ben Arfa is back would be three I would personally be really excited about watching play every week, thats not to mention half the players that we already had, Tiote and Colo being two of my personal favorites.

    As for the home grown lads helping the crowd, agree that people like Joey pumping his fist in the air or trying to rally the crowd is a good thing, but when I think back to the atmosphere of days gone by and particularly players who got me excited, very very few of them were homegrown. I used to love watching Solano, Ginola, Robert (even though he was a lazy git) Albertt, players like that. And I still think we have some homegrowns that will try and lift the fans, the dopey lunatic Saylor for one.

    As Dave said, I do think the board has a lot to do with it, maybe it is relegation and a few bad years beating the optimism out of people, maybe it is the board vs fan problem, also the singing section being displaced has obviosly had its effect.. as Ritchie said too, there still seems to be an aprehension or nervousness, lack of confidence I suppose in the team because of recent bad years, its hard to understand for me personally as I have a lot of confidence in the team we have now, even without the superstar striker we all wanted.

    Obviously is a number of contributing factors to it and it`s hard for me to assess accurately given I don`t get the chance to go to games any more. Know there is a lot of lads here that do go week in week out though, be good to hear what they think on how the atmosphere could be salvaged or is it something that simply comes naturally.

    Dont believe its on the players or board to excite fans alone. Think the fans have a responsibility too. I know if I was still there I would be signing my heart out, scarf waving, going mental in my seat even if I couldnt stand. May be it`s because I miss it, would give anything to be able to go and see the team I love play every week regardless of the bullshit going on off the pitch. Suppose when youre there and so close to it week in week out the collective frustrations at the off the pitch stuff build and manifest in the crowd every week.

    Anyway, sorry ha, having a “I wish I could be there” moment, cheers for the thoughts as always lads.


  23. Atmosphere has been deteriorating for years. I’ve been in noisier libraries. Spencer don’t think standing is the problem, it’s more those who just pitch up expecting to be entertained and can’t be arsed to give any vocal support. Certainly playing at SJP won’t hold any fear any more for any premiership side


  24. I mentioned that the atmosphere was crap for the first game of the season and think this is down to many things, Sky,The Internet, pubs televising matches, falling attendances, but mainly an owner who refuses to give us something to sing about.


  25. The best fans in the world need something to sing about? Back in the days when top half of the table was the dizzy heights we sang all day and cheered all night, and we had a bunch of very average blokes all through the team at the time. And a one-eyed pirate running the club.

    It’s probably more a reflection of the times than anything at all to do with Ashley (though breaking up level 7 doesn’t help). Also, has anybody thought it may well be that the size of the stadium has something to do with it as well. In the old days we were right behind the Leazes goal, almost on the pitch (and that happened occasionally too – when the crowd swayed forward and you leaned on the guy in front and he on the one in front of him and … god help the kids down the front next to the wall watching from pitch level).

    Fans are spoilt these days, man.


  26. Keith @ 40

    Whilst I get where you are coming from, I still don’t get this whole ‘beat relegation and finish mid table’ mentality.

    By my reckoning, we completely threw away 8th place last year. It should have been cemented and we should be looking to match that/better that with 35 million in our pockets.

    We have made the decision not to better ourselves and to tread water. Many in the crowds know this so they either don’t spend 30 odd quid a ticket or vent their frustration.


    When you go to the match you see the same faces you only ever see in one place….the match. Talk inevitably turns to the board and the running of the club pre-kick off and whether you agree with it or not, the clubs lack of ambition is in the back of the fans minds and will be discussed when NUFC fans congregate.


  27. Moreno @47

    See your point mate. From a personal perspective reason I think top half finish, as in 9th or 10th, would constitute a good season is based on poor home form last season and the fact we had a very good record against the big sides last year which is very rare and doesnt get replicated season after season.

    As you say we could and probably should have finished 8th. At the same time if we had any normal season in terms of results against the top sides we could easily have finished around 16th. I think we have bettered ourselves, opinion sways on that though and understandably so, but do get where you`re coming from as regards the fans who are frustrated and don`t see it as clear ambition to push on.

    I think it`s modest expectations based on apprehension for many until we see how the home form is. Jury being out for many with the new signings has a part to play too. With the side we have if I was to be purely optimistic about it I think we have enough there to finish 7th or 8th to be honest, especially if we can keep HBA fit and Saylor too, good partnership he`s striking up with Colo.

    I dont think Villa or Everton who would be the two that finish around there more often than not have any stronger a first team or squad than we do. Both are, as we are, very reliant on their first team staying fit. In saying that they are used to doing what it takes to finish there or thereabouts consistently. We are 2nd season back up with a bit of a squad upheaval.

    Do you think if we continue as we have started and are sitting around 7th come December the atmosphere might change and pick up?

    A lad actually said to me on twitter too, be interested to get your take on it.. the support and atmosphere at away games seems to be great, it`s just at home it is poor. Do you agree? If so, why is that do you think? Is it just the buzz of the road trip kind of thing or something else?


  28. yep, its in decline but there are many reasons for it, mostly that we dont feel confident going into many games anymore. We dont have any heroes left to shout for. We live in fear of all the players being sold off in every window, we dont much like the owner, we dont much like the chairman, they turned us into a .com, sportsdirect signs all over in tacky red and blue, singing section gone, bad relationship with the owner, crap quality strips, season tickets went up 10% three years ago, the biggest leap in the prem that year despite no extra outlay, they got rid of the tune as the fans came out the tunnel and repalced it with a tune that did zero to raise the heat in the stadium. the list goes on forerver really.


  29. “Do you think if we continue as we have started and are sitting around 7th come December the atmosphere might change and pick up?”

    Yes as it’s a mentality thing.

    If that’s the case there is no fear of relegation and if the right noises come out the club about ambition then yes the atmosphere will pick up, in my opinion.

    You mention freak results against the big teams, I would flip that over and look at us getting beat by the likes of Blackpool at home.


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