Steve Bruce will surely breathe a sigh of relief if Andy Cole is right to claim that Newcastle is still a tough place for other Premier League sides to go to regardless of what is going on around St James Park.
“This season they’ve (Arsenal) have started well by going up to Newcastle which is a tough place to go, regardless of what is going on at the club,” said Cole on Sky Sports’ The Debate (22:42, August 13th).
Cole played over 414 times in the Premier League and played a total of 61 times for the Magpies during his career, so experienced St James Park as a Newcastle player as well as a member of the opposing team plenty of times.
So if the retired forward believes that Newcastle is a tough place for other sides to go then it’s hard not to believe him.
This is especially the case when you consider that out of Newcastle’s 12 league wins last season, eight of them came at home.
The Magpies were even able to beat Pep Guardiola’s side 2-1 at St James Park at the end of January, and considering that Man City only lost four league games in total last season, it’s hard not to believe that Newcastle’s home advantage played a factor in that game.
While Cole may believe it’s the journey up to Newcastle, a lot of Premier League team have to travel several miles, that makes the Magpies a difficult away fixture for sides, it’s hard to imagine that he doesn’t believe St James Park itself does play a part in making Newcastle difficult to play away from home.
St James Park has a capacity of 52,338 and fans filled 97% of that stadium across the 2018/19 campaign, which led to the Magpies having the 7th highest home attendance in the league, so the atmosphere is no doubt an intimidating thing for some opponents. (Source: Transfermarkt)
Yet there is an argument to be made that St James Park may not be the same scary prospect this season.
After all, as claimed in a statement by one of the currently protesting Newcastle fan groups, Empty for Ashley, on Twitter, the Magpies’ clash with Arsenal saw a drop in attendance compared to Newcastle’s previous opening home games in the last two seasons.
– Attendance 4,000 less than first PL games at SJP for the last two seasons.
– Real attendance closer to 45,000, perhaps less.
– Around 300 protest marchers despite rain!
– New protest iniatives to be announced soon.
— Empty For Ashley (@EmptyForAshley) August 11, 2019
However, Bruce can breathe a sigh in relief if Cole is right with his claim as he believes regardless of what is going on, including the potential boycott, teams still a face daunting task getting points off the Magpies at St James Park, and that is only going to help the Magpies boss rack up points.