Charlotte Robson for TRUE FAITH is in the stands at the three state-side this week and has an instant reaction as well as some reflections on the game too – get on both here – https://www.patreon.com/tfpodcast
Chelsea 1 Newcastle United 1
Mercede Benz Stadium, Atlanta 26/Jul/23
After the Rocky exploits in Philly it was off to the next stop on the tour, Atlanta Georgia.
Labelled “Hotlanta” by many of the locals and we soon found out why.
On first viewing, Atlanta didn’t seem as welcoming as Philadelphia. It is very sad seeing the numbers of homeless people living under road bridges or anywhere else they could shelter. It’s quite unnerving and intimidating walking around at night.
Our group were lucky enough to get invited to an open training session to watch the lads at their base in PACE campus. A great facility out of town that would shame some facilities back home. Around 200 fans were allowed to attend. Also in attendance was Newcastle United Chief Executive Darren Eales with his family and directors and minority owners Amanda Staveley and her husband, Mehrdad Ghodoussi.
We were allowed to watch the last hour from the uncovered stand and to be honest, that was about enough in the extreme heat. The players then left the field and did a meet and greet for Mags under the shade of the stand. They spent 45 minutes or so posing for photos and signing autographs. Great PR and a real treat for the US based fans.
The night time saw another fan gathering arranged in s local bar which again was well attended. Fans from both the UK and US as well as a few from the likes of Canada all present with ex-pat Mags who were overjoyed to see Newcastle United here again!
I even met a couple of lads my age who’d grown up within half a mile of where I was brought up in Gateshead. Where-ever yi gan your sure to find a Geordie etc.
It was also quite evident there were far more Newcastle United shirts on the streets than Chelsea ones, unlike Philadelphia.
The second day was match day and the club had planned a Q&A in the same place we’d been the night earlier. There were 300 or so invited guests along with Shola Ameobi and Shay Given doing the talk and answering fans’ questions. Again it was very enjoyable and done with a lot of humour.
In fairness to Shola, he comes across very well at these events. Afterwards, all of the drabs spilled out in to the numerous bars in what was a nice area called Little 5 Points.
The highlight of the afternoon was one of our group completing a hot wing eating challenge and winning a t-shirt for his efforts. Numerous others in the group tried them and turned scarlet!
So on to the game and the one thing that was always going to be the highlight of the trip for me and I guess most others. The Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Boy did it not disappoint and if anything was better than anticipated. Unusual for a major US stadium as this one is very close to the main central areas (aka down-town). From the outside it looks a lot like an indoor arena on a far bigger scale, which I guess is pretty much what it is.
Easy access digital ticketing system as well. Yes, they work and work very well. You enter through huge glazed entranceways. Then it hits you! I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It’s just enormous.
You enter on to the concourse between levels 1 and 2 so you’re looking up and down. Words can’t describe the grandeur and scale of the place. The roof was closed and the air con on so it provided an ideal climate for football.
We were contacted by the club on entering to see if we would help with some waver flags they’d had made. There were six of us on the stairs waving them as the teams came out. My other half got plenty cheers from those around her as she waved hers with gusto. Great experience for her!
The other thing here that was the highlight for many in attendance was the return of their hero.
Miggy Almiron isn’t just any former player, he’s an absolute icon here. They idolise him. There were screams when his name was read out and each time to touched the ball. Incredible stuff.
The match was played in similar fashion to the Villa game where we had a lot of very neat possession while they looked threatening on the break. They duly took the lead through Nicolas Jackson who got in behind Botman to finish well.
Lewis Miley had been given a start in midfield and the lad looked totally un-phased. He’s a talent! He has great energy, is stronger physically than he looks and very composed on the ball. Whatever they decide to do with him in the coming season will ultimately be right for him. If he stays, he certainly won’t be out of place and will deserve some game time. A very good prospect for us.
Stoppage time and the big moment arrived so many wanted to see. A run and fine finish by Almiron to the delight of the crowd to level the scores at half time.
We’d sat in the lower bowl for the first period but decided to wander around to different parts of the stadium in the second half. It really does offer some spectacular views and no matter where you go in the stadium there are screens so you don’t miss a thing.
In particular the huge ones around the retractable roof. I ventured up on to level 3.
The wife didn’t fancy it as it dwarfs Level 7 at SJP and would be vertigo inducing to her. Yes, it’s really that high!
The game itself continued to be relatively tight though Chelsea did force a few decent stops from the returning Nick Pope. Back in form it seems and ready fore the new seaason.
A nice touch towards the end by Eddie to substitute an emotional looking Miggy to the delight of the crowd. Obviously he was named MOTM.
Another great workout and hopefully an enjoyable game for the US Mags.
For us though, it was all about the stadium experience.
Would I take this sort of thing and knock down SJP? At the drop of a hat I would. Anyone got a spare £1.6 bn?
So off on leg 3 now. New Jersey/New York where it’s currently 93 degrees. In an open stadium it’s going to be a hot one.
See you there!
Steve Wallwork @stevewallwork and @AllyH77
Full match here