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Work begins to bring back St James' Park name
NEWCASTLE United fans breathed a sigh of relief today as work got under way to take down unpopular Sports Direct Arena signs at the football club’s city centre ground.
The ground will revert to being officially called St James’ Park following the announcement that the Magpies have signed a four-year £32m shirt and stadium sponsorship deal with pay day lending company Wonga.
Owner Mike Ashley angered fans when he ended 119 years of club history by naming the ground after his sportswear firm last year.
But getting back the old name of the stadium has made it easier for some fans to accept seeing Wonga, which critics believe exploits the poor with its high interest rate on short-term loans, emblazoned across the black and white stripes.
Printer Stephen Wiffin, 41, of Felling, Gateshead, said: “It should have always have been St James’ Park. I don’t think anyone has ever called it anything else. They should never have changed it.”
Alan Stout, 60, of Forest Hall, who has followed the team since the 1960s, boycotted the club this season because of the name change.
Mr Stout, who is retired, said: “It has always been St James’ Park and it always will be, but the name change is one of the reasons I stopped going. “The name of the ground means a lot to me and to the area. It is part of our history. In this part of the world we have an attachment to it.”
Managing director Derek Llambias told reporters last week that the St James’ Park sign would be put back in place before the side travel to Sunderland for the Tyne- Wear derby on Sunday.
Mark Jensen, editor of Newcastle United fanzine The Mag, said: “There are some horrible images of when they took the St James’ Park signs down. To see someone with a hammer and a chisel, chiselling away is something you never really thought you would see.
“So it is a relief to see the St James’ Park sign going back up. It has been a strange time since it has been down. It has been a bit of a pantomime.”
Newcastle United were this evening unavailable for comment when contacted by The Northern Echo.