Newcastle owners pump resources into stadium dream as powerful 'I've never' admission made

You only have to look at the resources Newcastle United have pumped into an exhaustive feasibility study to realise. The hierarchy's preference has long been to expand St James' Park if it is viable and those at the top have turned to world-leading architects in the field to see just what is possible on the complex site. In truth, there is no place quite like it as Eddie Howe knows only too well having long 'felt a connection' with a stadium that is 'never out of your thoughts'.

"Just incredible, loyal, loud support and it's made this place really difficult to play," the Newcastle boss said following his side's 1-1 draw against Brighton on Saturday. "Especially this season, the crowd have taken it to another level."

Even opposite number Roberto De Zerbi, who suffered a painful 4-1 defeat on his first visit to Tyneside last season, called St James' the best arena in the Premier League once again on Saturday. "This stadium is incredible," the Brighton manager added.

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What is it about it? Anthony Gordon is well-placed to comment after being directly involved in more home goals (16) than any other Newcastle player in the Premier League this season. "I've never come to a stadium where I get the feeling of pure joy," the forward told NUFC TV. "Every time I pull up to the stadium or even if I'm just driving past, it brings me joy. I absolutely love this place."

It is not an exaggeration to say that Gordon could have been speaking for any one of his team-mates - and the numbers do not lie when it comes to Newcastle's stronger performances at St James'. No other side in the Premier League have scored more goals at home (49) than Newcastle. Only title challengers Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal have picked up more points than Newcastle (40), lost fewer games than the Magpies (three) and conceded fewer goals than Eddie Howe's team (22) on their own turf. Results at St James' make up 70% of Newcastle's points tally.

Newcastle have scored at least one goal in all of their fixtures at St James' this season for the first time in the Premier League era and you have to go back to 1959 for the last time the black-and-whites did so in the top-flight. Not since Sir Bobby Robson's time in charge have Newcastle chalked up so many home victories (12) in the Premier League.

The task moving forward into next season is not only to maintain that fierce record at home, which stretches right back to Howe's first campaign, but, also, to dramatically improve the club's away form. It is worth pointing out that Newcastle have won two of their last three games on the road, which will give the Magpies belief ahead of next week's crucial trips to Manchester United and Brentford, but only Fulham, Burnley, Nottingham Forest, Luton Town and Sheffield United have picked up fewer points on their travels over the course of the season. Three of those sides will be relegated.

"We haven't had that feeling that we're going to win consecutive games," Howe admitted. "That just hasn't happened. We haven't built up a rhythm on the road.

"A great time to do that with two games in quick succession. Two tough games individually. They're both very difficult opponents, but I think we can go with confidence. We're playing well. It's been a real upturn towards the end of the season in our general performances. That's key."