Click the link below to head over to the Pro Sports Images website where you can check out my full gallery of images as Newcastle United defeated Barnsley 3-0 and captured the EFL Championship title in the closing moments of the final day of the season.
What an absolutely incredible day at St James’ Park featuring the most unbelievable positive twist in quite literally the last minute of the Championship season. I think most people went into this match believing that Newcastle were certain to close out their campaign with a win but nobody could script the outcome of the day.
Being the final day of the season and with no other leagues playing it meant plenty of competition as almost all the regional photographers descended on St James’ Park. I made sure to arrive early enough that I could secure my spot in the press room but also to capture the players arriving. Plenty will be the subject of transfers over the summer and I figured photos of players carrying bags etc can easily be picked up in articles about their departures.
Earlier this season I decided to make the far side of the pitch from the press room my regular spot. The big agency guys love to be on the near side where the managers are. Today that was pretty much my undoing as trying to get any sort of internet connection via mobile router or phone was almost impossible with 50,000 people continually checking their phones for the Brighton score. The club WiFi doesn’t extend to the far side of the ground unfortunately which meant I was struggling to get pictures out during play. I actually ended up leaving my seat around 60 minutes to go inside the press room to upload a batch of twenty shots that I couldn’t get out. Not ideal but necessary.
Newcastle’s third goal scored by Dwight Gayle was the biggest moment of the afternoon for me. As the ball hit the net I noticed he was coming right towards me gesturing for supporters to continue the ‘Going up, going down’ song they had been singing in reference to Newcastle being promoted and Sunderland relegated. I managed to get a sequence of crisp shots on the 400 before switching out to the 70-200 as he got closer.
Before I could even start to edit the shots though news started to filter through that Aston Villa had equalised against Brighton resulting in mayhem all around the ground. Behind me flags from the Gallowgate flags initiative were being waved in celebration so I had to react quickly and start taking crowd shots with the 11-24mm. Unfortunately I didn’t think to put it on my 1DX to utilise the full 11mm and instead had it on an older 1D MKIV which isn’t a full frame camera. The end result was taking a lot of shots at around 18mm which while wide, would not have looked quite as sprawling as 11mm on the full frame sensor. A bit of a missed opportunity and something to work on in future.
The great thing about the final day of the season is that photographers get the bonus of being able to get much closer to the players than on regular match days. Following the trophy presentation I was able to chat with left back Paul Dummett and striker Daryl Murphy as they waited on their chance to take personal photos with the trophy. I also got to snap Paul from a couple of meters away wearing his Championship winners flag. Certainly not something I get to do every day!
Newcastle return to the Premier League next season where life will be much tougher. Less goals, more photographers, better teams. I’m relishing the potential opportunity to enjoy photographing some of the best players and managers in the world come August.