Joe Nicholson: Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Sunderland provide a perfect opportunities for England to make North East return
It’s that time of the year again – the time when domestic football in England’s top two tiers takes an abrupt pause and the international game takes centre stage.
For many supporters, especially those in the North East, the prolonged break from the Premier League or Championship season can’t end soon enough – particularly when the majority of England’s home fixtures are played at Wembley.
The costs and travel plans for fans of Middlesbrough, Newcastle or Sunderland to commute down to London and watch their national side play are hardly cheep or straightforward.
There has at least been some alteration in the FA’s choice of venue in recent years, with tonight’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Kosovo set to take place at Southampton’s St Mary's Stadium.
Last year England played friendlies at Leeds’ Elland Road and Leicester’s King Power Stadium before and after the World Cup, while it’s recently been mooted that Newcastle’s St James’ Park could be used.
The North East certainly has the appetite for football and has embraced international fixtures in the past.
A bumper crowd of 46,549 watched England’s friendly against Australia at the Stadium of Light in 2016 as the Three Lions prepared for the European Championships.
Just over a year earlier, 30,178 were present at the Riverside when Gareth Southgate’s England Under-21 side claimed a 3-2 win over Germany.
International football will return to Teesside next month when England’s Lionesses face Brazil on Saturday, October 5, a fixture which has already seen over 10,000 tickets snapped up.
With Boro, Newcastle and Sunderland, the North East occupies three of the 15 biggest football grounds in the country, as well as some of the most passionate fans who have endued some wretched times in recent years.
During last summer’s World Cup we saw the appeal the national team can generate after England’s run to the semi-final stage.
That feelgood factor won’t last forever, though, and it’s important the FA continue to build on last summer’s success and maintain the memories we enjoyed from Russia.
Taking the team around the country and to the North East would certainly help keep fans interested and may even change the mood when the international break arrives.