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Club History

By Matthew Jones
October 21 2003


During November 1881, the Stanley Cricket Club of South Byker decided to form an Association Football club. They won their first match 5-0 against Elswick Leather Works 2nd XI. Just under a year later in October 1882, they changed their name to East End FC to avoid confusion with the Stanley club of South Durham. Shortly after this, another Byker side, Rosewood FC merged with East End to form an even stronger side. Meanwhile, across the city, another cricket club began to take an interest in football and in August 1882, they formed West End FC. A man named Bill Tiffen was the instigator and the club was backed by a wealthy local dignitary, William Neasham, together with the influential John Black; two names that would be long associated behind the scenes with Newcastle United. West End played their early football on their cricket pitch, but later moved to St. James' Park. East End remained in the Byker area until the summer of 1886, when they moved a mile to Chillingham Road in Heaton.

It was West End that was the first of the new rivals to impress. They possessed several big name players, among them Ralph Aitken, who had starred for Dumbarton and Scotland at outside-left, and right-half Bob Kelso, another Scottish international who later won medals with Preston NE and Everton. West End soon became the region's premier club, largely thanks to their secretary-manager, Tom Watson (who would later become more widely known as boss of Sunderland and later, Liverpool). Watson was certainly one of the men who helped football take off in the Northeast.

East End were anxious not to be left behind and lured Watson into becoming their chief in the close season of 1888 and from that point, never looked back; Watson made several good signings, especially from Scotland, and the Heaton club went from strength to strength, while West End's fortunes slipped dramatically. The region's first league competition was formed in 1889 and the FA Cup began to cause interest. Ambitious East End turned professional in 1889, a huge step for a local club, and in March 1890, they made an even more adventurous move by becoming a limited liability company with capital of 1,000 pounds in ten shilling notes. During the spring of 1892, in a season during which their results were at an all time low, and in which they had lost to their bitter rivals, East End, five times, West End found themselves in serious trouble. They approached East End with a view to a take over, the directors having decided that the club could no longer continue. What actually happened was that West End wound up, while some of its players and most of its backroom staff joined East End. East End also took over the lease on St. James' Park. Before the 1892/93 Northern League season got underway, however, East End tried to win election to the Football League. At the League's annual meeting the Sunderland, East End failed to win a first division place, but was elected to Division 2. They declined because 'gates would not meet the heavy expenses incurred for travelling'. Northern League matches attracted little support, and East End officials became dismayed at the lack of interest in their club, and the game. By December 1892, they decided to give the club a new name and a new image. At a public meeting, several new names, including Newcastle Rangers and Newcastle City, were suggested, before all agreed on Newcastle United. The FA agreed to the name change on 22nd December, but the new title was not legalised until 6 September 1895, when Newcastle United Football Club Co. Ltd. was constituted.

United played their first game under their new title in a friendly against Middlesbrough on Christmas Eve 1892. The first competitive match came 4 weeks later, also against Boro, in the FA Cup.

The following season, Newcastle again tried for a place in the Football League and again they were offered a place in Division 2. This time they accepted and their first game was in September 1893 against fellow newcomers Woolwich Arsenal.

The match ended 2-2. This year also saw the appearance of the now famous Black and White Striped jerseys, a change from East End's red colours. Support was still poor however, and officials were so angry about Tyneside's apathy that they published the following statement: "The Newcastle public do not deserve to be catered for as far as professional football is concerned". Whether this jerked the conscience of the Newcastle public or not, by New Year 1896, cash was rolling into St James' and support was growing at such a rate that 14,000 watched United face Bury in the FA Cup. In the same season, Frank G. Watt was appointed as club Secretary. An ambitious man, he aimed to put Newcastle at the very top, and over the next few years he did exactly that! Promotion to the first division was finally achieved in 1898 and that promotion season proved to be the most successful so far in the club's history - gate receipts totalled 4,934 pounds and 7 shillings. United unfortunately lost their first match in the big time, at home to Wolves, 4-2 and had to wait 11 games before finally gaining their first top flight victory, a 3-0 win over Liverpool. Their duck broken, United went on to finish 13th that year. By 1903-04, Newcastle United had built up a squad of promising players, with a great Scottish influence, and for the next decade they dominated English football with a brand of artistic play, combining teamwork and quick, short passing. In 1905, the Magpies won the championship for the first time and almost did the double, losing in the FA Cup final to Aston Villa at Crystal Palace. The following season, United were again beaten in the Cup final, but in 1907 lifted the championship again. That season also saw Newcastle go out of the FA Cup to Crystal Palace, then a non-league side, in one of the great upsets of the competition. United also lost the 1908 FA Cup final, but picked up another league title in 1909, despite an amazing 9-1 defeat by arch-rivals Sunderland at St. James' Park. In 1910, the FA Cup finally came to Tyneside, following United's win over Barnsley in a replay at Goodison. Only a few teams have ever matched the stranglehold Newcastle had on the game in their heyday of 1903-1912. Long after his retirement, Peter McWilliam (a famous Newcastle half back) said "The Newcastle team of the 1900's would give any modern side a 2 goal start and beat them, and further more, beat them at a trot"! Major players of this era were McWilliam himself, fellow half-backs Veitch and Gardner, full-backs Carr, McCombie and McCracken, Jimmy Lawrence the long-serving keeper and top class forwards like Rutherford, Appleyard and Howie. After the First World War, United rebuilt quickly; players such as Frank Hudspeth, Neil Harris, Tom McDonald and Stan Seymour came to the fore, the latter becoming one of the greatest names at the club. In 1924, Newcastle again lifted the FA Cup, playing in the only the second final to be held at the new Empire Stadium at Wembley, and also gaining revenge over Aston Villa, beating them 2-0. That year, too, United signed another of their greatest players, Hughie Gallacher from Airdrie, and he proved to be a genius, being Newcastle's leading scorer for the next five seasons.

He netted 39 when he skippered Newcastle to their final (to date) league championship in 1927, a total that has only recently (1994) been beaten! Regrettably, Newcastle tailed off after this win and followed up with a succession of disappointing campaigns. By 1930, they were at the wrong end of the table and but for Gallacher, would have been relegated. Gallacher departed in the close season, having been transferred to Chelsea against his will. Former Scottish international Andy Cunningham took over as the Magpie's first ever Team Manager. Cunningham experimented with team selection and when Gallacher returned with his new club, an all time record for attendance was set at St. James'.

Cunningham's experimentation finally paid off when Newcastle lifted the FA Cup for the third time, beating Arsenal in controversial circumstances. Apparently the ball had just gone out for a goal kick when it was crossed over for a Newcastle goal. Whatever, the referee and linesmen didn't think so, and Newcastle ran out 2-1 winners.

Despite having a potentially fine pool of players, Newcastle could not find a permanently winning pattern, and in the 1933-34 campaign, after enjoying an excellent festive season, thrashing Everton 7-3 and Liverpool 9-2 in the space of a few days, Newcastle trailed off and were eventually relegated, ending 36 years of top flight football. Cunningham departed and Tom Mather took his place. Newcastle found it difficult to adjust to the second division and promotion seemed a remote prospect. In the 1937-38 season, United only escaped further relegation to the Third Division North by one- tenth of a goal, after goal averages were worked out! During the summer of 1938, former Magpie's outside-left Stan Seymour joined the board, starting a successful off the field career with united that was to last for decades. After recording a huge loss of almost 17,000 pounds, the Second World War drew it's shadow over Europe, and Newcastle spent wartime fruitfully, searching the North East for promising young players, and coming up with talent like Jackie Milburn, Tommy Walker and Bobby Cowell.

By the time League football resumed in 1946, Newcastle had a side to be reckoned with. Centre Forward Albert Stubbins, a youngster at St.James' in the 1930's, had blossomed into a remarkable goal scorer in wartime football, and in 1945-6 he played for England. After augmenting the squad with players like Joe Harvey and Frank Brennan, United just missed promotion and a Wembley visit in 1947. Crowds were coming back in droves to United and money was once again flowing into the coffers. Len Shackleton proved to be another good signing and on his debut, set a record for most United goals scored in a match when he put 6 past Newport County in a remarkable 13-0 victory - to this day Newcastle's biggest win! The following season saw United break more records with an average attendance of nearly 57,000, the highest in the league, despite Newcastle still being in Division 2. There were 15,000 applicants for the clubs meagre 1,500 season tickets. Milburn switched from the wing to centre forward, and this proved to be a great move as he hammered in 20 goals during this promotion season. United continued to strengthen their squad, bringing in George Robledo and Bobby Mitchell. For the next decade United were one of the First Division's high-flyers, completing a trio of FA Cup wins in 1951, 1952 and 1955. Robledo equalled Gallacher's 25 year old 39-goal's in a season record in 1952.

As ever unfortunately, Newcastle went into something of a decline after the 1955 victory, and despite Charlie Mitten taking over in 1958, as manager of what looked a good side in the making, Newcastle fell away badly and were relegated in 1961. The 1960-61 season was fascinating however, for Newcastle netted almost 100 goals, unfortunately conceding more than 100.

Mitten departed soon after and in came an old United favourite, former Cup winning captain Joe Harvey, in the summer of 1962. Newcastle were struggling in every respect, yet within 3 years, in 1965, Newcastle returned to top-flight football as Division 2 Champions. A mixture of young talent like David Craig and Frank Clark, together with transfers like Stan Anderson, Jimiley and David Hilley, gave United a tough squad. Newcastle consolidated their 1st Division place and in 1968 entered European Competition for the first time in the UEFA Inter Cities Fairs Cup.

Newcastle were not given much of a chance, but astonished everyone by beating European giants Feyenoord 4-0 in the first leg, first round. They then went onto beat teams such as Sporting Lisbon and Glasgow Rangers before demolishing Hungarians Ujpest Dozsa home and away in the final to lift the trophy. Players like "Pop" Robson, Wyn Davies and Bobby Moncur rose to fame during this time.

In the summer of 1971, after more continental drama, Joe Harvey tried a different formula, with both Robson and Davies moving on; Harvey paid a club record fee for arrogant Cockney striker Malcolm MacDonald, and the next five years belonged to "Supermac".

The new season saw Newcastle at the foot of the table and knocked out of the FA Cup by then non-league Hereford United. Goals from MacDonald and the midfield strength of Terry Hibbitt and Tony Green saved the Magpies from the drop and a new period of entertaining, but not always successful, football followed. United made another appearance at Wembley in the FA Cup in 1974, where they failed to produce anything like their best form, and were soundly beaten 3-0 by Liverpool, who had Kevin Keegan in sparkling form. Harvey departed in 1975 and virtually unknown manager, Gordon Lee, took over. Gordon disliked the 'star system' in his teams and the teams he put together increasingly failed to excite the Newcastle public. Lee clashed with MacDonald, and although United went back to Wembley for the 1976 League Cup final and enjoyed their highest league placing for 25 years, Lee's sale of MacDonald to Arsenal was not well received on Tyneside to say the least. On his departure, MacDonald said "I loved Newcastle, until Gordon Lee took over". Newcastle however, did not appear to miss Supermac, qualifying for the UEFA Cup despite Lee's own departure to Everton mid way through the following season. Lee's sensational departure focussed the media on St. James' and into the furore stepped former coach Richard Dinnis. There was a headlined "Players Revolt" surrounding Dinnis and as attendances dropped to below 8,000 - as low as anyone could remember - the now familiar relegation battle was lost in 1978. A long rebuilding programme started, which saw first Bill McGarry in charge, then Arthur Cox. The crisis around the turn of the decade deepened with disillusioned supporters drifting away from a poor team and a worsening financial plight, which eventually saw changes on the board. In 1982, Cox brought striker Kevin Keegan to St. James' for a bargain 100,000 pounds.

This proved to be the catalyst for success, and the team, featuring budding stars such as Peter Beardsley and Chris Waddle gained promotion to the first division in 1984. However, the board refused to give Cox funds for new players, Keegan retired and Cox left for Derby County. What had looked like a new era, turned suddenly to dust! But then the board appointed local hero, and former England World Cup ace, Jack Charlton as manager. Charlton made the team more solid, playing occasional good football. However, Charlton's playing strategy, friction with Waddle and his apparent disinclination to find quality players in the transfer market, did not always make him popular - the fans booed him during a friendly match with Sheffield United and he resigned, later attaining more international glory! Enter former United keeper, Willie McFaul, as manager. During this spell, despite having Brazilian international striker Mirandinha, Beardsley, Waddle and a superslim Paul Gascoigne, Newcastle failed to finish higher than 5th in the league, with no real cup success either. The board's lack of ambition was typified when several key players were sold, Waddle in '86, Beardsley in '87 and Gazza in '88. The club made no reasonable attempt to replace any of these players, and relegation soon followed in 1989. McFaul departed and Jim Smith took over.

Smith didn't last long either, and left in 1991 for Portsmouth, saying that the club was 'unmanageable'. By this time, the club was going through another boardroom struggle; Sir John Hall's 'Magpie Group' was bidding for a controlling stake in the club.

Perhaps to counteract this, the board appointed former Argentine World Cup ace Ossie Ardiles as manager. Ossie always played football the right way, but unfortunately he was stuck with a young team (ironically, the good, more experienced, young players of today) and there was little money to spend on more experienced players. The Magpie Group took over the club and Sir John became chairman. Things on the field got steadily worse until in February 1992, Newcastle were looking at relegation to the (old) third division and certain bankruptcy.

The clubs financial backers forced Sir John to make a drastic change. Exit Ardilles and re-enter Kevin Keegan, to the only management job he said he would take in football. With 16 games to save a 100-year-old North East institution, and having no managerial experience, Keegan brought in free transfer players Brian Kilcline and Kevin Sheedy to add some experience. Newcastle won their first game 3-0 in front of 30,000 people, and, despite some defeats, survived by beating Leicester City 2-1 away in the last game. After initial teething problems with the new Keegan/Sir John partnership, Sir John gained 90% control of the club and released proper funding for new players. Keegan bought wisely, bringing in players such as Robert Lee, Paul Bracewell and Barry Venison; the revitalised team, watched at home by near capacity crowds, took the 1992-93 (new) First Division Championship and returned to the top flight, this time to the FA Carling Premiership. During their first season, they won the hearts of many with their attractive passing, attacking game and finished 3rd, their highest finishing place since 1927!

Their current manager, Bobby Robson, who recently rewarded with a knighthood, which he received in the Queen's birthday honours list, to the delight of the Newcastle fans and, undoubtedly, the majority of football fans in the country, became known as ‘Sir Bobby Robson’. One of world football's most experienced managers and coaches, North-Easterner Robson returned home to Newcastle United in September 1999 for what he calls 'my last job'.

A Newcastle supporter since childhood, County Durham-born Robson managed England for eight years between 1982 and 1990 as well as top European clubs Sporting Lisbon, FC Porto, Barcelona and PSV Eindhoven.

He started out as a player with Fulham, whom he joined from his local club Langley Park Juniors in 1950, and as an inside forward he scored 68 goals in 152 games.

In March 1956, Robson joined West Bromwich Albion, where he played 239 times, netting 56 goals, before returning to Fulham in 1962, where he played a further 192 games, scoring nine goals. With West Bromwich, Robson made his England debut against France at Wembley in November 1957, scoring twice from inside right in a 4-0 victory. Despite that success, he had to wait six months for his second cap - against Russia in Moscow - and was then elevated to the 1958 World Cup squad, playing a second time against Russia, then Brazil and Australia, and going on to total 20 caps in the next four years.

In 1967 Robson left Fulham to become player-coach of Vancouver Whitecaps, but the job fell through and he returned to take over as manager at Fulham in January 1968.

He was appointed in as manager of Newcastle in September 1999, and has done very well. Many people remember Bobby Robson as the man who very nearly led England to their first World Cup final since 1966, but in a long and varied career he has enjoyed considerably more success than disappointment.

Bobby's managerial career began in Canada in 1967 with Vancouver Whitecaps. As a player he earned 20 full England caps and represented his country in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden having played for Fulham and West Bromich Albion.

He returned to Fulham as manager in 1968 but was sacked in November that year and was appointed to manage Ipswich Town in 1969.

He struggled to lift Ipswich from the lower reaches of the First Division in his first three seasons in charge but from 1972-73 to 1981-82 the team only finished outside the top six once, competing in Europe eight years out of nine.

Players such as George Burley, Mick Mills, John Wark, Paul Mariner, Terry Butcher, Rusell Osman, Eric Gates and the Dutchman Arnold Muhren played the kind of football that the fans at Portman Road had rarely seen.

Bobby's team won two trophies during that period -the FA Cup in 1978, with a famous victory over Arsenal and the UEFA Cup in 1981, probably Ipswich's greatest achievement in their history.

He was also very unlucky not to take his team to the League title two years running as Aston Villa edged them out in 1980-81 and by Liverpool the following season.

He was not to get another chance to win the League with Ipswich as the FA selected Bobby to manage the national team. He took England to two World Cups, where his team was by the eventual champions beaten on both occasions. England lost at 'the hands' of Argentina in the quarterfinals in 1986 and to West Germany on penalties in the semi-final in 1990.

With his England career over after the World Cup in Italy, Bobby surprised many people by accepting a job in Holland as manager of PSV Eindhoven. In his first season he won the Dutch League and successfully defended the title in 1992.

He moved to Portugal to take charge of Sporting Lisbon but was controversially sacked after a year. Staying in Portugal however, Bobby took the helm at FC Porto, where he won the Portuguese Cup and successive League titles, before moving to Spain to manage Catalan giants Barcelona. In 1997 he won the European Cup Winners Cup but was then replaced as team manager by Johann Cruyff and took up a position as General Manager, searching Europe for new talent.

Bobby returned to PSV in 1998 before being offered the chance to return to England, and his hometown, with Newcastle United. He accepted the challenge of resurrecting the Magpies fortunes to glory and received a hero's welcome at St. James Park.

He was offered a second chance to manage England by the FA following former Magpies' hero Kevin Keegan's resignation, but the Newcastle board would not allow Robson to accept the post.

He has yet to achieve his aim of winning a trophy at Newcastle but having ensured the club's Premiership survival in his first season in charge, then consolidated their position in the top flight; Bobby began to mould a team capable of challenging for honours.

Having signed some of Britain's brightest young stars, such as Kieron Dyer, Craig Bellamy and Jermaine Jenas, Bobby saw his side - led by former England hero Alan Shearer - take the Barclaycard Premiership by storm in the 2001/2002 season.

The Magpies exceeded many people's expectations to top the table at Christmas. Although they could not maintain their challenge for the title, they held off the challenge of Leeds and Chelsea to claim fourth place and qualification for the UEFA Champions League.

Bobby did not finish the season empty-handed however; as he was rewarded for his efforts with a Barclaycard Merit award at the League Managers annual awards dinner in May 2002.

One of England's brightest young stars, Kieron cost Newcastle £6m when he moved from Ipswich Town in July 1999, but quickly demonstrated the talent which made him such hot property. He signed a 7-year contract, as the club believed he had excellent potential.

Only 20 when he joined United, Kieron quickly added full England caps to the collection of Youth, Under-21 and B caps he had built up at Ipswich, though he narrowly missed out on Kevin Keegan's final squad for Euro 2000. To date, he has roughly 10 international caps, and at least 8 full caps.

Deceptively slim, Kieron has strength in his balance, which makes him hard to shake off the ball, and his light frame allows him the speed to get away from opponents.

Like many of his colleagues, last season was one that was blighted by injury and after manfully struggling through many games when clearly not fit, he succumbed to the surgeon's knife on two occasions in March in order to put an end to the stress fracture that was eventually diagnosed as causing the pain in his shin.

When fully fit once again, Kieron, the subject of much transfer speculation through the summer, which placed him in the £20m bracket, will remain a constant danger to defences and with age will come the experience to make him the finished article.

However, one of the most famous players in the game today, is Alan Shearer. Alan was also the world's most expensive footballer at the time of his £15m move from Blackburn to Newcastle in the summer of 1996.

Geordie Alan makes no secret of his love for Newcastle United, and the partnership is a marriage made in heaven, but one, which before the start of this season had borne no trophies, though a few near misses.

Many believed Kevin Keegan's addition of Shearer to a squad which had just missed out on the 1995-96 Championship would seal the title, but another second place finish in 1996-97 denied United that honour, and a serious ankle injury then sidelined Alan for half of the 1997-98 campaign.

However, his regular goals output has continued and a total of 30 last season underlines his enduring ability in the penalty area.

The scorer of a hat-trick on his debut for Southampton against Arsenal as a 17- year-old in 1988, Alan went on to become the first man to score 30 Premier League goals in three successive seasons. Joined Blackburn from Southampton for a then British record £3.6m fee in 1992, and won a championship medal three years later.

He won the English PFA Player of the Year in 1995 and 1997, he scored 30 goals in 63 games for England before his retirement from international football at the end of Euro 2000.

Last year, Alan's season was disrupted by injury, which restricted him to only 23 appearances. He underwent two knee operations to clear up his tendonitis problem, one in December and one in May in the USA, but is now fit and raring to go.

Awarded the OBE for services to Association Football in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in June 2001 to go with the Freedom of the City of Newcastle upon Tyne that was bestowed upon him in March.

Received a terrific and emotional welcome when he returned to first team action as a substitute against Sunderland on 26 August before hitting two goals against Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium on his first start of the season on 8 September.

Previous Managers
Frank Watt 1895-1930
Andy Cunningham 1930-35
Tom Mather 1935-39
Stan Seymour 1939-47
George Martin 1947-50
Stan Seymour 1950-54
Duggie Livingstone 1954-56
Stan Seymour 1956-58
Charlie Mitten 1958-61
Norman Smith 1961-62
Joe Harvey 1962-75
Gordon Lee 1975-77
Richard Dinnis 1977
Bill McGarry 1977-80
Arthur Cox 1980-84
Jack Charlton 1984
Willie McFaul 1985-88
Jim Smith 1988-91
Ossie Ardiles 1991-92
Kevin Keegan Feb 1992-Jan 96
Kenny Dalglish Jan 96 - August 1998
Ruud Gullit 27th August 98 - 28th August 99
Bobby Robson

Record Transfer Fees

Newcastle United paid £15,000,000 to Blackburn Rovers for Alan Shearer in July 1996.

The highest fee they have recieved, is £6,250,000 from Manchester United for Andy Cole in January 1995.

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