Last updated : 18 February 2007 By Footy Mad - Editor


In the Beginning...

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 were 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 North-East. 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 it's players and most of it's 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 were elected to Division 2. They declined because 'gates would not meet the heavy expenses incurred for travelling'.

Northern League matches at tracted 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.

The Heydays

United played their first game under their new title in a friendly against Middlesborough on Christmas Eve 1892. The first com- petitive 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 Divi- sion 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 with 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 pro- motion season proved to be the most successful so far in the club's history - gate receipts totalled 4,934 pounds and 7 shil- lings. United unfortunately lost their first match in the big time, at home to Wolves, 4-2 and had to wait 11 games before fi- nally 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 team-work and quick, short passing. In 1905, the Magpies won the championship for the first time and al- most 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 New- castle 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.

Between the Wars

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, play- ing 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. Gal- lacher 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 New- castle 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.

After the War

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 goalscorer 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 Char- lie 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, Jim Iley and David Hilley, gave United a tough squad. Newcastle con- solidated 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.

The Seventies and Eighties

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 enter taining, 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 spark- ling form.

Harvey departed in 1975 and virtually unknown manager, Gordon Lee, took over. Gordon disliked the 'star sys- tem' in his teams and the teams he put together increasingly failed to excite the Newcastle public. Lee clashed with Mac- Donald, 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 drift- ing 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 re- fused 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.

A New Beginning - The Nineties

Smith didn't last last long either, and left in 1991 for Ports- mouth, saying that the club was 'unmanagable'. 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 institu- tion, and having no managerial experience, Keegan brought in free transfer players Brian Kilcline and Kevin Sheedy to add some ex- perience. 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!