Newcastle United is an enigma of English football – a club with huge potential in a region where football is a religion. The Tyneside outfit have had a charted history since their inception in 1892, and their legacy is something that every football fan should be aware of. From a Newcastle United fan’s perspective , we detail a 12 point historical rollercoaster of highs and lows, which the club has gone through – players leaving, relegations, economic crisis in the region, financial crisis and protests; however, in spite of all these difficulties, the club still stands tall, looking ahead in the forward direction.
The region, also referred as Newcastle upon Tyne, was flourishing during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, attracting many players to the region to ply their trade at the club. The club was formed from two separate clubs, Newcastle Westend and Newcastle Eastend; both teams were bitter rivals in the Northern League, but after the financial decline of the Westend, the two clubs merged to form Newcastle United.
Newcastle United competes in one of the fiercest rivalry in England – the Tyne Wear Derby – against local rivals Sunderland. The history of the Tyne and Wear derby involving Newcastle and Sunderland dates back to the English Civil War, where protests against privileges enjoyed by the merchants of Royalist Newcastle led to Sunderland gaining a political stronghold over Newcastle.
Success in the Tyneside and ‘Offside Trap’
The coming years saw success in the Tyneside, both in the League competitions as well as in the FA Cup. The club won the league three times and played in FA Cup finals four times, winning once; all these achievements were accomplished in the first decade of the 20th century. After a great run of success in English football, the club welcomed Frank Hudspeth and Bill McCracken, who many believe were the pioneers of the Offside Trap. Frank Hudspeth and Bill McCracken were so proficient in the offside trap, that FA had to make changes in the offside rule to increase the number of goals scored.
‘Wor Jackie’ Milburn era and the Legendary No. 9 shirt
For Geordies, the Newcastle United No. 9 shirt and the player wearing it has a special place in their hearts. Micky Quinn, a former No. 9, went on to say
‘There was something special when I was handed the No. 9 shirt, the shirt has a history associated with it’.
But long before Micky Quinn had worn that shirt, the history was created by one Jackie Milburn. Milburn was a central figure in Newcastle’s three FA Cup triumphs in the early 50’s – scoring in both the 1951 and 1955 FA Cup finals. In a career spanning fourteen years, including two years during World War, ‘Wor Jackie’ managed to score a record 200 goals* for the club, 178 times in the league. This record was eventually broken by Alan Shearer in 2006. Jackie Milburn still remembered for his lightning speed, great shots and exceptional aerial power, something which typifies all the great Number 9’s at Tyneside.
* No. of goals scored by Jackie Milburn is still disputable, as the tally doesn’t take into account the goals scored by Jackie Milburn during the War Period.
Commencement of European Football and subsequent decline
Many believe that the inception of the European Football was one of the major reasons for the decline of football in the North East, as the attention of the world shifted to the North West of England towards Manchester United and later to Liverpool. Actually, it wasn’t the only in football where the North East club were falling behind; the shipping business that had formed the backbone of the economy in that region was also on decline, and were moving towards Manchester. Newcastle United, under Joe Harvey, qualified for Europe in 1968 for the first time, and bettered their reputation as an unpredictable team by winning the Inter-Cities Fair Cup that year.
Kevin Keegan Era Part I
Kevin Keegan moved to Newcastle United in 1982, and many on the Tyneside couldn’t believe that a player of a stature of Kevin Keegan could move to a Second Division club. Such was the aura surrounding the transfer, that the television series, ‘Auf Wiedersehen Pet’ used a newspaper clipping about Keegan moving to Newcastle to persuade the fictional Oz to go back to Tyneside. Kevin Keegan, along with Terry McDermott and Peter Beardsley, who were returning to the Tyneside at that time, and young players like Chris Waddle, blitzed through the Second Division to help Newcastle United jump back to the first division. Keegan went on to retire at Newcastle United in 1984, scoring 48 goals in 74 league games.
Kevin Keegan Era Part II- Rise of “The Geordie Messiah”
Kevin Keegan again returned to Newcastle United, this time as manager; he took a Second Division side and converted them to title challengers in three seasons. Newcastle United under Keegan played a scintillating brand of football, and later they were christened as the 4-3 experts. So much was the euphoria about the style of football, where players on the pitch were given full freedom to achieve the dream set by King Kev. Unfortunately the managerial reign of Keegan didn’t last long, and he left the Tyneside club after five long years at the helm. Even after his departure, the supporters still pray to see the same brand of dazzling football in the Tyneside.
Newcastle splashed the cash big time in 1996, when they broke the world transfer record by signing Alan Shearer, a classic centre-forward with strength, heading ability and a strong shot, for 15 million pounds. This was the second time in fifteen years, after the arrival of Kevin Keegan to the club, where fans went gaga over a player’s signing. Alan Shearer, who had moved to Southampton as a teenager, returned to his boyhood club, following the footsteps of his boyhood hero Kevin Keegan, then the Newcastle United manager. Alan Shearer played for Newcastle for 10 more years, although the second place in 1997 was the closest Shearer got to win the league, Shearer went on to become Newcastle’s leading goal scorer, and still remains the Premier League leading goal scorer with 206 goals.
Sir Bobby Robson
“When I said to my father that I have joined Fulham, my father looked at me and said a part of me has just died”
These were the words coming from the great Sir Bobby Robson when he joined Newcastle United as manager; he was maybe the only manager after Kevin Keegan, who was loved and considered as one of their own by the Geordies. Sir Bobby Robson brought back the glimpse of glory football first seen under Kevin Keegan, taking Newcastle United to third place in 2 years. However, a fifth place finish next season and reports of Robson having lost the dressing room meant that the great manager’s time at the club was over, even before the club could fully reap its rewards.
When Mike Ashley came three and half years ago, one of his major improvements in his mind was that of the youth side. Among the recent graduates of the Newcastle United academy are Andy Carroll, who has moved on to Liverpool, Tim Krul, the Dutch U-21 captain , Tamas Kadar and Shane Ferguson, both full internationals; with these players closing on a first team berth, the future of Newcastle United looks bright.
Wallsend Boys Club
Wallsend Boys Club, situated on the North East of England, has produced many Newcastle United and England legends such as Alan Shearer, Peter Beardsley, Lee Clark, and Steven Taylor. The club still remains the source of players to Newcastle, the latest one being Adam Campbell, the MVP at last year’s Nike Pro Tournament held at Manchester United, the same award previously won by the likes of Fernando Torres, Andres Iniesta and Carlos Tevez.
Fans- The 12th Man
Chris Hughton, the manager of Newcastle United last year, said
“We’ve got the best home record in the country because we’ve got the best fans in the country, They have turned out in huge numbers at St James’ park all season, they have always stuck with us and that’s why, on a couple of occasions, we’ve got late goals to win games.”
Optimistic, loud and witty are some of the adjectives associated with the Geordies, but one characteristic that epitomizes the Newcastle United fans is their loyalty towards the club. Last year in the Championship, fans filled about 80-85% of the stadium – a gate count greater than the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool.
After maybe going through the lowest point in their football history and having come back stronger, though not as strong as they did last time around, the team continues to enthrall football fans with their style of football. The flashes were there to be seen, and the team has the same unpredictability associated with many Newcastle United sides of the past. The fans are on board for yet another roller-coaster ride, but this time they don’t fear anything; they would pack up the stadium, sing Blaydon Races as loudly as they can, and root for victory till the final whistle.
Howay The Lads!!!