Wednesday, September 19, 2007

History of Newcastle United F.C.

The Creation (1881 - 1895)
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 cricket club in the town of Stanley, Co.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. West End played their early football on their cricket pitch, but later moved to St. James' Park.

West End soon became the city's premier club. East End were anxious not to be left behind and lured Tom Watson into becoming the club secretary/manager 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 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. 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 22 December, but the new title was not legalised until 6 September 1895, when Newcastle United Football Club Co. Ltd. was constituted.

The First Glory Era (1895 - 1914)
United then developed a side which became Edwardian England's master outfit, but not before the Tynesiders went through a worrying period due to lack of support at the turnstile and lack of money at the bank. But through the help of their directors the club was propped up and they survived to become a force in the game.

Newcastle started to purchase talented players, especially from Scotland, and soon had a squad to rival all of England. With players like Colin Veitch, Jackie Rutherford, Jimmy Lawrence and Albert Shepherd, the Black'n'Whites had a team of international talent. There was Bill McCracken, Jimmy Howie, Peter McWilliam and Andy Aitken too. All were household names in their day. However, in 1908 they faced the humiliation of a 9-1 home defeat to the once local rivals Sunderland, still the record English home defeat to this day.

The Magpies lifted the League Championship on three occasions and reached five FA Cup finals in the years leading up to World War I in 1914. Geordie fans had enjoyed ten years of being the team everyone wanted to topple. United played a style of football celebrated in the game's history. It was possession football in an entertaining, rousing fashion.

Interwar Success (1919 - 1939)
After World War I, the Twenties was just as eventful. The Black'n'Whites lifted the FA Cup at Wembley in 1924 defeating Aston Villa - only the second ever final to be staged at the famous stadium. And a record signing of Scottish international centre-forward Hughie Gallacher made sure United collected another Championship trophy three years later in 1927.

Famous names continued to pull on the Newcastle striped shirt. Apart from the legendary Gallacher, the Magpies fielded the likes of Neil Harris, Stan Seymour and Frank Hudspeth. Seymour was to become an influential figure for the next 40 years as player, manager and director.

It was back to Wembley in 1932 to compete in the infamous 'Over the Line' FA Cup final with Arsenal. United won the game 2-1 after scoring a goal following a cross from Jimmy Richardson which appeared to be hit from out of play - over the line. There were no action replays then and the referee allowed the goal, a controversial talking point in FA Cup history.

Newcastle boasted master players like Sammy Weaver and Jack Allen, as well as the first player-manager in the top division in Scottish international Andy Cunningham. But after glory at the Twin Towers of Wembley, Newcastle's form slumped and by 1934 they had been relegated for the first time in their history.

Amazingly in the same season as they fell into the Second Division, United defeated Liverpool 9-2 and Everton 7-3 within the space of a week! A rebuilding process took place in the years leading up to the Second World War and by that time former star winger Stan Seymour had been appointed to the Board of Directors. A determined character, he set the foundations of United's next great period.

Postwar Success (1945 - 1976)
Former star winger Stan Seymour had been appointed to the Board of Directors just before the outbreak of World War II. A determined character, he set the foundations of United's next great period.

By the time peace was restored in 1945, Seymour was at the forefront of affairs, manager in all but name. He ensured that the Magpies possessed an entertaining eleven full of stars, a mix of home-grown talent like Jackie Milburn, Bobby Cowell and Ernie Taylor, as well as big signings in the shape of George Robledo, Bobby Mitchell, Joe Harvey, Len Shackleton and Frank Brennan.

Newcastle spent the first couple of years post-war in the Second Division. Crowds were high after the return to football, and in 1946 Newcastle recorded the joint-highest victory in English League Football history, defeating Newport County 13-0. Len Shackleton, playing his debut in that match, scored 6 goals in the match, another record for Newcastle.

Newcastle returned to the First Division in double quick time. Promotion was achieved in 1948 in front of vast crowds. An average of almost 57,000 at every home game saw United's fixtures that year, a national record for years to come. That was just the start of another period of success.

During the Fifties decade United lifted the FA Cup trophy on three occasions within a five year period. In 1951 they defeated Blackpool 2-0, a year later Arsenal were beaten 1-0 and in 1955 United crushed Manchester City 3-1. The Magpies were known in every corner of the country, and so were their players; 'Wor Jackie' Milburn and Bobby 'Dazzler' Mitchell the pick of a side that was renowned the nation over.

Despite having quality players throughout the era, stars like Ivor Allchurch, George Eastham and Len White during the latter years of the decade, United slipped from the First Division in 1961 under the controversial management of ex-Manchester United star, Charlie Mitten. It was a huge blow to the club.

An old war-horse returned to revitalise the Magpies in the shape of Joe Harvey, who had skippered the club to much of their post-war success. He teamed up with Stan Seymour to rebuild United and the Black'n'Whites returned to the elite as Second Division Champions in 1965. United then became very much an unpredictable side, always capable of defeating the best, but never quite realising their huge potential until very recently.

Joe Harvey's side qualified for Europe for the first time in 1968 and stunned everyone the following year by lifting the Inter Cities Fairs Cup; the forerunner of the UEFA Cup. United possessed a solid eleven and Newcastle's tradition of fielding a famous Number 9 at centre-forward since earliest years continued as big Welshman Wyn Davies was prominent along with the likes of Bryan "Pop" Robson, Bobby Moncur and Frank Clark.

In the years that followed European success, manager Harvey brought in a string of talented entertainers who thrilled the Gallowgate crowd. Pleasers like Jimmy Smith, Tony Green and Terry Hibbitt. And especially a new centre-forward by the name of Malcolm Macdonald.

Nicknamed 'Supermac', Macdonald was one of United's greatest hero figures. Brash, arrogant and devastating in front of goal, he led United's attack to Wembley twice, in 1974 and 1976, against Liverpool in the FA Cup and Manchester City in the League Cup. But on each occasion the Magpies failed to bring the trophy back to Tyneside.

Down... and up again (1976 - 1984)
At the start of the 1980s, United had declined dramatically and were languishing in the Second Division. Gordon Lee had replaced Harvey as boss, yet he in turn soon gave way to Richard Dinnis and then Bill McGarry. But it was Arthur Cox who steered United back again to the First Division with ex England skipper Kevin Keegan the focus of the side, having joined the Magpies in a sensational deal in 1982.

The football inspired by Keegan captivated Tyneside and United stormed into the top division in a style only bettered by Kevin's own brand of football as a manager in the next decade. Alongside Keegan were youngsters Peter Beardsley and Chris Waddle, as well as seasoned campaigners like Terry McDermott and David McCreery.

Back at the top (1984 - 1989)
One of English footballs greatest talents, Paul Gascoigne or 'Gazza', emerged as a youngster at the club during this period, under manager Jack Charlton (who later went on to take Republic of Ireland to two World Cup finals). Newcastle consolidated their place in Division One but then a period of selling their best players (Beardsley to Liverpool, and Waddle and Gazza both to Tottenham), rocked the club and led to supporter unrest, as did a share-war for control of the boardroom.

Heading towards oblivion (1989 - 1992)
The Magpies tumbled back into the Second Division in 1989 and over the next three seasons found themselves in a perilous state. They had little money, star players headed south and crowds dwindled. Several managerial changes took place - Jim Smith and Ossie Ardiles could not stop the rot. With the club hovering on the brink of a further, potentially catastrophic, relegation Newcastle United needed a saviour. They not only found one, but two, as Sir John Hall and Kevin Keegan joined forces to salvage Newcastle's reputation.

The Keegan Revolution (1992 - 1997)
When Kevin Keegan returned to Tyneside to replace Ossie Ardiles as manager on a short term contract in 1992, taking what he claimed to be the only job that could tempt him back into football, United were struggling at the wrong end of Division Two. Sir John Hall had all but taken control of the club and he needed a minor miracle to stop the Magpies from tumbling into the Third Division for the first time in their history.

If Sir John was to transform the near bankrupt club they simply had to survive relegation. Just as before, Keegan's mere presence captivated the region. United's disgruntled supporters became excited, expectant ones over-night. They packed St James Park again and United survived in Division Two on the last day of the season. Hall now turned his attention to a masterplan to develop Newcastle United into one of the superclubs of Europe. Kevin Keegan stayed on as manager and both swung into action.

The club's finances were transformed; St James Park redeveloped into a world-class stadium, now accommodating over 52,000. Keegan brought in new players, many international superstars. It was the start of a special five years under his guidance.

Spearheaded by the prolific striker Andy Cole and David Kelly, who were ably supported by midfielders Paul Bracewell, Ruel Fox, Gavin Peacock and Rob Lee, and Brian 'Killer' Kilcline (a tough free transfer defender who Keegan later claimed was his best signing) Newcastle secured promotion to the Premier League by winning the First Division Championship, often simply overwhelming opponents along the way (a 7-1 victory over Leicester City being particularly memorable). The Magpies joined the elite for the 1993-94 season and United very quickly became recognised as a serious force, claiming two second place spots and just missing out on the title over the next few seasons.

Sir John Hall's millions allowed the club to invest heavily in players, and United's squad became a virtual all international one, containing players from across the globe. Exotic foreign players like David Ginola and Faustino Asprilla, and British stars like the popular and effective veteran Peter Beardsley, striker Les Ferdinand, and later Alan Shearer brought glamour and excitement back to the North East.

The first team built up a reputation for playing an attacking, almost cavalier, brand of football under Keegan - their occasionally leaky defence was not a major problem, as the team could almost always score more than they conceded. By Christmas of the 1995 season, Newcastle had built up a seemingly unassailable 15 point lead in the Premier League. Unfortunately this lead proved less secure then Newcastle's supporters, and Keegan himself, had hoped.

Manchester United won the league by four points in the season of 1995/96. The 'mind games' of Manchester's manager Alex Ferguson (who provoked an infamous live-on-TV rant from Keegan), that teams impressive post-Christmas form, or the alteration of Newcastle's direct attacking playing style, and of personnel, that was required to accommodate the mercurial, somewhat unpredictable Asprilla have all been blamed by supporters to explain the devastating capitulation that occurred that season. A more likely explanation is that their lack of defensive nous, coupled with occasional losses in winnable games, proved to be their undoing over the full season.

The points lead that Newcastle United enjoyed at Christmas 1995 was one of the largest to be surrendered by any team in the Premiership, and Newcastle never quite looked the same threat again, although they continued to perform, finishing second again the following season. However a lack of success in English and European cup competitions meant that the clubs long long wait for a trophy did not end under Keegan.

Controversy surrounded the club in 1996 when two board members, Douglas Hall, son of Chairman Sir John Hall, and Freddie Shepherd made a series of remarks to an undercover tabloid journalist. They ridiculed Alan Shearer, called the supporters "stupid" for paying through the nose for the cheap shirts they like wearing, and stated that they preferred to do their whoring abroad because the women of Newcastle "are all dogs". Almost unbelievably, Shepherd subsequently became Chairman!

Keegan's resignation in January 1997 came just days after a 7-1 victory for his club, against Tottenham Hotspur, although fans felt it had been brewing for some time, despite a memorable 5-0 thumping of Manchester United in October 1996, and the fact that the Magpies were still looking like strong contenders for the 1996-97 Premiership title.

Falling behind the pack (1997 - 1999)
Keegan's replacement as manager was Kenny Dalglish, who it was felt would help solidify the team defensively. In their first season under his guidance Newcastle entered the Champions League, and reached the FA Cup final only to fall to a defeat by Arsenal. However, Dalglish's cautious brand of football proved unpopular with supporters used to Newcastle's previous swashbuckling style; more importantly this cautious style was not producing results. Several unsuccessful transfer deals along with a poor start to the 1998 / 1999 season led to Dalglish being sacked.

Ruud Gullit, a trophy winning manager with Chelsea a few years previously, was put in charge promising to bring back 'sexy football' to Newcastle. The team again started promisingly, and reached the FA Cup final that season. Unfortunately this time around they were to lose to Manchester United. Gullit also made some high profile mistakes in the transfer market (notably, Spanish defender Marcelino and forward Silvio Maric bore the brunt of supporters frustrations). Less forgivably, he also fell out with several senior players, including Alan Shearer, and the club captain Rob Lee, who had been the heartbeat of the team for the previous half decade. A humiliating loss to once arch-rivals Sunderland, and a dreadful start to the 1999 / 00 season prompted his resignation.

Back with the leading pack (1999 - 2004)
Veteran ex-England manager, and local boy, Sir Bobby Robson was brought in to replace Gullit. His first job, unthinkable a few years previously, was to ensure Newcastle's survival in the Premiership. This was achieved, at the expense of stylish football, but with Lee and Shearer back onside. Over the next few seasons Robson built up an exciting young squad, as well as getting to an Inter-Toto Cup final against Troyes AC, which they lost on away goals after a 4-4 draw at home. Players such as Kieron Dyer (a Gullit signing), Craig Bellamy and Laurent Robert ensured the team were capable of once again punching their weight in the league. An unlikely Championship challenge almost emerged in the last few weeks of the 2002/2003 season, and Newcastle achieved qualification for the lucrative Champions' League.

The 2002/2003 season was a particularly colourful one for Newcastle on the European stage. In the first group stage, Newcastle lost their first three matches in a row, then, in an astonishing reversal, shocked Italian giants Juventus 1-0 at St James' Park. They then controversially beat Dinamo Kiev 2-1 in Newcastle before winning the crucial last match, away to Feyenoord, 3-2 in injury time, with striker Craig Bellamy scoring the injury time winner. With Dinamo Kiev losing at home to Juventus, Newcastle progressed to the second round.

That same striker Craig Bellamy was later involved in an on-pitch brawl with Internazionale defender Marco Materazzi. Bellamy was sent off, and was punished further by a three-match ban. Compounding the disaster for Newcastle was the suspension of influential captain Alan Shearer for a similar incident, although the punishment was just a two-match ban. Newcastle went on to lose 1-4 at home.

Shearer returned in the fourth game in the 4-team group, scoring all three goals in a 3-1 demolition of Bayer Leverkusen at home. Despite a superb performance against Internazionale in the famous San Siro, only to draw 2-2, Newcastle lost at home 2-0 to Barcelona and dropped out of the Champions League.

The 2003/2004 season saw Newcastle drop out of the Champions League at the first hurdle, they beat Partizan Belgrade 1-0 away from home, but then lost 1-0 at St James' Park and were eliminated via the penalty shootout. This defeat dropped Newcastle into the first round of the UEFA Cup. Newcastle reached the semifinals of the UEFA Cup in the 2003/2004 season, defeating NAC Breda, FC Basel, VĂ¥lerenga, Mallorca and PSV along the way, before eventually being knocked out by Olympique Marseille 2-0 on aggregate.

Newcastle finished 5th in the Premiership at the end of the 2003/2004 season, which ensured qualification for the UEFA Cup once again for the 2004/2005 season.

Another Setback (Since 2004)
After nearly five years in charge, Sir Bobby Robson was dismissed on August 30, 2004 following a poor start to the 2004-05 season and alleged discontent in the dressing room. A split had grown between Robson and the club owners when they had made a number of high-profile signings, apparently without consulting him - in particular that of Patrick Kluivert. He was further undermined by the club's high profile, but futile, offer for Wayne Rooney who instead moved to Manchester United. Robson later stated his dismay at the tendency for overpaid young players to demand all the perks without proving themselves on the pitch. Events during the ensuing season, on and off the pitch have gone a long way to confirm Robson's assessment. Robson was later given a £1 million severance payment.

Graeme Souness replaced Robson on September 13, two days after the Magpies' match against Souness' former club Blackburn Rovers. After initial good results, the team soon became mired in the bottom half of the table, remaining there for the rest of the season, and opinions on Souness are mixed among fans.

Following a training ground spat, Newcastle have been forced to let go one of their main assets Craig Bellamy, while their dip in performance due to the absence of Shearer through injury has worried the fan base. Despite the heavy investment of the last ten years in high profile transfers and the benefit of Alan Shearer, Newcastle is conspicuous in having failed to secure a major title. There is also such a growing gap between teams like Newcastle and the top flight of Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea that it is unlikely the club will succeed in the near future.

In November 2004 Club Chairman Freddy Shepherd again caused controversy, stating there was no debt owed by the 'elite' clubs of the Premiership to the rest of The FA—but with his own team underperforming this was somewhat ironic as well as inappropriate.

In April 2005, Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer came to blows during a Premiership match against Aston Villa, in an incident later described as 'the blackest day' by Shepherd. Bowyer was fined six weeks' wages (about £200,000), and both players received playing bans by The FA. The event overshadowed the announcement that Alan Shearer had extended his playing contract for a further year, and was to take up a coaching role with the club.

Newcastle had won the home leg of their UEFA cup Quarter final against Sporting Lisbon in April, but were comprehensively outplayed during the away match and lost 4 - 1, in the process suffering several injuries. In the same week they played Manchester United in an FA Cup semifinal at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. The scoreline, again 4 - 1, reflected the one-sided nature of the encounter. This left the Intertoto Cup as the team's only route into European competition in the 2005/06 season. During this campaign a rift opened up between Souness and Shepherd with the Manager complaining that an already thin squad after a poor transfer season (the promised major signings having not materialised) was not up to the challenge.

In July 2005 rumours circulated that the club was being stalked with a new buyer but this later emerged to be the Shepherds consolidating their interests. In August 2005 they were eliminated from the Intertoto Cup after a 4-2 aggregate loss to Deportivo La Coruna, which left the club out of European competition for the 2005/06 season.

In August 2005, the club signed Michael Owen for a record £17 million from Real Madrid, surpassing the previous £15 million Newcastle paid to Blackburn Rovers for Alan Shearer, in what was arguably the biggest transfer since then. This transfer was seen by many as unlikely because Owen's former team, Liverpool were thought to be his next destination.

Late February 2006 manager Graeme Souness was fired from his position as manager, and ex West Ham manager Glen Roeder was put in charge as caretaker until a new manager was appointed. After guiding the team from 14th place, to 7th place by the end of the season, Roeder was given the job on a permanent basis with a two year contract.

They entered the penultimate weekend of September 2006 in 13th place - six places below last season's finish and much lower than the club's fans will be content with.

With Alan Shearer now retired, and Michael Owen out injured for most of this current season (he didn't come back until 30 April 2007), the club's strikerforce has been substantially weakened and this has not helped Newcastle's chances of mounting a challenge for a top-six finish. Newcastle were also embarrassed by Birmingham City in the 2006-07 F.A. Cup, Birmingham earning a replay at home with a last-minute equaliser to make the result 2-2, before comfortably demolishing Newcastle at St James' Park by five goals to one.

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