Thursday, July 5, 2012
A brief history of Newcastle United
Previous names: Stanley, Newcastle East End, Newcastle West End
Admitted to Football League: 1893
First Division 4
Second Division 3
FA Cup: 6
Newcastle's infamous, apparently pathological failure to win anything over the last 40 years tends to obscure how prolific they once were. They have won four league championships and six FA Cups, all by 1955, and the Fairs Cup in 1969. They are a club whose achievements have come in clusters, all the way through to them finishing as runners up in the Premier League or FA Cup in four consecutive seasons at the end of the 20th century.
The club was formed in 1892 when two clubs, Newcastle East End and Newcastle West End, merged. They played in East End's red shirts for a couple of years before switching to their iconic black-and-white stripes.
Newcastle started in Division Two, but were promoted in 1898 and then had a staggering period of success between 1905 and 1911. In that time Newcastle won three league championships and reached five FA Cup finals - although they won only one, against Barnsley in 1910. In the midst of such achievement came one of Newcastle's lowest points: a staggering 9-1 defeat to their biggest rivals, Sunderland, in 1908.
After a quiet period either side of the war, Newcastle picked up more silverware in the Twenties. A second FA Cup, in 1924, was followed by a fourth title three years later.
The club were relegated for the first time in 1934, and did not return to the top flight until 1948. In that time they did post their greatest win, a 13-0 evisceration of Newport in 1946. They also discovered the great Jackie Milburn, a goal machine who began Newcastle's obsession with the No9 shirt that would later be worn by Malcolm Macdonald and Alan Shearer.
Milburn was the star of another golden age, with three more FA Cup wins between 1951 and 1955 - Newcastle's last domestic trophy. The Sixties were a mixed bag: relegation in 1961, promotion three years later, and then victory in the Fairs Cup (the forerunner to the Uefa Cup) in 1969. Newcastle thrashed Ujpesti Dosza 6-2 on aggregate in the final.
At this stage, cups were Newcastle's main chance of success: they lost in the FA Cup final to Liverpool in 1974 and in the League Cup to Manchester City two years later, and only finished in the top five of the top flight once between 1951 and 1994. They were relegated from Division One in 1978 and 1989, and were in serious danger of dropping into the third tier for the first time in their history in 1992. Then Kevin Keegan - who had enjoyed a famous two-season spell at the club in the twilight of his career from 1982 to 1984 - took his first managerial job and had an instant impact.
In his first full season, 1992-93, Newcastle romped to the First Division title and were promoted to the Premier League. They finished third in their first season, playing a fearless, aesthetic brand of football that made them neutral's favourites, and were on course to win the title in 1995-96 until a dramatic collapse allowed Manchester United to overhaul them. The club bought Shearer for a world-record fee of £15m that summer, but Keegan quit halfway through the season and they again finished second to Manchester United. Newcastle's reputation as English football's nearly men was complete when they lost FA Cup finals in 1998 and 1999.
Sir Bobby Robson took over later that year, and became the first man to lead Newcastle to three consecutive top-five finishes in over 50 years. Yet his sacking four games into the 2004-5 season kickstarted a dismal period in which Newcastle were perceived, however harshly, as the comedy club of English football, an apparent graveyard for managers and central defenders. A nadir was reached when two of their players, Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer, were sent off for fighting each other in 2005.
They were relegated in 2009 under the temporary management of Shearer, but returned straight away under Chris Hughton. Although Hughton did not last long, replaced by Alan Pardew, not even their fiercest rivals would deny that the Premier League was richer for them and it was an incredible return as they finished 5th and flirted with a glorious return to the Champions League.