Monday, 9 August 2010

Newcastle United (England)

The Toon are possibly one of the most famous and best loved clubs to have ever donned the black and white stripes, and are one of those sides that everyone has a soft spot for... unless they live on the Wear. That they are persistant underachievers makes the near-global love for the club all the more heartening, and their long-suffering fans are among the most loyal and good-humoured that you'll find anywhere. But how much do you really know about Newcastle United?

They were formed in 1892 after the merger of two much older local clubs, Newcastle East End (formed in 1881) and Newcastle West End (formed in 1882). West End were in financial difficulties and approached the more successful East End, their fierce rivals from the Northern League, about a merger. East End were happy to cherry pick the Westerners' best players, while the Eastenders were quite happy to go and play at the much superior St James Park. And so a team were born. The new club toyed with a few names, like Newcastle Rangers and Newcastle City, before deciding that United would be far more apt, considering.

In the early days they kept on playing in East End's red strip until 1894, when after one-too- many kit clashes they changed to the black and white strip that they've made so famous. They joined the Football League soon after, and not long later, just after the turn of the century, they won the title three times - in 1905, 1907 and 1909. The same era saw them appear in five FA Cup finals in seven seasons - although they won just the one of them... setting the scene for the exploits of the next 100 years or so.

But it's the period from the 1950s to the 1960s that is said to be their golden era. They had three FA Cup wins in five years the fifties, but that success briefly fizzled out and they found themselves back in the old Second Division. But 1965 saw them win promotion coming top of the table, and by the late sixties they were regular faces in Europe, winning the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (a pre-cursor of the Europa League) in 1969.

But life as a Newcastle fan sees you become used to the ebb and flow of success. The 1980s saw them back in Divison Two and looking like they might plunge even further. But the unlikely appointment of the untried Kevin Keegan. The 1990s saw them not only save themselves from third-tier ignominy, but gain promotion and even come perilously close to winning another title. They even had another couple of glorious seasons in Europe.

But pretty soon, as is his way, Keegan walked out, and under a succession of high-profile managers they began another of their gradual declines that led to their eventual, almost unthinkable relegation in 2009. But they bounced straight back, so who knows, they might well be back on another of their upwards climbs, and the next period of glory days could soon be on the horizon.

They still play at West End's old ground St James Park, although it's a bit bigger these days. Now it's a massive 52,387 capacity megalith right on the edge of Newcastle's city centre. So tall is this, the third largest club stadium in England, that from the back of the away stand you can see ships sailing up the Tyne to the open sea.

They've also got one heck of a list of famous alumni. Jackie Milburn, Ivor Allchurch, Joe Harvey, George Robledo, Malcolm MacDonald, Kevin Keegan, Peter Beardsley, Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne, David Ginola, Les Ferdinand and latterly Alan Shearer - every one of them near legendary and picked from a list that could have been three times as long.

In total their trophy cabinet has glistened to four league titles, six FA Cup wins, an Inter-City Fairs Cup victory and a host of smaller knock out tournament wins. But more tellingly they've been league runners up twice and losing FA Cup finalists a massive seven times. They're they club the phrase 'nearly men' could have been written for. So could the fanatically loyal Toon Army ever have another few seasons in the sun? History suggests that it's an inevitability.

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1 comment:

  1. Inevitability? I wish.
    Great site. I particularly like the colour scheme.