Newcastle United’s origins stem from two rivals in the city, Newcastle East End and Newcastle West End. East End was originally formed as the Stanley Cricket Club of South Byker, but changed their name to avoid confusion with the Stanley club in Durham. They soon merged with another side, Rosewood FC, to form an even stronger team. In the other side of the city another cricket club formed a football team, calling themselves West End FC.
West End became the city’s dominant football club but East End was keen not to fall behind. They appointed Tom Watson to take charge of the club in 1888 and quickly re-addressed the balance. Watson brought in a number of players from Scotland and East End became the dominant side.
East End became a professional side in 1889 and was also made into a limited company. In contrast West End was struggling financially and were wound up by the directors. Some of the players and most of the backroom staff moved to East End, who also took up West End’s lease on St James’ Park. They soon changed their name to Newcastle United and their kit was changed from red and white colours to their now famous black and white stripes.
Newcastle United was elected to the Football League in 1893. They overcame early financial problems and were promoted to the top division just before the turn of the century. Newcastle became Edwardian England’s dominant side as they won three League Championships (1904/05, 1906/07 and 1908/09) and one FA Cup (1910), reaching the final five times, in the years leading up to the First World War. In this period Newcastle United was the team everyone wanted to beat.
After the war, Newcastle enjoyed further success lifting the FA Cup again in 1924. The signing of striker Hughie Gallacher was inspirational as Newcastle won the League Championship again in 1927 for the fourth and final time. Newcastle won the FA Cup in 1932 with victory over Arsenal with a controversial goal in the ‘Over the Line’ FA Cup final. But they were relegated only two years later. A rebuilding process took place in the build up to the Second World War with former star player Stan Seymour appointed on to the board of directors.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, Newcastle United put together an exciting team made up of local talent such as Jackie Milburn and big name signings. They were promoted back to the First Division in 1948. The 1950s were a very successful time for the Magpies as they lifted the FA Cup three times in only five years. They defeated Blackpool 2-0 in 1951, beat Arsenal 1-0 in 1952 and in 1955 won 3-1 against Manchester City. The star players of that era were “Wor Jackie” Milburn and Bobby “Dazzler” Mitchell. Despite a strong side they were relegated from the First Division in 1961. Former captain Joe Harvey was soon appointed manager and he led Newcastle back into the First Division in 1965. Although they had a strong side that was capable of beating anyone on their day there was no domestic silverware. In 1968 Newcastle made their first foray into Europe and only a year later they won the UEFA Inter Cities Fairs Cup. It remains the last major trophy that Newcastle has won.
After two average seasons in League Two Arthur Cox was appointed manager and soon the Magpies were back in the First Division. Cox created an attacking team with new signing Kevin Keegan the fulcrum of the side. Keegan was joined by promising youngsters Peter Beardsley and Chris Waddle. Cox controversially left the club and was replaced by Jack Charlton as manager and another promising youngster Paul Gascoigne was given his chance in the side. Charlton did not last long at the club and was replaced by ex-player Willie McFaul at the helm. Newcastle was forced to sell their promising young players to survive financially and were soon in relegation trouble by the 1988/89 season. With a backdrop of a boardroom battle for power the Magpies were relegated from the First Division bottom of the table.
Newcastle almost returned at their first attempt but were defeated by bitter rivals Sunderland in the play-offs. Jim Smith left the following season and under the management of Ossie Ardiles Newcastle struggled at the wrong end of the league. In early 1992 Newcastle were in deep relegation trouble and were in desperate need of a saviour. It came in the form of Sir John Hall and Kevin Keegan. The former fans’ favourite led Newcastle to safety with victory on the last day of the season. The pair soon set about transforming Newcastle with big plans on and off the field. Keegan was given funds to invest in new players to improve the team. The likes of John Beresford and Rob Lee were added to the squad. Newcastle made a flying start to the season and never looked back after that. The fans came flocking back to St James’ Park to watch Keegan’s exciting brand of football. The team was improved later in the season with the signings of Scott Sellars and Andy Cole. Newcastle were crowned champions that season and promoted to the newly formed Premier League.
Newcastle’s first season in the Premier League was an instant success as they finished the season third in the table. They again showed their attacking prowess by ending the season as top goal-scorers. Keegan continued to invest on the playing side by bringing in attacking midfielders Peter Beardsley and Ruel Fox. Redevelopment work was started on St James’ Park. Despite a bright start, Newcastle’s 1994/95 campaign was slightly disappointing as they finished 6th in the table. Newcastle recorded a club record nine wins in a row as they went top of the Premiership. The run did not last as injuries affected the team’s progress. Top goal-scorer Andy Cole was controversially sold to Manchester United for record £7 million mid-way through the season.
Magpies again invested heavily at the start of the 1995/96 season. French winger David Ginola signed from PSG, striker Les Ferdinand signed in a £6 million deal and Warren Barton arrived for £4 million. Newcastle made a scintillating start to the season and by Christmas were 10 points clear of their closest challengers Manchester United. However, defeats home and away to Manchester United and an epic 4-3 defeat to Liverpool saw the Toon lose momentum. A series of late goals conceded away from home saw the Red Devils haul in the Magpies and win the Premier League.
Newcastle made the headlines in the summer of 1996 with the signing of Alan Shearer from Blackburn Rovers for a world record fee of £15 million. They made a slow start to the campaign but everything clicked into gear when they hammered Manchester United 5-0 at St James’ Park. Halfway through the season Newcastle received a major blow when Keegan stepped down as manager due to a deteriorating relationship with some members of the board. Kenny Dalglish was quickly installed as manager and Newcastle again finished runners-up in the league behind Manchester United. The following season Dalglish sold a number of Newcastle’s flair players and lost Alan Shearer to a long-term injury. They were replaced by veterans Ian Rush, John Barnes and Stuart Pearce. The undoubted highlight of the season was Newcastle’s 3-2 victory over the mighty Barcelona in the Champions League – eccentric striker Tino Asprilla scoring a hat-trick. Newcastle could only finish 13th but did reach the FA Cup final, where they lost to Arsenal.
The unpopular Dalglish was sacked early in the