A History of Football in the North East: Newcastle United

This series of articles covers the modern history of football in the north east of England. It will cover the most important events in the recent history of MiddlesbroughSunderland and Newcastle United. In this final article, the history of Newcastle United from the 1980s up until today will be covered.

A History of Football in the North East: Newcastle United

At the beginning of the 1980s Newcastle United were struggling in the second division, or what is known today as the Championship. After going trough a long list of managers, Arthur Cox was the man who brought the club back to the top division. That was also due to a certain Kevin Keegan landing at St. James’ Park earlier that same season. Keegan was an instrumental part of the United team that reached promotion in 1982. However, Arthur Cox would leave his post due to differences with the board.

Playing alongside Keegan were youngsters such as Peter Beardsley and Chris Waddle. This team was a technically gifted side, playing attacking football with success. The icing on the cake was the emergence of a young English prospect. His name was Paul Gascoigne. Gazza and Chris Waddle were brilliant together, but things would not remain as golden for long.

Jack Charlton took over as manager, but was the manager Newcastle United was hoping for. Finances were getting worse as well, and soon the club would soon be forced to sell their best players. Out went Gazza and Chris Waddle, who both left for Tottenham Hotspur. Peter Beardsley left as well.

A relegation was soon to follow. More players left to the south, and finances were worse than ever. If that was not bad enough, match attendances were falling too. Newcastle United needed a saviour. They did not get one, but two. Sir John Hall took control of the club and basically saved the club from extinction. He teamed up with Kevin Keegan, this time as manager.

The year was 1992 and Newcastle United were struggling in the bottom of the old Division Two. Relegation was staring them in the face, and Newcastle United had never before played as low as the third division. Keegan saved them from relegation, and crowds came back to St. James’ Park.

Having re-energised the supporters on Tyneside, Sir John Hall set a plan to build the club into a European contender. Money was pumped into the club, and the stadium was rebuilt into a 36,000 all-seater stadium. The stadium capacity would later be increased to 52,000.

In came signings such as Rob Lee and Andy Cole — players who helped United secure promotion back to the top division. In their inaugural season in the Premier League in 1993-94, United secured a spot in the UEFA cup for the next season. In 1995 Keegan shocked the fans by selling top striker Andy Cole to Manchester United, in an exchange deal with Keith Gillespie and £6 million. Many felt this deal ruined the club’s title chances, as they finished 6th.

In the 1995-96 season, Newcastle United increasingly became known as the entertainers. Players who reflected this were brought in. David Ginola and Faustino Asprilla, along with Les Ferdinand and a return of Tyneside hero Peter Beardsley, saw the Magpies playing beautiful football. That season is by many remembered as the most exciting season in Newcastle’s modern history. In January 1996 Newcastle were at the top of the table 12 points clear of Manchester United. They looked destined for the title.

However, it was not to be. Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, excellent at mind games, provoked manager Kevin Keegan into giving a famous rant which capitulated in his saying: “I would love it if we beat them.” In March Manchester United reclaimed the top spot after Newcastle United had a bad run of results. Eight matches without a win, one of them a home defeat to Manchester United, meant that Newcastle United eventually finished second.

To really make a push for the title, another big signing was called for. Therefore in 1996, Newcastle United broke the world’s transfer record by bringing Alan Shearer home for £15 million. Title challengers Manchester United were crushed 5-0 at St. James’ Park as a sort of retribution for last season, and crowds were still being thrilled at Tyneside. This would not last though, as results started to worsen and Kevin Keegan handed in his resignation in January 1997.

His successor was a certain Kenny Dalglish — a man who never really seemed to fit in at the club. The style of football was changed into a more direct style, and the entertainer brand diminished. Still, due to some good results at the end of the season, United eventually finished second that season. It is also worth noting that after being knocked out of the Champions League, Newcastle went on to reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup.

At the start of the 1997-98 season Alan Shearer sustained a horrible injury to his knee, which kept him out for about six months. Manager Dalglish decided to bring in goalkeeper Shay Given, as well as ageing John Barnes and a 36-year-old Ian Rush. League form was poor and the club finished an abysmal 13th. The highlight was an FA cup final, which they lost 2-0 to Arsenal, and a 3-2 victory over Barcelona in the Champions League. A poor start to the 1998-99 season saw Kenny Dalglish sacked.

In came Ruud Gullit with his brand of “sexy football.” In many respects, the season was a copy of the previous one; 13th and a lost FA cup final. But several disputes with key players came to a head when Gullit put Alan Shearer on the bench before a derby defeat against Sunderland. Gullit had to leave Tyneside at the start of the 1999-00 season.

Newcastle United were relegation contenders when Sir Bobby Robson took charge of his boyhood club. His first game in charge was at home versus Sheffield Wednesday. Newcastle won 8-0 and Alan Shearer scored five goals. The saviour had returned. Under Robson the club once again qualified for Champions League on several occasions, reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup, and finished among the top five on three occasions.

Robson was sacked in 2004 after a poor start to the season. Newcastle have barely been close to the same standard since. Greame Souness was appointed and had a very unpopular reign as manager. He brought in Michael Owen for £17 million, but after Owen was injured the team dipped in form. He was sacked in February 2005.

He was succeeded by Glenn Roeder who started his job in a positive manner, before results once again faded. After flirting with relegation for most of the season, Roeder resigned in 2007. This was the same year businessman Mike Ashley decided to buy the club and bring in Sam Allardyce as manager.

Allardyce also started his stint quite well, but form was soon to dip and relegation was a real option. The fans really believed in a new era of success when Allardyce was sacked and Kevin Keegan was once again appointed as manager. But at the start of the 2008-09 season Keegan had a massive fallout with the board after Dennis Wise was appointed Director of Football. Keegan left the club and caretaker manager Chris Hughton was unable to bring the club back to positive results. In a very controversial decision, Joe Kinnear was appointed manager. Kinnear had to leave his post due to health concerns, and the club continued to slide down the table. In an effort to save the club from relegation, Alan Shearer was given the job as manager but he was unable to stop the inevitable. Newcastle United were relegated.

Chris Hughton did a good job at guiding the club straight back up, finishing first in the Championship with 102 points. Back in the Premier League, after a good start, Hughton was surprisingly sacked in December. He was succeeded by Alan Pardew in a very controversial fashion. Pardew started off on the wrong side of supporters, and the sale of local hero Andy Carrol for £35 million angered fans even more. However, in Pardew’s second season in charge, Newcastle spent some of the money earned by this sale. Several players were brought in who made an immediate impact. Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba, along with Papiss Demba Cissé, signed that summer, were instrumental as Newcastle eventually finished fifth.

The 2012-13 season once again saw Newcastle United compete in Europe. They reached the quarter-final of the Europa League, but suffered heavily from lack of form in the Premier League. The club only narrowly avoided relegation from the league. The form in the league and also a defensive tactical style increased Pardew’s popularity on Tyneside.

The following season saw a surprise return of Joe Kinnear, this time as Director of Football. The fans were outraged and felt the club was becoming a laughing stock after Kinnear’s many strange public comments. Furthermore, it was becoming clear that the club did not have ambitions of competing for the top spots or even in any of the cups.

Everything seemed to come to a head in the 2014-15 season, as Newcastle started the season with the same kind of mediocre results as before. However, the fans were becoming fed up with Pardew’s negative tactics and the lack of ambition. Pardew decided to leave for Crystal Palace. John Carver was put in charge for the remainder of the season and experienced a horrible run of form, with an eight game losing streak the height of his woes. Newcastle avoided relegation with a home win against West Ham in the last match of the season. Most notably, after beating cancer, Jonas Gutierrez scored in this match to really mark his place as a fan favourite.