NUFC 1948/49 - Season Summary

Diary Squad
Kit images copyright Historical Football Kits
and reproduced by kind permission.

Having been promoted last season confidence levels were high and United were on the coat-tails of eventual Champions Portsmouth through most of the season before slipping back to 4th.

A dismal display at Gallowgate resulted in a shock home defeat to Second Division Bradford in the FA Cup Third round.

For the second season running Newcastle's average League attendance was the best in the country.

The club had almost 40 professional players and this created a lot of unrest; there were transfer requests galore and at one stage 16 players had requests on the table.

Jackie Milburn was selected (and scored a hat-trick) for the Football League side which took on the Irish League and then won his first England caps.

Chairman G Rutherford
Manager G Martin
Coach N Smith
Captain J Harvey
Top Scorer J Milburn (19)
Ave Lge att 54,011


League Division 1

A Everton D 3 - 3
H Chelsea D 2 - 2
H Preston L 2 - 5
A Chelsea W 3 - 2
A Burnley W 3 - 0
H Aston Villa W 2 - 1
H Stoke D 2 - 2
A Aston Villa W 4 - 2
A Charlton D 0 - 0
H Man City D 0 - 0
A Portsmouth L 0 - 1
A Sunderland D 1 - 1
H Wolves W 3 - 1
A Bolton W 5 - 1
H Liverpool W 1 - 0
A Blackpool W 3 - 1
H Derby W 3 - 0
A Arsenal W 1 - 0
H Huddersfield L 2 - 4
A Manchester Utd D 1 - 1
H Sheffield Utd W 3 - 2
H Everton W 1 - 0
A Birmingham L 0 - 2
H Birmingham W 1 - 0
A Preston L 1 - 2
H Burnley D 1 - 1
A Stoke D 1 - 1
H Charlton W 2 - 0
A Man City L 0 - 1
H Sunderland W 2 - 1
A Wolves L 0 - 3
H Arsenal W 3 - 2
A Huddersfield W 2 - 0
H Blackpool W 3 - 1
H Portsmouth L 0 - 5
A Derby W 4 - 2
H Middlesbrough W 1 - 0
H Bolton D 1 - 1
A Middlesbrough L 2 - 3
A Liverpool D 1 - 1
H Manchester Utd L 0 - 1
A Sheffield Utd D 0 - 0
Man. Utd.0-11-1
Man. City0-00-1
A. Villa2-14-2
Sheffield U3-20-0

United made a excellent start to the season and after losing only 2 of their first 12 games reached second place. Then an excellent run of 8 wins in 10 games from mid-October took them to the top of the table for a few days.

This period included a run of 6 wins in a row (which equalled the club record) only for United to lose at home to wooden-spoonists Huddersfield in the next game.

They stayed in contention for the title, remaining on the tails of the leaders Portsmouth. And when Pompey arrived on Tyneside in March it was billed a Championship decider. In many ways it was as the Magpies were thrashed 5-0.

Although they won their next two games to stay in contention they failed to win any of their last 5 games and slipped to 4th.

The home form was pretty decent, but it was their performances away from Tyneside which really caught the eye. They won more than they lost and scored as many goals as they did at St. James'.

At times they let themselves down in games they should have won in and they lost 5 times against clubs who finished in the bottom 6.

FA Cup

R3 H Bradford PA L 0 - 2

R3: United suffered an embarassing home defeat by Second Division Bradford.


Embed from Getty Images

With attendances continuing to boom the club was finacially in a very healthy state and they continued to buy players for big money. The attitude was summed up by Stan Seymour when they purchased Gibson. He said "we were not really in urgent need of an outside-right but a good player in any position is much more use to us than £15,000".

Consequently manager Martin's main problem during the season was keeping almost 40 professionals happy. It was an impossible task and at one time no less than sixteen players had transfer requests on the table.

In January a meeting was held to "discover whether there was any foundation for alleged discontent among the players". Martin and the directors met with the players for several hours and an official statement gave the director's view of the situation.

It stated that the players were invited to express their views frankly and fearlessly and that it became manifest that no solitary fundamental complaint existed beyond the desire of particular players to be provided with housing accommodation, and the very natural regret of individual players that were not able to secure regular places either the first or second teams because of the large staff. The meeting was conducted in an extremely cordial spirit, and it is considered that the air has now been completely cleared.

None of the players made a statement.

When United listed 11 players in January director Westwood criticised the decision leading to accusations of disloyalty from other Board members. He responded by saying "I think the Board should show loyalty to their players and the manager. Those responsible for putting such men as Gibson and Hair on the transfer list should state their reasons".

These men have never complained or asked for a transfer, there has been no complaint about them and George Martin, the manager, was not responsible for putting them on the list".

Martin responded saying "I wish to strongly emphasise that I have the fullest support of the Directors. There is no question of dictatorship over me".

The Council agreed by a narrow margin to allow the club to lease further land to the North of the ground for a practice pitch and additional car parking. As it involved extending into an area of open space (including a children's playground) the club had to request that a clause be inserted into the next Parliamentary Bill to give them the powers to make such a disposition.


Into Toon

Surname Date From Fee
C Gibson07/48 Cardiff£15,000
J Robertson09/48Auchinleck£1,000
J Steele12/48Belshill Ath.
R Harbertson01/49N. Shields
G Robledo01/49Barnsley£23,000
E Robledo01/49Barnsley£
B Mitchell02/49Third Lanark£17,000
Bobby Mitchell
George Robledo

With money flooding into the club United could compete for any player at any price and the continued to spend big.

Cardiff winger Colin Gibson was the biggest signing of the summer.

The Robledo brothers were captured from Barnsley for a joint fee of £23,000

United chased Bobby Mitchell throughout the season and Third Lanark finally capitulated in February with another £17,000 being shelled out.

They also were continually on the lookout for younger players to develop.

Outta Toon

Name Date To Fee
A McKellar08/48Albion Rovers
J McNichol08/48Brighton£5,000
J Robertson09/48Auchinleck£1,000
J Woodburn09/48Gateshead£750
D Wright12/48Lincoln£600
A Donaldson01/49Middlesbrough£17,500
G Hair02/49Grimsby£6,000
P McCoy02/49Norwich£2,500
C Gibson02/49A Villa£
A Clark03/49N. Shields
Andy Donaldson
A Donaldson
© Soccer Attic

With the size of the squad and all the dissatisfaction it was inevitable that a number of players would be allowed to leave.

The biggest deal saw Andy Donaldson move to Middlesbrough for a surprisingly large fee of £17,500.

McCall and Gibson had struggled during their short spells on Tyneside and United decided to cut their losses on both of them.

Duggie Wright had struggled to regain full fitness after a serious injury and the popular George Hair was a victim of United's non-stop spending.


Player A G
Batty R 31
Brennan F 42
Clarke A 1
Cowell B 39
Craig B 10
Dodgin N 42
Donaldson A 13 5
Fairbrother J 42
Fraser B 3
Garbutt E 1
Gibson C 24 5
Graham D 4
Hair G 15 4
Harvey J 39 2
Houghton F 6 1
Lowrie G 4 3
McCall W 1
Milburn J 35 19
Mitchell B 13 3
Robledo G 15 6
Sibley J 8 2
Stobbart G 24 5
Taylor E 29 3
Thompson T 10 1
Walker T 22 5
own goals 6


The team was reasonably settled, at least in defence. Only 25 players were used used in total and, of these, 17 played in 10 games or more.


Fairbrother [42] missed one game all season and was in superb form during the campaign.

Full Backs

Cowell [39] established himself as the first choice right back with some consistently impressive performances. And Batty [31] took over on the other flank.

Half Backs

A very settled half-back line. Brennan [42] was a colossus at the centre of the defence again. Captain Harvey [39] took the right side and Dodgin [42] had probably his best season at the club.


The attack was the one area of the team which was regularly re-organised with all players being used in a variety of positions.

Gibson [24] and Stobbart [24] generally covered the right flank and were loined by Robledo [15].

Milburn [35] led the line for most of the season with Donaldson [13] also getting a run in the side.

Taylor [29] played at Number 10 with Walker [22] or Hair [15] on the outside until Mitchell [13] arrived.

Player Picks

Despite fluctuating form at the start of the season, Milburn finished as top scorer with 19 goals, Robledo was second top with 6 despite not playing until February.

Jackie Milburn played for the Football League against the Irish League and scored a hat-trick. He was won his first England caps.

Embed from Getty Images

England squad prior to match with Wales in November

There was a huge amount of player unrest with many handing in transfer requests. The main grievances were lack of first-team football and inadequate housing. At one point there were 16 players with an active request.

There was a minor revolt when the players found out that they had been booked booked into tourist class room's on their ship to the Americas.


For the second season running Newcastle were the best supported club in the land with an average gate of 53,702.

Even the Reserve (Central League) games drew impressive crowds and the attendance record for the competition was broken when 21,721 turned up for the match against Burnley in September.

The top crowd at Gallowgate was 67,362 for the visit of Liverpool in October.

70,787 attended the match verses Manchester United at Maine Road.

In September the American destroyer U.S.S. Willard Keith arrived on the Tyne on a six-day courtesy visit and most of the men watched the home match against Aston Villa.

In the home match against Arsenal Compton put in some strong challenges which did not go down well with the home crowd and just before the end one irate fan attempted to accost him after a particularly robust challenge on Mitchell.

John Lammonby of Leeds was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment at Newcastle assizes after being found guilty of pickpocketing at the match against tbc.

When United fans travelled to Liverpool on the first day of the season they were given a very friendly reception with supporters wearing the black and white rosette being singled out for special notice whilst those standing in queues outside cafes were taken to the front and given priority.

Eighteen additional trains ferried thousands of fans to Sunderland for the Wear-Tyne derby but the first fans started queing on Friday afternoon. Mobile canteens arrived to serve hot refreshments at 6am but they sold out within two hours. Town cafes had every available table pressed into service and a brewery company official assured supporters that "Sunderland's public houses have sufficient beer to quench the thirst of the big crowd".

Approximately 10,000 United fans travelled to the game at Blackpool. They were generally well-behaved but the police did have to move in when some fans started setting off and throwing fireworks.

Among the numerous Tynesiders who travel to Blackpool are a number of North Shields men who return home with happy memories of a pleasant outing. Apart from the marked hospitality of the Blackpool folk, the visitors are impressed by the excellence and variety of the six meals they had in hotels and are surprised to find no difficulty in securing all the popular brands of cigarettes. The general consensus of opinion is that Blackpool is much better off in the way of foodstuffs than any part of the North-East. Even eggs must be plentiful there, as some of the visitors manage to bring a few home.

Strange but Toon

Jackie Milburn was kidnapped by students on the morning of the home game with Liverpool. They demanded a ransom be paid in support of "rag week", but he was freed following police intervention.

Young Scot Jimmy Robertson's move to United was cancelled within 24 hours after his mam persuaded him to come back home.

United benefited from six own-goals.

During the game at Preston Preston full-back Billy Brown headed the ball and as he did it burst with such a terrific bang and explosion of dust that the player thought he'd been shot.

George Martin

In August manager George Martin was top-of-the-bill at a Newcastle theatre as an operatic tenor. His talents were widely known and Martin was persuaded to appear on the bill after some Newcastle United directors convinced the theatre manager that George was a better singer than many that had appeared on their stage.

And when the United team were heading for the Americas on the Queen Mary for their summer tour Frank Brennan wass top of the bill at the concert and dance one evening.

A move for Blackburn striker fell through with Martin explaining that "Mrs Langton does not care to come to Tyneside."


Andy Donaldson image from Football Monthly - courtesy of Soccer Attic

Cigarette cards from Doing the 92

Kit illustration from Historical Football Kits

Newspapers from Newcastle Central Library Local Studies

Newspapers from British Newspapers Archive

Plus various books.