NUFC 1970/71- Season Summary
A mundane and somewhat depressing season was enlivened by a series of unexpected events.
The League campaign never really got off the ground and many United supporters were once again tiring of United's direct and functional football. Slow hand claps began to reverberate around St James' and the levels of abuse started to rise.
Top scorer Pop Robson was also an unhappy man and startled everyone by branding the club "unprofessional" in a personally arranged press conference.
The Fairs Cup campaign started with a fantastic victory over Inter Milan during which the Italians reacted by physically attacking a number of players and even the referee. But then United were embarassingly beaten by Hungarian "unknowns" Pesci Dozsa after missing their first three spot-kicks in the penalty shoot-out.
Harvey had also spent a frustrating season looking for new recruits who would take the team forward. Finally, once the season was over, he got one when Malcolm Macdonald arrived in a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce.
There was no joy in the domestic Cups with United falling at the first hurdle in both. Ipswich were their vanquishers in the FA Cup and Third Division Bristol Rovers saw off United in the League Cup.
|Top Scorer||B Robson - 10|
|Ave Lge att||29,762|
League Division 1
A bad start saw United plummet to 19th by the end of August but they recovered during the next few weeks and spent the rest of the season hovering between 14th and 8th.
A run of three wins and a draw up to Easter took them into 9th place and there was an outside chance of making Europe again but a poor finish meant they finished in a disappointing 12th position.
The main problem was a lack of goals; they failed to score in a third of the games played and scored only 44 overall.
The Home/Away balance was "average" with 66% of points being gained at home. They suffered only 3 defeats at St James' but drew as many as they won (9).
Away from home they were not as hard to beat as in 1969/70 and although they secured a reasonable 5 wins, 12 games were lost (5 more than in the previous campaign).
|Fairs Cup||23/9/70||A||Inter Milano||D||1 - 1|
|Fairs Cup||30/9/70||H||Inter Milano||W||2 - 0|
|Fairs Cup||21/10/70||H||Pecsi Dozsa||W||2 - 0|
|Fairs Cup||04/11/70||A||Pecsi Dozsa||L||0 - 2|
R1 L1: United returned from the San Siro with a highly creditable draw against an Inter Milan side which included four players who played for Italy in the World Cup Finals.
R1 L2: Back on Tyneside they could not cope with United's physical approach. Keeper Vieri was sent-off after punching the referee as the Italians completely lost their cool.
R2 L1: United's aerial bombardment caused Hungarian unknowns Pesci Dozsa all sorts of trouble in the home leg and United should have scored far more than the two they got.
R2 L2: In Hungary an awful pitch and intimidating conditions were no excuse for a terrible performance in which Pesci drew level on aggregate just before the end. United took part in their first penalty shoot-out and failed with their first three to go out of the tournament.
|FAC||11/1/71||H||Ipswich||D||1 - 1|
|FAC||13/1/71||A||Ipswich||L||1 - 2|
R3: United dominated the first tie and led until fifteen minutes from time when Willie McFaul inexplicably let in a longe-range effort.
R3r: Two more defensive howlers allowed Ipswich to come from behind to win the tie.
|LC||08/9/70||A||Bristol||L||1 - 2|
R2: United once again fell at the first hurdle to lower-league opposition. Third Division Bristol Rovers won easily at Eastville with Dyson's consolation coming in the last seconds.
lt was a tough old season for Joe Harvey. It was thought that the Fairs Cup campaign had given him almost £100,000 to spend but the right players were just not available at the right price.
The players he bought during the summer and early in the season either failed to impress (Ian Mitchell) or were youngsters not ready for regular first team action (Stewart Barrowclough and Tommy Cassidy).
Mid-table mediocrity, a lack of goals and the shock Fairs Cup exit all piled pressure on the manager. Pop Robson's "unprofessional" accusation and criticism of the team's style of play also undermined Harvey's authority. He might have led them to European glory in 1968/69 but there were already calls for Joe to be moved upstairs.
Joe Harvey had been struggling all season to land a player who would appease the disgruntled fans; he finally landed his man at the campaign's end.
Entertain? We prefer to win
Harvey was a motivator not a tactician and the way the team played during his thirteen-year tenure was influenced by the coaches he employed.
Dave Smith had become chief coach in the summer of 1968 and was well respected within the game. He had clear views about how football should be played and was not prepared to bow to populist pressure.
"Success must be your priority, the overriding ambition, we don't want to entertain people and become failures. What is essential is a foundation of confidence and then we can start to elaborate".
Just in case you were in any doubt about his attitude he also described Pele - whilst accepting he was a marvellous player - as "lazy".
|Kenneddy Keith||07 / 1970||Professional|
|Mitchell Ian||07 / 1970||Dundee Utd||£50,000|
|Nattrass Irving||07 / 1970||Professional|
|Barrowclough Stewart||08 / 1970||Barnsley||£33,000|
|Cassidy Tommy||10 / 1970||Glentoran||£25,000|
|Guthrie Chris||01 / 1971||Professional|
|Tudor John||01 / 1971||Sheff Utd||Exchange|
|Macdonald Malcolm||05 / 1971||Luton||£185,000|
|Robson Keith||05 / 1971||Professional|
The arrival at Newcastle of a certain Malcolm Macdonald for his medical in May 1971 has passed into folklore. He arrived two hours late in a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce.
Macdonald's free scoring form for Luton in Division 1 (he finished the season as top scorer with 30 goals) had alerted a number of top clubs. As well as Newcastle, Manchester United (who had first option), Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal had also been keeping tabs on him.
Harvey had certainly splashed out a lot of money on a player who had only been converted from a full-back a couple of years ago and had never played in the top division. Some people in the game thought he would struggle but others were convinced he would be a star. Journalist and former United player Ivor Broadis said he was "the most exciting player I've seen in years". Harvey had no doubts: "He is undoubtedly a future international, the sort of player who will set St. James' alight".
Harvey is not sure whether he will use Macdonald as a centre-forward or an attacker from the flanks. From his perspective Macdonald does not care what shirt he wears as "they don't mean much these days".
|Elliot Dave||01 / 1971||Southend|
|Ford David||01 / 1971||Sheff Utd||Exchange|
|Hope John||01 / 1971||Sheff Utd||Exchange|
|Robson Bryan||02 / 1971||West Ham||£120,000|
Three players were dispensed with in January with Ford and Hope being exchanged for John Tudor, but the major story of the season was the departure of Bryan Robson. Robson had been the club's leading scorer in four out of the last five seasons. Days after United were dumped out of the Fairs Cup by the humble Hungarians, Robson called a press conference at the Swallow Hotel in Newcastle.
He read out a prepared statement in which he stated that he was fed up of being singled out for criticism and sick of Newcastle's long-ball tactics. He also claimed that the club was unprofessional and that he wanted a transfer.
The directors summoned him to a meeting and asked him if he wanted to retract his statement; he replied in the negative and was handed a £100 fine for a breach of club discipline. He was also asked to submit a written transfer request if he wanted to 1eave.
When asked why he had made his grievances public he stated that he had raised his concerns in private but that nothing had done about them. He also suggested that there were other players who felt the same as he did.
Although Robson's comments were interpreted in many different ways it was believed that one of the main issues was that he was looking for a loyalty bonus as was in operation at other clubs, United didn't have such a system and therefore it encouraged players to move on and get their cut of the transfer fee. But the 5% cut was only paid if the player did not request a move. He was eventually sold to West Ham in February 1971.
He would later state "I did what I thought was right for my football career no matter what the consequences, we all have a right to our opinion and I was merely stating mine just as the club had stated theirs many times".
Total games: 49
TeamEmbed from Getty Images
Newcastle remained a stubbornly defensive side with Harvey and coach Smith sticking with the functional and direct style of previous seasons. The use of central-defender David Young in midfield in half the games being the epitome of this approach.
McFaul only missed one game all season.
United's steely rear-guard remained the same with Craig and Clark (backed up by Craggs and Guthrie) on the flanks and Moncur partnered by Burton or McNamee in the middle.
ln midfield Gibb was an ever-present again and David Young was used as extra defensive cover. Smith and Arentoft vied for the Number 10 shirt.
Robson was used mainly on the right flank and 10 goals were enough to make him top scorer even though he departed in February. Davies excelled in Europe again but netted only twice in the League and lost his place in the side. Dyson played as an inside-forward before moving into the centre. John Tudor was signed from Sheffield United in January.
Foggon started on the left-flank but lost his place to Ford when he returned from injury. Foggon came back on the right after Robson departed
Sections of the crowd became more and more abusive towards the players and Tommy Gibb was singled out for particular criticism.
The abuse was particuly bad at the home match against Ipswich; which followed the defeat in Hungary.
After the game Frank Clark rapped the fans in the press. "It's disgraceful that they should pick out one player like this...it's completely unwarranted".
Tommy Cassidy made his home debut in the match and expressed his astonishment at the crowd's reaction and suggested that the team's form was being affected because players were frightened to make mistakes. He was subbed during the game and said "in some ways I was glad to get off, it was getting so bad".
Geoff Allen Testimonial
Geoff Allen, whose career had been ended by injury in March 1970 at the age of only 23 was awarded a well-deserved testimonial. United beat an All Stars X1 6-5 on the 5th May. A crowd of 10,000 turned up for the Walker lad who was helping with the Juniors.
Over 1,500,000 less people attended matches than during the last season of the sixties and the Division 1 average fell from 32,074 to 30,205. Trouble, lack of entertainment and too much televised football were seen as the main culprits.
United's average crowd for the League season was 29,672 (32,397 when Cup games included) which was the lowest since United had returned to the top flight and represented a 20% drop on 1969/70.
The crowd had become disillusioned as the Magpies struggled to win or even score goals. The loss of Pop Robson and the failure of replacement Tudor to make an instant impact simply added to their frustration.
The last game of the season was watched by a crowd of only 18,444. The best League crowd of the season was recorded only 18 days before when Leeds (who were regularly the biggest draw at SJP at this time) attracted almost 50,000.
The best turn-outs were for the Fairs Cup games, the Inter Milan match being watched by 56,495.
Despite the fact that a small minority of clubs were beginning to improve their facilities most grounds were in a state of disrepair as was horrifyingly demonstrated in the disaster at Ibrox Stadium where sixty six people lost their life and over 100 were injured when crash barriers collapsed during the Glasgow derby.
On Tyneside ground improvements remained in limbo with the club still at loggerheads with the council over a long-term lease and the development of St James' Park.
The club had rejected the multi-sports stadium proposals drawn up by the Council's architects claiming that it was unaffordable. United asked architects Faulkner Brown to produce a "feasibility report" for improving St. James' and also considered the possibility of moving to Sandy Lane in Gosforth.
There were even "preliminary discussions" about a potential ground-share with Sunderland. Roker Park Estates Limited was a company set up to create a new image for Sunderland and they were considering the construction of a new £2.5 million super stadium on Wearside. They approached United about a possible ground-share (at the new stadium) and had an informal meeting in August, but that was as far as it went.
The Supporters Club were adamant that a compromise had to be reached which did not involve a move. Secretary Alan Robinson stated: "United belong at St James' and that's where we want them to stay". This view was reflected in a deluge of letters into the local media.
After Ibrox Westwood admitted that "the disaster has changed our proposals. We have to be satisfied that the crowd safety factor is absolutely right. Things are going very smoothly but we can make no further plans until we have permission to go ahead". To that end club officials watched the Chelsea home match from the top of a nearby block of flats so they could get a good view of crowd movements before and after the game in particular.
An inquiry was launched into the Ibrox Disaster and the Wheatley Report was issued which stated that football grounds should be made to meet the same safety standards as other public entertainment venues such as cinemas. Disgracefully it would not be until 1975 that The Safety in Sports Grounds Act was passed.
The fans who did keep turning up were not impressed with what was on offer and they let the players know about it. The home defeat to Blackpool was not the only one where a chorus of "we want our money back" was heard.
The disastrous exit to Hungarian minnows Pesci Dozsa in the Fairs Cup particularly enraged the supporters and in the following match (a goalless draw at home to Ipswich) the fans' spleen was vented at many players.
The letters pages of the newspapers were full of fans bemoaning the lack of entertainment, goals and quality signings and many supported Pop Robson's "unprofessional" attack on the club whilst others suggested a change of management was required.
Right from the start of the season there was trouble. United kicked-off against Wolves and immediately after the match hordes of United supporters hurled stones, bottles and bricks at the Midlanders supporters' coaches. The attacks caused £1200 worth of damage and left one supporter hospitalised.
The away supporters got their revenge as they travelled along Bank Street and Redheugh Road in Gateshead as they returned the missiles through the holes where the windows used to be. Pedestrians had to run for cover and the Searle family's tea nearly ended in tragedy as a rock smashed through their window.
The whole episode was splashed across the front page of the Sunday Sun under the sensationalist headline "TERROR KICK-OFF BY SKINHEADS" whilst the punishment handed out to the youngsters involved was community service.
After the League Cup match against Blackpool a group of skinheads were at the Sunday Sun offices claiming that they were being victimised because of their appearance. They were not allowed entry because they were wearing "bovver boots" and refused to remove them.
The worst trouble of the campaign occurred when United and Sunderland met in a friendly on Tyneside. Shockingly this game took place only three weeks after the horrific events at Ibrox.
There were fights before, during and after the match and 26 people (including three girls!) were arrested. The police confiscated a number of weapons including a hatchet and a lead-weighted chain.
The boys in blue had anticipated trouble and policeman with dogs and horses policed the city centre breaking up fights between rival gangs of hooligans.
Members of the Newcastle United Supporters Club could travel in a "special railway coach", judiciously positioned at the rear of the train.
There was a simple code of conduct for the official Supporters Club: "Don't wear boots and do not bring intoxicating liquor onto the coaches". But hundreds more made their own arrangements.
The supporters who travelled did not always get to see the match, when United travelled to Blackpool at Easter 20 fans were ejected before the start and 12 of them arrested for a variety of offences. Most were punished for carrying offensive weapons mainly in the form of studded belts.
But there was still major trouble at the seaside and Joe Harvey chose his programme notes to lambast the trouble makers, "it really sickened me to read of the louts who pretend to be Newcastle United supporters leaving a trail of havoc. Let me say here and now these people are not real supporters of Newcastle United or football".
There was more trouble when several fans were ejected from the midnight train from Kings Cross after the Arsenal game. As this was the train used by the Supporters Club they found it necessary to distance their members from the trouble.
Strange But Toon
Snap, Crackle Pop
When Pop Robson called a personal press conference people were surprised. When be branded the club as "unprofessional" they were amazed. But what they really could not get their head around is why he was accompanied by his mother-in-law.