Newcastle 1980/81 - Season Summary

NUFC 1980/81 Squad
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newcastle 1980/81 programme

The 1980/81 season was almost certainly the most boring season ever for Newcastle. There have certainly been worse years, but for all round tediousness it cannot be beaten.

A terrible start to the season including an embarrassing League Cup exit against Jim Iley's Fourth Division Bury cost Bill McGarry his job. His replacement was Chesterfield boss and former Sunderland coach Arthur Cox; but the swashbuckling football of the future was a million miles away.

In their 42 league games Newcastle managed a pathetic 30 goals; an average of 0.71 goals a game, the worst average ever recorded by the team. The average goal per game ratio of 1.79 is also the lowest average in the club's history. There were no less than 11 goalless draws, 5 "0-1" defeats, and 4 "0-2" defeats.

In League games at SJP the new Scottish and Newcastle electronic scoreboard was almost redundant as there were only 35 goals; 22 for Newcastle and 13 for the opposition.

Away from home Newcastle scored 8 goals, failing to score in 16 of their 21 games and not scoring a single goal in their last 7 games. In fact from December onwards (a total of 11 games) only one goal was scored away from home.

The FA Cup started brightly with wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Luton but ended in complete darkness as United were thrashed 4-0 by Third Division Exeter City.

Not surprisingly the fans deserted in droves and the average crowd of 17,350 was the lowest since the 1901-02 season.

One of the few bright spots was the emergence of a gangly young striker rescued from a sausage factory.

Chairman R Rutherford, S Seymour
Manager Bill McGarry, Arthur Cox
Coach Willie McFaul
Captain M Martin
Top Scorer B Shinton (7)
Embed from Getty Images


League Division 2
16/8/80 A Sheffield Wednesday L 0-2
20/8/80 H Notts County D 1-1
23/8/80 A Bolton Wanderers L 0-4
30/8/80 H Luton Town W 2-1
06/9/80 H Cardiff City W 2-1
13/9/80 A Queens Park Rangers W 2-1
20/9/80 H Oldham Athletic D 0-0
27/9/80 A Bristol Rovers D 0-0
04/10/80 H West Ham United D 0-0
07/10/80 A Preston North End W 3-2
11/10/80 A Bristol City L 0-2
18/10/80 H Swansea City L 1-2
22/10/80 H Shrewsbury Town W 1-0
25/10/80 A Chelsea L 0-6
01/11/80 H Watford W 2-1
08/11/80 A Cambridge United L 1-2
11/11/80 A Notts County D 0-0
15/11/80 H Sheffield Wednesday W 1-0
22/11/80 H Wrexham L 0-1
29/11/80 A Orient D 1-1
13/12/80 A Swansea City L 0-4
20/12/80 H Bristol City D 0-0
26/12/80 A Grimsby Town D 0-0
27/12/80 H Derby County L 0-2
10/1/81 A Wrexham D 0-0
17/1/81 A Luton Town W 1-0
31/1/81 H Bolton Wanderers W 2-1
07/2/81 H Queens Park Rangers W 1-0
21/2/81 H Bristol Rovers D 0-0
25/2/81 A Cardiff City L 0-1
28/2/81 A Oldham Athletic D 0-0
07/3/81 A West Ham United L 0-1
14/3/81 H Preston North End W 2-0
21/3/81 A Shrewsbury Town L 0-1
28/3/81 H Chelsea W 1-0
04/4/81 A Watford D 0-0
11/4/81 H Cambridge United W 2-1
15/4/81 H Blackburn Rovers D 0-0
18/4/81 A Derby County L 0-2
20/4/81 H Grimsby Town D 1-1
25/4/81 A Blackburn Rovers L 0-3
02/5/81 H Orient W 3-1

A 4-0 defeat at Bolton in the third game of the season sent United to the bottom of the table and set in motion the sacking of Bill McGarry.

Caretaker manager Joe Harvey secured a couple of victories and a 2-1 win at QPR marked the beginning of Arthur Cox's reign.

This proved to be a flash in the pan and with United struggling to score goals or even create chances Cox decided to blood some of the club's promising youngsters (Withe, Waddle and Halliday).

Unfortunately, he soon had his fingers burned when an inexperienced side was thrashed 6-0 at Stamford Bridge. In the following 11 games up to the end of the year United scored only 5 goals and were still down in 16th place.

Centre-forward Mick Harford was signed from Lincoln City to beef up the attack and a short three-match winning run raised hopes before the familiar issue of a lack of goals dashed them once again.

United only scored 8 goats away from home all season and managed a paltry 3 goals in the last 16 away games. Not surprisingly they only recorded 2 away victories.

FA Cup
03/1/81 R3 H Sheffield Wednesday W 2-1
24/1/81 R4 H Luton Town W 2-1
14/2/81 R5 H Exeter City D 1-1
18/2/81 R5r A Exeter City L 0-4

R3: Waddle was the hero, scoring his first two senior goals. Wednesday manager Jackie Charlton was gracious as ever in defeat "luck b******s, they'll never get away with that again".

R4: Cox offered his normal unique take on the match; "they came at us like Red Indians In the second half but we refused to surrender", and describing the frantic defending towards the end Cox claimed that United "were clearing the ball so high It was coming down with altitude poisoning on It".

R5: Third Division Exeter City put up a spirited performance and deservedly come from behind to earn a draw.

R5r - United put in a disastrous performance in front of the (Sportsnlght) cameras.

League Cup
27/8/80 LC H Bury W 3-2
02/9/80 LC A Bury L 0-1

R2 L1: Fourth Division Bury are managed by former player Jim Iley and include Pat Howard and Keith Kennedy in the side. United - who are taunted by the paltry home crowd - struggle to overcome the Lancastrians. Iley offers a damning appraisal of the team: "Newcastle's standards have slipped so badly in the last few years.... this place used to be alive and now it's dead".

Harvey tells the players "you are playing for your pride" but it is a shocking performance in which The Magpies hardly create a decent opportunity even with 30 minutes extra time being available. As a result United are out on the "away goals" rule.


Player A S G
Barton D 15
Boam S 37 1
Brownlie J 14 1
Carney S 28 4
Carr K 43
Cartwright P 4 5
Clarke, R 18 3
Davies I 27
Halliday, B 23 1
Hardwick S 5
Harford, M 18 1 4
Hibbitt T 17 1 3
Johnson, P 20
Kelly, Peter 9
Koenen, F 13 1 1
Leaver, P 1
Martin M 33 2
Mitchell K 18 1
Nicholson G 2 1
Rafferty B 17 4
Shinton B 27 7
Shoulder A 35 1 6
Trewick, J 25 1
Waddle, C 17 3
Walker N 20 1 1
Wharton K 40 1
Withe, C 2
own goals 1

Total number of games: 48

Total number of players used: 27


02: Kelly or Carney > Brownlie.

03: Davies or Johnson

04: Martin

05: Boam > Barton.

06: Mitchell > Halliday

07: Shoulder/Shinton

08: Wharton >Trewick

09: Clarke > Harford.

10: Rafferty or Shoulder > Wharton.

11: Koenan > Hibbitt > Waddle > Walker.

Top scorers: Shinton (7), Shoulder (6) and Harford (4).


McGarry only lasted four games into the season. A 4-0 defeat at Bolton followed by a less than impessive victory over Fourth Division Bury in a match which attracted less than 10,000 to St James' proved to be the death knell.

McGarry acknowledged that he had helped to bring about his own downfall citing his major mistakes as being not making a signing when United topped the table at the end of 1979 and not appointing a new assistant when Peter Morris quit for Peterborough.

Joe Harvey - now 62 - was put in temporary charge whilst the search for a new manager began. Joe said the new man would have to have "a big heart and broad shoulders".

Media speculation through up the usual quota of names with United believed to be after a young manager. How many were approached is not known but Frank Clark (Sunderland assistant manager) and Jimmy Frizzell both claimed to have been approached and former captain Bobby Moncur ruled himself out of the running.

Eventually United appointed Chesterfield manager Arthur Cox who had built up an excellent reputation for running the Saltergate outfit on a shoestring. "This is one of the top six jobs in the country. I can do a job here" Arthur stated boldly. "I want to see fans queueing around SJP again - and they will be."

It was not the big name manager that many fans had called for, but as Harvey said "we are not really a big club at the moment". However he promised that "the fans will love him eventually. If he equals what I did in the early sixties by getting us promotion then I will kiss his feet".

Outspoken Forest manager Brian Clough was less impressed with the appointment. Whilst wishing Cox "every success" he gave an interview in which he said that the club was in a "shocking mess" and should have attempted to get one of the four top "locally" born managers (whose clubs occupied the top four places in the League at the time): Bob Paisley, Lawrie McMenemy, Bobby Robson and - of course - himself.

He admitted it would have been difficult to entice any of them away from their current employers, but blasted the club for not even trying, implying that they only appoint managers who they feel they can control.

He feared that the club would plummet further rather than be turned around and suggested that "only time can tell if he (Cox) is capable of working such miracles."

One thing Cox demanded more than anything else was total commitment from his players and he wasn't adverse to publicly criticising them if they failed to match his standards. He also introduced a different summer schedule where the players lost their three month close season break.

Cox said the players could have up to five weeks off during the summer, but in the other weeks would have to come in for ball skill training twice a week.

Just before Christmas former United chairman Lord Westwood stepped down from his position as vice-chairman although he remained a director and club president. Stan Seymour replaced him.

Then in March president Lord Westwood, chairman Bob Rutherford and David Salkeld all quit the board as they were not prepared to pay the £16,000 that the club's bank had requested all the directors to pay.

Westwood (who was 73) accepted that something needed to be done, but said that he was "too old to take on that sort of mountainous problem. There are big problems at St. James' Park and unless something is done about them quickly they will get out of hand".

On hearing the news Fulham chairman Ernie Clay declared that he would "crawl all the way to the North East to take over the club" and claimed he would pay off the club's £500,000 debt.

He also said that he would bring some of his Fulham staff with him and possibly even introduce a rugby league club. "The whole place would take off - there would be no doubt about that. I have made a habit of taking over ramshackle outfits".

Stan Seymour took over as Chairman and immediately made it clear that "there is no way the current board will invite discussion with him".

Players In and Out

Toon In
Clarke Ray 07 / 1980 Brighton £180,000
Leaver Phil 07 / 1980 Internal
Waddle Chris 07 / 1980 Tow Low £1,000
Koenen Frank 08 / 1980 Nijmegen £80,000
Johnson Peter 10 / 1980 Middlesbrough £60,000
Withe Chris 10 / 1980 Internal
Harford Michael 12 / 1980 Lincoln City £216,000
Trewick John 12 / 1980 WBA £234,567

Toon Oot
Mulgrove Keith cs / 1980 Barrow Free
Cassidy Tommy 07 / 1980 Burnley £30,000
Robinson Stuart 07 / 1980 Aldershot Free
Connolly John 09 / 1980 Hibernians Free
Scott Jamie 09 / 1980 Berwick Free
Ferguson Brian 12 / 1980 Hull City Free
Rafferty Billy 12 / 1980 Portsmouth £80,000