|Top Scorer||J Peddie (19)|
Despite losing out in the 1897/88 Test Matches in controversial style the League Secretaries agreed to the number of clubs in Division 1 being increased to 18 and so United were promoted after all.
In celebration of their top flight status new dressing rooms were built, the pitch received some attention and a small stand was erected.
United's first season in the top flight was all about survival. It took them eleven matches to record their first win and the signs were ominous. But they were not getting thrashed and with Jock Peddie continuing his rich vein of scoring they gradually clambered to safety.
A poor performance at Liverpool ended the Magpies FA Cup interest in the Second Round.
The first competitive match took place between the Tyne Wear rivals with United recording a sensational victory on Wearside; their first away win of the season.
Attendances were up by 50% with the visit of Champions elect Villa pulling the first 25,000 crowd.
Kit images copyright Historical Football Kits and reproduced by kind permission
Most people thought that United would acquit themselves well in the top division but a mixture of bad luck and lack of incisiveness saw them struggle in the first two months; losing six and drawing four of the first ten games.
The Magpies won their first game when they beat Liverpool at home on November 5th and it would be their hugely impressive form at St James' which would eventually guide them to safety. The only top 6 side to win on Tyneside were Notts. County.
They only recorded two victories away from Gallowgate but the first proved momentous as United won at Roker Park on Christmas Eve. That result combined with a narrow defeat at leaders Aston Villa on Boxing Day were great confidence boosters.
However their poor away form kept them involved in the relegation battle and although they won 7 of the last 12 games they did not achieve safety until they beat Blackburn at home on the 8th April.
|A||Glossop NE||W||1 - 0|
|A||Liverpool||L||1 - 3|
R1: United had to overcome both a difficult ground and feisty opposition in a narrow victory over Glossop of Division 2.
R2: A trip to Anfield followed and United — who were really poor - were thoroughly outplayed.
21 players were used in all but the team put out was very consistent with only 14 players appearing in more than 10 games. The half-backs, backs and keeper personnel were very consistent but the youthful forward line was more changeable as the directorate tried to find the right balance and supplemented the side with new signings.
Figures in brackets relate to number of appearances.
New signing Kingsley  exhibited fine form and was the only ever present.
Lindsay  and Jackson  retained the back positions with Jackson particularly impressive.
Ghee , captain Ostler  and Stott  continued as United's experienced half-back line; only missing 17 games between them.
The line-up usually featured Rogers , Stevenson , Peddie , MacFarlane  and Wardrope .
Aitken  played in all three central forward positions but also turned out in the half-back and back lines (occupying different seven positions in all). Higgins  was used in both back positions centre half and centre-forward.
|06/98||E Birnie||Sunderland Seaburn|
|R Hedley||Hebburn Argyle|
|01/99||C Veitch||Rutherford College|
|05/99||D Gardner||Third Lanark||£200|
|05/99||J Lockey||Grimsby||Loan End|
It was generally agreed that United had bought well during the summer, bringing in the much sought after Kingsley plus Rogers and Higgins during May.
And as the season progressed they continued to strengthen the side with notable additions including young forwards MacFarlane and Stevenson.
After the season finished a big fee was required to secure the services of Third Lanark's international left-back Dave Gardner.
Promising youngster Colin Veitch was signed from Rutherford College.
|06/98||M Lennox||New Brompton|
|05/99||J Jackson||W Arsenal||£40|
United were looking to strengthen rather than sell therefore most of the players who departed were reserves, but there were some notable and controversial departures too.
John Campbell broke club policy by taking over the Darnell Hotel and effectively sacked himself. And Graham - who had been in dispute with the club left for Lanemark.
Andy Aitken had a short spell on loan at Kilmarnock to help them in their Cup games.
At the end of the season John Harvey retired and Jackson was allowed to leave.
Having worked so hard to get the club into the top division the directors were determined to do everything in their power to stay there. They invested heavily to bring in new players; paid performance bonuses and even took the players to Gisland Hydro for a couple of months for special training.
Booming attendances and financial nous made United one of the richest clubs in the country. This enabled them to keep signing players and make further improvements to the ground.
They were now even in a position to help out others. Darwen were in danger of going out of business and the United directors - cognisant of the financial help they were previously given by other clubs - sent them a letter of support and a £10 cheque.
Extensive alterations were made to the enclosure during the summer of 1898. New covered stands accommodating 600 were erected and a new exit was created behind the bottom goal so that the players could enter and leave the field without passing spectators. The estimated cost was £1,800.
Residents of Leazes Terrace threatened to take out an injunction against the club and they sent a deputation to see the Town Moor Management Committee who referred the matter to the Council. They got the support of Alderman Richardson who argued that playing football on the land was not within the conditions of the lease and was in breach of an old Act of Parliament which stipulated that the land could only be used for agricultural purposes. However, a vote on the motion was defeated 37 votes to 5 (2 members declining to vote).
The problems with the ground (particularly the slope) and the ongoing opposition led the club to look for other sites. It was even reported (incorrectly) at one time that a new area of land had been found and that United would be moving during the summer.
Peddie proved he could score in Division 1 and his 20 goals made him top scorer again and the third top scorer in Division 1.
There was a disappointing return from the rest of the side with nobody else managing more than ten. Rogers  and Stevenson  were the only other players to score more than 5.
Back, Lindsay deserves a special mention. He only scored once (his first for the club), but it was from within his own half.
Centre-forward Johnny Campbell took over as manager of the Darnell Hotel, and thereby his association with Newcastle United lapsed, by reason of an old standing rule that none of the players shall hold berths in the liquor traffic.
Peddie, Ghee and Wardrope all took part in the Scots verses Anglo-Scots trial . Much had been expected of Peddie but he had a disappointing game.
James Stott was awarded a benefit game against Derby.
The average attendance increased by 40% as United became the second best supported team in the country. On six separate occasions the crowd was estimated as 20,000 plus with the biggest crowd (25,000 estimate) for the visit of Aston Villa.
As a result "human landslides" occurred from time to time in the imposing low end stand and to deal with the problem the club erected short barricades at different intervals, parallel to the length of the stand.
In December an excellent photograph of the players was issued with the Christmas number of the "Northern Gossip" available at the low price of 2d.
The crowd was - on occasion - boisterous to say the least and the club and it's fans were often criticised with the home game against Sheffield United certainly caused a stir.
Under the heading of "Noisy Newcastle" - the London Football Evening News printed a scathing attack on the supporters. This is what they had to say.
The Newcastle crowd sustained its unenviable reputation for rowdyism on Saturday week, when the League leaders (Sheffield United) snatched victory from them.
Every decision of the referee which did not suit the crowd was greeted with a storm of hooting and yelling from all around the ground, while the instances of absolutely filthy language are reported to have been numerous.
Every club which visits St. James's Park has the same story to tell of hostile receptions and disgusting abuse. The ground, owing to its peculiar conformation, is in itself a big handicap to visiting teams, without the added disadvantage of a blackguardly crowd.
If the club directors do not bestir themselves, they will wake up some fine morning and find that the ground has been closed for a month by the Association. If the League had power to do this, a proposition to that effect would secure a good three-fourths majority of club delegates.
Newcastle and Sunderland were approached about joining a proposed East of Scotland League with matches taking place midweek. However, the idea never took off.
And There were rumours later in the season that United and Sunderland had made official applications to join the Scottish League but the stories seemed to have no grounding in reality.
The Royal Cornish Gazette published an amusing little anecdote. At the recent match between Newcastle United and Sheffield United football teams, played at Newcastle, two pitmen were discussing the merits of the rival teams. "Aa think," said the one, "that the Sheffield chaps are sartin to win, for they're as fit as fire!". "Get away, man", sneered the other, "Newcastle will win, for they're as fit as wettor, and wettor can elwis put a fire oot!"
During the home game with Sheffield United the United supporters felt that the referee was biased towards the visitors and made their feelings very clear. After the game Sheffield director Mr Kaye was stopped by some excited individuals who thought he was the official in question.
Journalist "Ranger" (who was accompanying him) convinced the "gentleman" that he was not and "in language expressive and sultry, one of the loafers said what he would do if he could get hold of the individual".
Robert Sinclair cards from Football Cartophilic Info Exchange
Kit illustration from Historical Football Kits
Newspapers from Newcastle Central Library Local Studies
Newspapers from British Newspapers Archive