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NUFC 1938/39 - Season Review

Div 29th
FA CupR5
ChairmanJ Lunn
ManagerT Mather
TrainerN Smith
CaptainJ Denmark
Top ScorerW Cairns (20)

United topped Division 2 for a week in mid-November and were in the promotion shake-up until a disastrous run of only 1 win in the last 9 games saw them plummet into mid-table.

After progressing to the FA Cup Fifth Round Newcastle were beaten by Cup holders Preston.

After last season's close shave with relegation to Division 3 the Board decided to invite former player Stan Seymour to join the Board.

The club was in financial trouble but they continued to spend big in an effort to gain promotion.

Attendances improved dramatically and the Magpies were the fourth best supported club in the land.


League Division 2

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Despite struggling away from Tyneside, United won their first 8 home games and when they beat leaders Fulham at St. James' in November they took over at the top of the table. Centre-forward Cairns was in great form scoring 17 goals in 18 games.

In the New Year the goals dried up and United failed to score for six games in a row.

However, with 9 games left Newcastle were in 2nd place and still in line for promotion.

But in what was an extremely tight table a run of 5 draws and 3 defeats saw United slip out of contention.

Before New Year United's home form was excellent (10 wins and 2 draws), but fell off markedly with 5 defeats in the last 9 games. Away from home they struggled to score and their record was not promotion material.

H Plymouth W 2 -1
A Luton L 1-2
A Sheffield Utd D 0-0
A WBA L 2-5
H Burnley W 3-2
H WBA W 5-1
A Tottenham L 0-1
H Southampton W 1-0
A Coventry L 0-1
H Nottm F W 4-0
H Tranmere W 5-1
A WHU D 1-1
H Bradford PA W 1-0
A Sheff Wed W 2-0
H Fulham W 2-1
A Blackburn L 0-3
H Millwall D 2-2
A Man City L 1-4
H Bury W 6-0
A Swansea W 1-0
A Plymouth W 1-0
H Norwich W 4-0
H Sheffield Utd D 0-0
H Chesterfield L 0-1
A Burnley L 0-2
A Southampton D 0-0
H Coventry L 0-4
A Nottm F L 0-2
A Tranmere W 3-0
H WHU W 2-0
H Tottenham L 0-1
A Bradford PA W 1-0
H Sheff Wed W 2-1
A Norwich D 1-1
A Fulham D 1-1
H Blackburn D 2-2
A Millwall D 1-1
A Chesterfield L 0-2
H Man City L 0-2
A Bury D 1-1
H Swansea L 1-2
H Luton W 2-0

Blackburn 2-2 0-3
Sheff. Utd 0-0 0-0
Sheff. Wed. 2-1 2-0
Coventry 0-4 0-1
Man. City 0-2 1-4
Chesterfield 0-1 0-2
Luton 2-0 1-2
Tottenham 0-1 0-1
West Brom 5-1 2-5
West Ham 2-0 1-1
Fulham 2-1 1-1
Millwall 2-2 1-1
Burnley 3-2 0-2
Plymouth 2-1 1-0
Bury 6-0 1-1
Bradford 1-0 1-0
Southampton 1-0 0-0
Swansea 0-2 1-0
Nottm. F. 4-0 0-2
Norwich 4-0 1-1
01 Blackburn 25 5 12 94 60 55
02 Sheff Utd 20 14 8 69 41 54
03 Sheff Wed 21 11 10 88 59 53
04 Coventry 21 8 13 62 45 50
05 Man City 21 7 14 96 72 49
06 Chesterfield 20 9 13 69 52 49
07 Luton 22 5 15 82 66 49
08 Tottenham 19 9 14 67 62 47
09 Newcastle 18 10 14 61 48 46
10 West Brom 18 9 15 89 72 45
11 West Ham 17 10 15 70 52 44
12 Fulham 17 10 15 61 55 44
13 Millwall 14 14 14 64 53 42
14 Burnley 15 9 18 50 56 39
15 Plymouth 15 8 19 49 55 38
16 Bury 12 13 17 65 74 37
17 Bradford PA 12 11 19 61 82 35
18 Southampton 13 9 20 56 82 35
19 Swansea 11 12 19 50 83 34
20 Nottm Forest 10 11 21 49 82 31
21 Norwich 13 5 24 50 91 31
22 Tranmere 6 5 31 39 99 17

FA Cup

A Brentford W 2 - 0
A Cardiff D 0 - 0
H Cardiff W 4 - 1
H Preston L 1 - 2

R3: United deservedly beat Division 1 strugglers Brentford on a peat-covered pitch.

R4: Division 3 South side, Cardiff, provided tougher opposition and United needed a replay and a late goal surge to see them off.

R5: Newcastle gave Cup holders Preston a tough game in which all the goals were of the soft variety.


Tom Mather

Although the annual report and balance sheet revealed a small profit the club was in debt to the bank and all the directors had to pay guarantees.

Former United player Stan Seymour become a director of the club and became the major mover as far as transfers was concerned.

Trainer James McPherson and coach Harry Bedford both resigned.

Norman Smith, the former Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield Town right half was appointed trainer-coach to Newcastle United. He had previously coached England and gained an excellent reputation coaching abroad.

Mr G. Rutherford, director of Newcastle United, was elected to the Football League Management Committee in succession to the late Mr. Phil Bach.

Fierce critic of the Board, Mr McKeag, failed to get elected but took the opportunity to have his say at the AGM. "There can be no doubt that the playing experiences of last season can only be described as utterly and completely deplorable. Surely at no time in the whole life of the club has there been such a monotonous succession of poor displays on the field, of miserable ineptitude fumbling and foozing, and lack of cohesion and concerted action. "

Sunderland director John Cochrane attempted to set up a midweek League for the leading clubs in the North East. However Middlesbrough and Newcastle turned down the idea straight away and the idea never got off the ground.

Squad and Team

Ancell B 46 1
Birkett R 26 3
Bowden R 31 2
Bradley G 1
Cairns B 33 20
Carver J 11
Clifton H 33 17
Craig B 9
Denmark J 34
Fairhurst D 3
Frost A 5 1
Garnham A 8
Gordon J 28 2
Kelly D 1
Mooney T 42 12
Park J 15 1
Pears B 2
Pearson T 6 2
Richardson Joe 34
Rogers E 5
Scott W 9 2
Stubbins A 24 4
Swinburne T 31
Theaker C 15
Woodburn J 8
Wright D 46 1

Total Games: 61

Total Goals: 85


Swinburne [31] got the nod at the start of the season but was replaced by new signing Theaker [15] in the New Year.


Richardson [34] was backed up by Craig [9] on the right and Ancell [46] was an ever present on the left.

Half Backs

Gordon [28], Denmark [34] and ever present Wright [46] were the regulars with Carver [11] in reserve.


Birkett [26] and Park [15] shared the outside-right position with Stubbins [24] or Clifton [33] generally used on the inside.

Cairns [33] was the pivot for most of the matches.

The left side was usually covered by Bowden [31] with Mooney [42] on the outside.

Total number of players used: 24

Player Moves

Toon In

Surname Date From Fee
06/38H CliftonChesterfield£8,500
07/38R BirkettMiddlesbrough£5,900
09/38W ScottAberdeen£3,750
11/38D KellyLeeds£1,165
11/38G BradleyRotherham£820
11/38C TheakerGrimsby£1,250
11/38B CraigHuddersfield£4,000
03/39A FrostN Brighton£2,515
05/39D HamiltonSwafield J£200

Harry Clifton

Despite the club's financial problems they kept on spending and shelled out almost £40,000.

They had already signed Duggie Wright at the end of last season and before the season started they splashed out on Harry Clifton and Ralph Birkett.

During the season the spending continued as the squad continued to be strengthened.

Toon Out

Surname Date From Fee
06/38A Livingstone Bury£500
06/38B ImrieSwansea£2,500
12/38N Tapken Man. U.£850
12/38HepplewhiteHorden CW
04/39J Carver Bury£850
04/39E Rogers Swansea T£700
05/39 Isaac Brighton£200

Bill Imrie

Former captain Bill Imrie was the only major departure.

Player Shorts

Cairns was the top scorer with 20 goals in 33 games. Clifton [17] and Mooney [12] also had decent returns.

Ancell and Wright both played in every match.

Wright was selected for England for the match against Norway at St. James'.

United great Colin Veitch died in Switzerland after a short illness.

Appearances by County


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Though languishing in Division 2 United were the fourth best supported team in the country.

The home match with Fulham attracted a crowd of 64,166, the second highest attendance of the season.

Despite objections from the police, Newcastle magistrates granted an application for a two-hour extension of the licensing hours (from 4pm to 6pm) for the visit of Cardiff in the FA Cup. The application from Mr. Forster argued that with a large crowd expected "it is desirable in the interests of good order that the crowds be off the streets as quickly as possible".

Following "incidents" at the Bradford home game the FA ordered Newcastle to post warning notices around the ground and in the next four home programmes. The spectator who caused the trouble at that match was refused admission to the ground for the rest of the season.

One of the first Preston supporters to arrive in Newcastle for the Fifth Round cup tie was Britain's championship hitch-hiker Thomas Davis who had not missed a Preston match in years. The journey took him ten hours and the ex-Tynesider immediately went to see Tom Mather to get a ticket (he had never been refused at any ground).

Strange but Toon

When United signed Grimsby custodian Theaker they were desperate to get him to play the following day so their manager agreed to drive him up in the evening.

Unfortunately after they had set off Theaker realised his boots were in the ground, which was locked. Undeterred the pair scaled the gates and broke into the stadium to get them.

James Denmark
James Denmark

A conversation overheard in a Sunderland club in October. First man: "I hear Hitler's latest is that he wants Denmark". Second man: "Yes but Newcastle United are hard up for centre-halves and won't part with him".

Jim Park

Park and Kelly (the new signing from Leeds) ended up brawling after a religous argument got out of hand.

In the home game against Coventry United had a goal disallowed because the referee had been knocked over in the build up.


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.

1930s Seasons