|Top Scorer||C Wayman (34)|
The lack of competitive action during the war years meant that the quality of football was relatively poor, but crowds flocked to the grounds, particularly on Tyneside.
When United held their AGM in July 1946 they announced profits of £7,567; only First Division Aston Villa could better that figure. This was the result of the average gate during the last year of the war time topping 40,000.
The war had ended the career of many players, but Seymour had used the break to scour the North East for young talent. He also used the buoyant cash flow to buy-in players such as Joe Harvey, Roy Bentley and Frank Brennan before the League re-started. Little wonder United were hot favourites to achieve promotion.
The club was also confident. "Only the best is good enough for us and the best is the First Division" stated Stan Seymour.
United carried on spending through the season. They signed Len Shackleton for a record £13,000 fee and spent that much again on bolstering the squad further. It should have been no contest.
However, despite a promising start and 95 goals scored the Magpies finished ten points shy of a promotion place.
Newcastle's squad was overladen with talent, but on too many occasions it failed to perform to the sum of its parts. What they had in skill they seemed to lack in team spirit, what they had in individual flair they lacked in tactical direction.
Their home form was particularly disappointing and it was often suggested that they wilted under the pressure of the large and vociferous crowds attending St. James'.
Another factor was the growing disaffection amongst a number of players. Nationally the Players Union were campaigning for better conditions for their members and there were more parochial problems on Tyneside.
United responded by appointing George Martin as manager towards the season's end to address these weaknesses.
Kit images copyright Historical Football Kits and reproduced by kind permission
Total Number of Games: 48
Total Number of Players Used: 28
07: Milburn > Stobbart
Twenty eight players appeared for United during the 1946/47 season; of these only three - Benny Craig, Tommy Pearson and Duggie Wright had played during the last full season of 1938/39.
The new and expensive signings tended to grab the headlines but they were ably assisted by the local youngsters who made up the rest of the team.
There is no doubt there was significant talent with the United squad; way beyond the levels of other sides in the Second. The problem was trying to find the right blend especially in the forward line where many different combinations were tried. On their day they were a class act but there were probably overladen with "individuals". If these players were off form the team tended to struggle
The Journal summed up the situation . "There is a good deal of temperamental variability on the Newcastle side and when this is out of gear, to the detriment of the team plan assiduously impressed by manager and trainer and practised when circumstances permit, it throws a real strain on the more orthodox players in the side".
|Bentley Roy||06/1946||Bristol City||£8,500|
|Anderson William||10/1946||Throckley Colliery||£25|
|Shackleton Len||10/1946||Bradford City||£13,000|
|Lowery Jeremiah||/1946||Ca Parsons|
|Frost Arthur||10/1946||New Brighton|
After initial denials the club advertised for a manager and Lord Westwood described the sort of man they were after. He needed to be someone who could develop an "outstanding club spirit", "make a triumph in black and white of the greatest talent in the Tyneside nurseries" and "inculcate a sense of loyalty and club pride".
There were "over fifty" applicants for the job, ten where short listed and in May they were all interviewed on the same day.
Despite a late attempt by Ted Hall - United's Assistant Secretary - to suggest an alternative plan whereby the appointment would be made from within it was Luton manager George Martin who was given the job.
There were rumours that he had been given a very lucrative three year contract, but The Journal stated that it was "at a salary which cannot be classed as soccer 'plum'" and claimed that figures of £2000pa were "wildly exaggerated"."
Luton were decent enough to give him an immediate release from his contract thus allowing him to start his work before the end of the season.
In the aftermath of the war some players were still not demobbed. United were often deprived of the services of Tommy Walker because he was required for service’s games.
A number players worked in the mines and the tiring nature of the work and their lack of training made it very difficult; it was noticeable that the part-timers - Milburn in particular - seemed to be struggling.
Top scorer Charlie Wayman put down his improved form to full-time training made possible by his escape from the mines in July 1946. A Wansbeck miner enlisted the help of a Socialist MP in an attempt to extricate himself from the mines using Wayman's release as his justification. It didn't work.
The players received special bonuses for any victories in the FA Cup. £165 was available for sharing after they reached the semi-final.
Bonding sessions are nothing new, but in the forties it was the Dunes Hotel in Seahouses rather than Dubai. In the week before the Third Round FA Cup tie with Crystal Palace the United party moved up to Northumberland for some "bracing air, golf, billiards and various other entertainments".
They returned again prior to the fourth round tie when they had the added attractions of a "local whist drive and social evening", a darts match against a pub team and rabbit hunting. Brennan wasn't allowed near the bunnies as one director put it "he was a mightily big target if any shot was flying around loose".
The PFA had been involved in two and a half years of negotiations and submitted a proposal whereby transfer fees would be replaced by "compensation payments" based on the player's salary, age and the division the signing club were in. Although the authorities were sympathetic, enough clubs were against the ideas to block it's introduction.
They also wanted an increase in the maximum wage to £12 (summer £10) and the minimum wage to £5, improved service benefits and the payment of all war-time benefits due.
Before the season started there was talk of a strike; although many thought it would be illegal under war-time legislation. The Newcastle directors were certainly confident issuing a statement to say that "Newcastle United players will not come out on strike whatever action the Player's Union takes".
With an impasse reached between the Players Union and the Football League the players requested government arbitration. The government were keen to help as they felt that a strike would be a "serious blow to public morale and an issue of national consequence".
Stan Seymour put forward an alternative suggestion to increasing the maximum which would have involved an end of season bonus based on a club's success.
During October a strike was actually called; it lasted for ten minutes before the League agreed to go to arbitration. It was rumoured that a £7 minimum may be granted.
By January an offer was on the table of £12/10 max and £5/3 min which matched the original claim but was now £1 short on all levels. And no mention was made of their other new claims for wages when transfer-listed, "season" wages when in pre-season training and compensation benefits.
In the post-war years it was boom time for attendances and United's average attendance for League and Cup matches was 49,435. Even a pre-season trial match attracted 27,763.
There were 1,500 season tickets made available and the club was deluged with applications. The 60,00 marker was surpassed three times with the highest attendance being 65,798 for the match against Manchester City.
Unfortunately the expectancy generated by their huge following created a lot of pressure and the team often performed better away from home. They only won half of their matches at SJP and this was a major factor in promotion being missed.
The club unveiled plans to cover the 1s 3d enclosure; the St James' Terrace side. They also applied for permission to construct a car park and a training ground within the land adjacent to Leazes Park.
The biggest controversy of the season was over allocation of tickets for the semi-final. Both clubs were given 16,000 despite the massive difference in the support for the two teams.
United could have sold their tickets twice over and the club faced heavy criticism over their distribution methods with fans being urged to apply via local travel firms then finding that the firms did not have enough tickets to go around. The fact that Charlton did not sell all their tickets simply rubbed salt in the wounds.
As a result many fans had to pay way over the odds on the black market.
Fuel shortages, a transport workers strike and a hard winter all made travelling to away games a nightmare for the team and the supporters alike. And when Newcastle returned home from Birmingham on Boxing Day they were six hours late back after missing their connection at Sheffield. Stobbart relieved the boredom by dressing up in a railwayman's uniform and "taking over" night duty.
Before the season started the club admitted that they were still seeking suitable accommodation for a number of players including captain Joe Harvey.
Come April 1st the situation had still not been resolved satisfactorily for either Harvey or Len Shackleton and both failed to turn up for training.
Director McKeag was adamant that the club had done their best "No club can have been at greater pains than have Newcastle to help their players in any way possible".
Harvey did not concur. "If they cannot find me a house in which my wife and family can be happy they cannot expect me to remain at St James'. I have been at Newcastle for two years and they have had plenty of time to find me a house"
Shackleton was equally adamant claiming that the club had "not fulfilled it's promises" of a "satisfactory house". He claimed that Jesmond flat offered to him was "not suitable. It makes my wife ill. The place is damp. My wife and I could manage for a while, but my baby has had a cold and we cannot risk his health." However he was at pains to say he was not on strike and that he was not "holding a pistol to the head of the directors"
Both players were dropped for the following game and were ordered to appear in front of the directors where they faced a "severe reprimand". A statement was issued advising that both had proffered their sincere apologies. Just in case there was any doubt where the blame lay it went on to say that Harvey "assured the directors he is perfectly happy with Newcastle United and wished to remain on Tyneside" and Shackleton "denied having stated that his house in Jesmond was not fit to live in".
Illustrations copyright and by kind permission of : Hutch
Kit images copyright Historical Football Kits and reproduced by kind permission