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NUFC 1948/49 - Squad

Division 14th
FA CupR3
ChairmanG Rutherford
ManagerG Martin
CoachN Smith
CaptainJ Harvey
Top ScorerJ Milburn (19)

Having been promoted last season confidence levels were high and United were on the coat-tails of eventual Champions Portsmouth throughout most of the season before slipping back to 4th.

A dismal display at Gallowgate resulted in a shock home defeat to Second Division Bradford in the FA Cup Third round.

For the second season running Newcastle's average League attendance was the best in the country.

The club had almost forty professional players and this created a lot of unrest; there were transfer requests galore and at one stage sixteen players had requests on the table.

Jackie Milburn was selected (and scored a hat-trick) for the Football League side which took on the Irish League and then won his first England caps.

Kit images copyright Historical Football Kits and reproduced by kind permission


Division 1

United made an excellent start to the season and after losing only two of their first twelve games reached second place. Then an excellent run of eight wins in ten games from mid-October took them to the top of the table for a few days.

This period included a run of six wins in a row (which equalled the club record) only for United to lose at home to wooden-spoonists Huddersfield in the next game.

They stayed in contention and when Pompey arrived on Tyneside in March it was billed a Championship decider. In many ways it was as the Magpies were thrashed 5-0.

Although they won their next two games they failed to win any of their last five and slipped to 4th.

The home form was pretty decent, but it was their performances away from Tyneside which really caught the eye. They won more than they lost and scored as many goals as they did at St. James'.

At times they let themselves down in games they should have won in and they lost five times against clubs who finished in the bottom six.

21/08 A Everton D 3-3
25/08 H Chelsea D 2-2
28/08 H Preston L 2-5
01/09 A Chelsea W 3-2
04/09 A Burnley W 3-0
08/09 H Aston Villa W 2-1
11/09 H Stoke D 2-2
13/09 A Aston Villa W 4-2
18/09 A Charlton D 0-0
25/09 H Man City D 0-0
02/10 A Portsmouth L 0-1
09/10 A Sunderland D 1-1
16/10 H Wolves W 3-1
23/10 A Bolton W 5-1
30/10 H Liverpool W 1-0
06/11 A Blackpool W 3-1
13/11 H Derby W 3-0
20/11 A Arsenal W 1-0
27/11 H Huddersfield L 2-4
04/12 A Man Utd D 1-1
11/12 H Sheff Utd W 3-2
18/12 H Everton W 1-0
25/12 A Birmingham L 0-2
27/12 H Birmingham W 1-0
01/01 A Preston L 1-2
15/01 H Burnley D 1-1
22/01 A Stoke D 1-1
05/02 H Charlton W 2-0
19/02 A Man City L 0-1
05/03 H Sunderland W 2-1
12/03 A Wolves L 0-3
19/03 H Arsenal W 3-2
26/03 A Huddersfield W 2-0
02/04 H Blackpool W 3-1
06/04 H Portsmouth L 0-5
09/04 A Derby W 4-2
15/04 H Middlesbrough W 1-0
16/04 H Bolton D 1-1
18/04 A Middlesbrough L 2-3
23/04 A Liverpool D 1-1
30/04 H Man Utd L 0-1
07/05 A Sheff Utd D 0-0

Man. Utd.0-11-1
Man. City0-00-1
A. Villa2-14-2
Sheff Utd3-20-0
W D L F A Pts
01 Portsmouth 25 8 9 84 42 58
02 Man Utd 21 11 10 77 44 53
03 Derby 22 9 11 74 55 53
04 Newcastle 20 12 10 70 56 52
05 Arsenal 18 13 11 74 44 49
06 Wolves 17 12 13 79 66 46
07 Man City 15 15 12 47 51 45
08 Sunderland 13 17 12 49 58 43
09 Charlton 15 12 15 63 67 42
10 Aston Villa 16 10 16 60 76 42
11 Stoke 16 9 17 66 68 41
12 Liverpool 13 14 15 53 43 40
13 Chelsea 12 14 16 69 68 38
14 Bolton 14 10 18 59 68 38
15 Burnley 12 14 16 43 50 38
16 Blackpool 11 16 15 54 67 38
17 Birmingham 11 15 16 36 38 37
18 Everton 13 11 18 41 63 37
19 Middlesbrough 11 12 19 46 57 34
20 Huddersfield 12 10 20 40 69 34
21 Preston North 11 11 20 62 75 33
22 Sheff Utd 11 11 20 57 78 33

FA Cup

08/01 R3 H Bradford PA L 0-2

R3: United suffered an embarrassing home defeat by Second Division Bradford.

Squad and Team

Batty R 31
Brennan F 42
Clarke A 1
Cowell B 39
Craig B 10
Dodgin N 42
Donaldson A 13 5
Fairbrother J 42
Fraser B 3
Garbutt E 1
Gibson C 24 5
Graham D 4
Hair G 15 4
Harvey J 39 2
Houghton F 6 1
Lowrie G 4 3
McCall W 1
Milburn J 35 19
Mitchell B 13 3
Robledo G 15 6
Sibley J 8 2
Stobbart G 24 5
Taylor E 29 3
Thompson T 10 1
Walker T 22 5
own goals 6

Total Number of Games: 43

Total Number of Players Used: 25

The team was reasonably settled, at least in defence. Only 25 players were used used in total and, of these, 17 played in 10 games or more.


Fairbrother [42] missed one game all season and was in superb form during the campaign.

Full Backs

Cowell [39] established himself as the first choice right back with some consistently impressive performances. And Batty [31] took over on the other flank.

Half Backs

A very settled half-back line. Brennan [42] was a colossus at the centre of the defence again. Captain Harvey [39] took the right side and Dodgin [42] had probably his best season at the club.


The attack was the one area of the team which was regularly re-organised with all players being used in a variety of positions.

Gibson [24] and Stobbart [24] generally covered the right flank and were joined by Robledo [15].

Milburn [35] led the line for most of the season with Donaldson [13] also getting a run in the side.

Taylor [29] played at Number 10 with Walker [22] or Hair [15] on the outside until Mitchell [13] arrived.

Player Moves

Toon In

Name Date From Fee
C Gibson07/48 Cardiff£15,000
J Robertson09/48Auchinleck£1,000
J Steele12/48Belshill Ath.
R Harbertson01/49N. Shields
G Robledo01/49Barnsley£23,000
E Robledo01/49Barnsley£
B Mitchell02/49Third Lanark£17,000

G Robledo

With money flooding into the club United could compete for any player at any price and they continued to spend big.

Cardiff winger Colin Gibson was the biggest signing of the summer.

The Robledo brothers were captured from Barnsley for a joint fee of £23,000.

United chased Bobby Mitchell throughout the season and Third Lanark finally capitulated in February with another £17,000 being shelled out.

They were also continually on the lookout for younger players to develop.

B Mitchell

Toon Out

Name Date To Fee
A McKellar08/48Albion Rovers
J McNichol08/48Brighton£5,000
J Robertson09/48Auchinleck£1,000
J Woodburn09/48Gateshead£750
D Wright12/48Lincoln£600
A Donaldson01/49Middlesbrough£17,500
G Hair02/49Grimsby£6,000
P McCoy02/49Norwich£2,500
C Gibson02/49A Villa£
A Clark03/49N. Shields

A Donaldson

With the size of the squad and all the dissatisfaction it was inevitable that a number of players would be allowed to leave.

The biggest deal saw Andy Donaldson move to Middlesbrough for a surprisingly large fee of £17,500.

McCall and Gibson had struggled during their short spells on Tyneside and United decided to cut their losses on both of them.

Duggie Wright had struggled to regain full fitness after a serious injury and the popular George Hair was a victim of United's non-stop spending.


Embed from Getty Images

With attendances continuing to boom the club was financially in a very healthy state and they continued to buy players for big money. The attitude was summed up by Stan Seymour when they purchased Gibson. He said "we were not really in urgent need of an outside-right but a good player in any position is much more use to us than £15,000".

Consequently manager Martin's main problem during the season was keeping almost 40 professionals happy. It was an impossible task and at one time no less than sixteen players had transfer requests on the table.

In January a meeting was held to "discover whether there was any foundation for alleged discontent among the players". Martin and the directors met with the players for several hours and an official statement gave the director's view of the situation.

It stated that “the players were invited to express their views frankly and fearlessly and that it became manifest that no solitary fundamental complaint existed beyond the desire of particular players to be provided with housing accommodation, and the very natural regret of individual players that were not able to secure regular places either the first or second teams because of the large staff. The meeting was conducted in an extremely cordial spirit, and it is considered that the air has now been completely cleared”.

None of the players made a statement.

When United listed 11 players in January director Westwood criticised the decision leading to accusations of disloyalty from other Board members. He responded by saying "I think the Board should show loyalty to their players and the manager. Those responsible for putting such men as Gibson and Hair on the transfer list should state their reasons".

”These men have never complained or asked for a transfer, there has been no complaint about them and George Martin, the manager, was not responsible for putting them on the list".

Martin responded saying "I wish to strongly emphasise that I have the fullest support of the Directors. There is no question of dictatorship over me".

The Council agreed by a narrow margin to allow the club to lease further land to the North of the ground for a practice pitch and additional car parking. As it involved extending into an area of open space (including a children's playground) the club had to request that a clause be inserted into the next Parliamentary Bill to give them the powers to make such a disposition.


Despite fluctuating form at the start of the season, Milburn finished as top scorer with 19 goals, Robledo was second top with 6 despite not playing until February.

Jackie Milburn played for the Football League against the Irish League and scored a hat-trick. He was won his first England caps.

There was a huge amount of player unrest with many handing in transfer requests. The main grievances were lack of first-team football and inadequate housing. At one point there were 16 players with an active request.

There was a minor revolt when the players found out that they had been booked into tourist class rooms on their ship to the Americas.


For the second season running Newcastle were the best supported club in the land with an average gate of 53,702.

Even the Reserve (Central League) games drew impressive crowds and the attendance record for the competition was broken when 21,721 turned up for the match against Burnley in September.

The top crowd at Gallowgate was 67,362 for the visit of Liverpool in October.

70,787 attended the match against Manchester United at Maine Road.

In September the American destroyer U.S.S. Willard Keith arrived on the Tyne on a six-day courtesy visit and most of the men watched the home match against Aston Villa.

In the home match against Arsenal Compton put in some strong challenges which did not go down well with the home crowd and just before the end one irate fan attempted to accost him after a particularly robust challenge on Mitchell.

John Lammonby of Leeds was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment at Newcastle assizes after being found guilty of pickpocketing at the match against tbc.

When United fans travelled to Liverpool on the first day of the season they were given a very friendly reception with supporters wearing the black and white rosette being singled out for special notice whilst those standing in queues outside cafes were taken to the front and given priority.

Eighteen additional trains ferried thousands of fans to Sunderland for the Wear-Tyne derby but the first fans started queuing on Friday afternoon. Mobile canteens arrived to serve hot refreshments at 6am but they sold out within two hours. Town cafes had every available table pressed into service and a brewery company official assured supporters that "Sunderland's public houses have sufficient beer to quench the thirst of the big crowd".

Approximately 10,000 United fans travelled to the game at Blackpool. They were generally well-behaved but the police did have to move in when some fans started setting off and throwing fireworks.

Among the numerous Tynesiders who travelled to Blackpool were a number of North Shields men who returned home with happy memories of a pleasant outing. Apart from the marked hospitality of the Blackpool folk, the visitors were impressed by the excellence and variety of the six meals they had in hotels and were surprised to find no difficulty in securing all the popular brands of cigarettes. The general consensus of opinion was that Blackpool was much better off in the way of foodstuffs than any part of the North-East. Even eggs must have been plentiful there, as some of the visitors managed to bring a few home.

Strange But Toon

Jackie Milburn was kidnapped by students on the morning of the home game with Liverpool. They demanded a ransom be paid in support of "rag week", but he was freed following police intervention.

Embed from Getty Images

Young Scot Jimmy Robertson's move to United was cancelled within 24 hours after his mother persuaded him to come back home.

United benefited from six own-goals.

During the game at Preston the home side’s full-back, Billy Brown, headed the ball and as he did it burst with such a terrific bang and explosion of dust that the player thought he'd been shot.

A move for Blackburn striker Bob Langton fell through with Martin explaining that "Mrs Langton does not care to come to Tyneside."

George Martin

In August manager George Martin was top-of-the-bill at a Newcastle theatre as an operatic tenor. His talents were widely known and Martin was persuaded to appear on the bill after some Newcastle United directors convinced the theatre manager that George was a better singer than many that had appeared on their stage.

And when the United team were heading for the Americas on the Queen Mary for their summer tour Frank Brennan was top of the bill at the concert and dance one evening.


Andy Donaldson image from Football Monthly - courtesy of Soccer Attic

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.

1940s Seasons