|Captain||B Stokoe, J Scoular|
|Top Scorer||L White (25)|
There were no new signings during the summer but Mitten made an immediate impact with his "revolutionary" training techniques (including gymnastics and highland dancing) and his idea for a new "continental" strip.
The 11th place finish was a welcome relief from previous campaigns and it was far from mid-table mediocrity with many high-scoring games including. At the final count United had scored and conceded 80 goals.
The fans liked what they were seeing and the average crowd rose to 40,280 (the best for four years).
Interest in the FA Cup was short-lived as United were beaten 4-1 at SJP by Chelsea.
The battle between Mckeag and Seymour went into overdrive once again and incensed by the internal bickering, a group of shareholders established a pressure group to try and get representation on the board.
Wales' golden boy Ivor Allchurch was signed, but Mitten was often frustrated in the transfer market because any purchase had to be sanctioned by the whole board. As a result they missed out on Mel Charles; the first of many deals scuppered by the infighting.
Kit images copyright Historical Football Kits and reproduced by kind permission
Mitten's first game in charge was a disaster - a 1-5 reverse at home to Blackburn - but things thankfully improved and the 11th place finish was a welcome relief from previous campaigns.
It was far from mid-table mediocrity with United adopting an open, attacking style which resulted in many high-scoring games including a 5-6 defeat at Stamford Bridge and a 4-4 draw at Old Trafford.
After a mixed start United started playing with more confidence and gained some notable victories; particularly at Wolves and Preston. With Allchurch added there was even ttalk of United being genuine title contenders.
However a run of 6 defeats in 8 games between mid-November and the end of December saw Newcastle tumble down the table and they never really got into a consistent run of form after that.
|H||Luton||W||1 - 0|
R3: United succumbed to a brilliant counter-attacking display from Chelsea. Seymour accused McKeag of interfering with the tactics precipitating another slanging match in the press.
Total Number of Games: 43
Total Number of Players Used: 29
Ronnie Simpson was injured during the summer so Mitchell was installed as Number 1. A shaky start to the season saw him replaced by new signing Brian Harvey.
Irish Internationals Keith and McMichael continued their partnership at the back.
Scoular (despite niggling injuries) was the usual right-half. Stokoe continued at centre-half until he was put out of the side due to an injury picked up in a PT session. Bell was preferred to Franks on the left but also suffered a long-term injury. Scott and FRanks provided the cover.
Hughes was the regular outside-right until February when Taylor took over. Eastham and Allchurch tended to share both inside-forward positions. White took the centre position again with Curry deputising admirably in the last couple of months. Outside-left proved to be the problem position; new signing McGuigan played in half the games but eight other players were used.
|J McGuigan||06/1958||Southend||£2,250 + Punton|
|B Harvey||08/1958||Wisbech T.||£3,000|
|T Marshall||12/1958||Wisbech T.||£7,000|
United splashed out on signing "the golden boy" of Welsh football, Ivor Allchurch. They were also in with a strong bid for his compatriot Mel Charles but the schisms within the Board scuppered this deal.
Mitten was determined to overhaul the youth set-up and signed a lot of young players including his own son John.
He was also not afraid to dip into the lower leagues with Brian Harvey and Terry Marshall arriving from Wisbech Town.
Mitten was looking to reduce the average age of his squad and - as a result - some long serving players departed.
Tommy Casey joined in August 1952 and had played a vital role in helping Northern Ireland reach the World Cup quarter-finals during the summer.
Reg Davies had been at United for n seasons and was disappointed to leave, but United needed him as a makeweight in the deal that brought Allchurch to TYneside.
In contrast, Arthur Bottom had only been at the club 9 months, but had an excellent scoring ratio of 10 goals in 11 appearances.
In the summer it was announced that the directors had unanimously agreed to appoint a manager before the start of the new season. They interviewed three prospective candidates: Eddie Lever (ex-Portsmouth manager), Len Goulden (ex-Watford manager) and Charlie Mitten (current Mansfield player-manager). Subsequently, McKeag stated that: "Mr Martin so impressed us that there was absolute unanimity among the directors to offer him the engagement".
Mitten was United's first manager since the ill-fated reign of Duggie Livingstone had been brought to a premature end almost three years ago. He was given a thirteen-month contract and challenged to prove himself. At 37 he was the youngest manager in the League.
He made an immediate impact, traditionally pre-season work concentrated solely on building up fitness but Mitten has other ideas. As well as running, the players took part in team games to improve their speed of reaction and separated into groups to work on their ball control.
It was the start of a radically different training schedule which involved more work on tactics and with the ball, PT, gymnastics and even highland dancing. Unfortunately, in January, Bob Stokoe badly tore the ligaments in his left ankle during one of the PT exercises and was out for the rest of the season.
He also brought in a new "continental style" strip and in November the Board accepted his proposal that the players should fly to longer-distance away matches. He argued that it would be less tiring and would allow them to train on a Friday morning.
Although the team were inconsistent they could play thrilling attacking football on their day and the media occasionally talked of "Mittens Marvels".
He also set about revamping the youth set-up and brought in a number of youngsters including his son.
Charlie could be a controversial and outspoken character. When Forest beat Newcastle in December, Mitten, who had previously called for professional officials, was furious with the performance of the referee. He sent a letter of complaint to the Football League concerning referees in general and that referee in particular.
A few weeks later match referee Arthur Ellis called off the cup-tie with Chelsea at St. James’ after he fell on his back twice when he inspected the pitch. Mitten was not impressed and tried to get Ellis to re-inspect wearing rubber boots; he refused and an altercation followed.
An FA Disciplinary Committee censured Mitten and warned him of his future conduct following the incident in which he allegedly "adopted an ungentlemanly attitude towards him in the presence of officials, players and members of the press".
Certain members of the Board had made it publicly known that some of the manager's actions have not met with their approval, but McKeag refuted that he was having to act as a buffer between Mitten and a faction of the Board claiming: "someone is just trying to stir up trouble".
Charlie Mitten's contract was discussed by the Board in April and he claimed: "I wanted to prove myself - I think I have done that". However, he dismissed suggestions that he was demanding a long-term contract and wanted full control of team affairs as "all tripe". "The rumour that I have asked for a four-year contract with strings is as ridiculous as the suggestion that I will resign if I didn't get it."
At the Board meeting McKeag made a recommendation that Mitten was given a 3-year contract under the same terms as his current one, but the motion was defeated by 5-3.
At the next meeting McKeag once again proposed a 3-year contract and again was defeated (5-2) with Seymour, Taylor, Davis and the Rutherford's all voting against. Instead they voted to offer him another 1-year contract..
With Leeds also interested in his services Mitten went on the attack on a newspaper exclusive; publicising what he had done for the club and criticising the boardroom shenanigans; some excerpts follow. "All I want and have ever asked for is TIME to get things done. The fairground is the place for Aunt Sallies, not the managerial seat. Team spirit is just as vital in the boardroom. Knew of troubles before I came. But I hoped these undercurrents would stop. Unfortunately - especially over the last few months - that hasn't been the case - far from it. When I arrived the club was in a very sorry state. The outer shell was there, but no heartbeat. Players had to buy their own boots for matches, training and other duties. No confidence, no team spirit. I made them enjoy working at their training. Players equipment brought up to standard".
A couple of days later, after five hours of heated debate, Mitten was offered three years. It was thought that both Rutherford's switched to support Mitten thus tipping the balance. Mitten was happy with the terms of the contract, but did not yet commit immediately as Leeds had also offered him a contract. He eventually agreed, with the club believed to have increased the wage on offer to match the terms being offered by the Yorkshire club.
The ongoing battle between directors McKeag and Seymour was kept behind closed doors up until the New Year, but the FA Cup defeat at home to Chelsea prompted another "war of words" which was played out in full public view through the press.
It was alleged that director Stan Seymour held a "press party" at his home in which he criticised the tactics employed in the Chelsea game and implied that there was some boardroom interference at half-time. Also he criticised the fact that the players who were to be transfer-listed had not been spoken to or informed.
An absolutely furious McKeag accused Seymour of making "disruptive" and "irresponsible" comments. "I am very disturbed by recent statements made by Mr Seymour on Newcastle United affairs. Why on earth is Mr Seymour starting all this nonsense again. Whatever statements he may have made at the press party which he held at his house on Wednesday were entirely unauthorised and ought never to have been made. I am sick and tired of all this hole and corner business and I shall not stand idly by at this or any other attempt to sabotage the excellent work of our manager Mr Mitten." He also stated that the matter would be discussed at the next director's meeting.
Bob Stokoe used his Sunday Sun column to rubbish suggestions that United's tactics in the Chelsea Cup Tie might have been influenced by McKeag. He admitted McKeag came into the dressing-room at half-time but stated he only offered encouragement.
Mitten responded too. "In my contract I have full control over team policy, selection, scouting, training and coaching. If the time comes that this is not the case I would have no hesitation in reporting the matter".
McKeag issued another statement through the Newcastle Journal. "This miserable business should be put in its right perspective. There is a resolution of the board that only the Chairman, in addition to the manager, should make statements to the press. Mr Seymour has flouted that resolution. There has been trouble before. On the last occasion Mr Seymour apologised to the Board and promised solemnly not to offend again. That promise has been broken".
The Board held a four-hour emergency meeting in which McKeag offered to resign both his Chairmanship and his place on the Board as long as Seymour also resigned. Seymour did not respond to the offer. A short statement was issued following the meeting which stated: "official statements only by or through the Chairman and that loyalty is pledged by all directors to manager Charlie Mitten".
Incensed by the internal bickering, a group of shareholders established a pressure group to try and get representation on the board.
Despite a poor season and falling gates United made a profit of £42,591 last year which was helped by the cancelling of Entertainment Tax.
United arranged a series of "floodlight friendlies" against teams from all over the World. They were of varying quality and the first visitors, Brazilian side Bela Vista, were beaten 12-1. Newcastle won all the games bar one, drawing with Vienna SC who were the Austrian Champions and had reached the Quarter-Finals of the European Cup.
In April the Board received a presentation from Captain Hyde-Barker, who was a specialist in football tours about his proposals for a close-season tour of Europe and America. The plan was for Newcastle to go on a mega-tour which visited Paris, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Montevideo, Lima, Bogota, Caracas, Mexico City and New York! Although Mitten was in favour, the Board voted against it and the club undertook a short tour of Ireland at the end of the season instead.
In April, United secretary Ted Hall passed away in hospital. He joined the club in 1927, taking over as assistant secretary in 1932 and secretary in 1950.
At the AGM in October held McKeag stated that it was the club's ambition to build up a reserve of £250,000 to improve the ground: "that is the goal to which we are working and it is not impossible". Plans included a covered double-decker stand on the Leazes Terrace side which would provide 5,000 additional seats and the overall capacity would be increased to 80,000. However, he made it clear that the team would always take priority and that further team building was still required.
As usual there were several outbursts from self-styled rebel Mr EC Pringle who was ruled out of order and told to sit down on numerous occasions. In the stormiest encounter he accused McKeag's sons of using privileged car parking tickets. McKeag called it "damnable slander" and his son Clive stated that although he had used the car park he had been acting as a chauffeur for his father.
In February McKeag voiced his hope that progress would soon be made with their plans to build a new stand on the Popular Side and provide additional car-parking spaces behind the Leazes End. It was also possible that a tunnel would be built to allow easier access to the Leazes.
It was twelve years since the club last applied to extend St James'. The Freeman and the Council appeared broadly in favour at the time but the plans were dropped in 1951. The club had offered to fund both the Parliamentary Bill required to sanction the development and the cost of moving the children's swings.
McKeag and Hurford attended a meeting with the Town Moor and Park Committee to discuss the club's request to buy additional land to build a car-park on land behind the Park End. T Dan Smith of the Newcastle Transport Committee responded by stating that the Council were considering acquiring the land themselves for parking.
Members of the Town Moor and Parks Committee then visited Gallowgate to examine the proposed car park site. After the inspection Councillor J McKenzie said that he "agrees there is a slice of land in excess of what we require for the children's recreation ground" and that the City Engineer will report to the Committee at their next meeting.
The player's contracts were signed before the maximum wage was raised to £20 and they were all on £17 although the club said that those in the first-team in any given week would be given a £3 "bonus". But during the summer the players would get the old rate of £14 which was £3 less than the maximum agreed by the clubs and the Football League.
Dick Keith later complained to the press that his wages were cut from £20 to £17 for the week in which he missed United's game to play for Ireland. He said manager Mitten had told him that he played for and was paid by Wales so "he couldn't have it both ways". The Irishman threatened to "see this through to the end".
Mitten responded by stating that all the player's contracts, with the exception of Allchurch, stated that they get £17 per week and that they only get the maximum wage when they played in the first-team that week or anyone who was out of the side due to injury.
In December the club, as promised, reconsidered the players' wages and agreed to pay those of "league rating" the maximum wage of £20. Retrospective payments from the start of the season were paid where appropriate.
Whilst he was out injured Scoular did some scouting for the club, but suggestions that he might be being groomed for a managerial or backroom position were refuted by all parties.
Alf McMichael was surprisingly omitted from the Ireland team to play England and McKeag advised that it was United who refused to release him for the match. He also stated that he went to the Irishman's home to explain their decision and that he was (allegedly) understanding.
With Nat Lofthouse out injured Len White (second highest scorer in the League at the time) was selected for the League side to take on the Irish League and he scored a seven-minute hat-trick in a 5-2 victory. He played superbly well with the Daily Mirror reporting that "he had speed, he had skill, he had dynamite in his boots". He was the fifteenth United player to represent the Football League.
After his brilliant performance many expected that White would win his first international cap against Wales, but the fit-again Lofthouse was preferred.
In September, McKeag warned youngsters to keep off the pitch at the end of games or risk exclusion. He explained that the hard work of the ground staff "is retarded considerably by pointless invasions of the pitch in a quest for autographs which the players have strict orders not to give on the field". And, at a recent reserve game, a visiting goalkeeper was "bombed" by an ice-cream carton filled with ash.
Before the start of the next home game against Manchester United McKeag addressed the crowd regarding the pitch encroachments. As soon as he started speaking there were ironical cheers and as he continued the slow hand claps and boos started.
At half-time the visitors’ mascot had apple cores, ice-cream wrappers and red grit thrown at him. And at the end of the match youngsters and teddy boys once again swarmed onto the pitch. The Board announced that the Boy's Gates would be closed until further notice.
There was no invasion at the end of the next home game and the Boy’s Gate's were re-opened once more.
Train driver Wilfred Bee of Shiremoor swapped shifts so that he could attend the cup tie with Chelsea but in a cruel twist of fate he suffered fatal injuries when his electric train from Longbenton collided with an empty train at Central Station.
Jimmy Scoular missed the start of pre-season training as he was involved in a bowls tournament in Bognor Regis. The Scot and his father (along with another player) won the Triples.
Newcastle arranged a couple of behind-closed-doors pre-season games against teams from Fenham Barracks; one to be played on the Army's own ground on August 6th and one to be played at St. James' a week later. However, the Northumberland FA banned the games as it contravened an FA rule banning "irregular matches" during the close season.
The United squad went to Blackpool for special training prior to the match at Blackburn in December. They played a match on the beach and did not realise that the incoming tide had left them marooned on a small island of sand. As a result they had to wade through the knee-high water back to dry land.
In February McKeag stated that at the next meeting of League chairman he would call for a fact-finding committee to be set up to look into the possibility of using all-weather pitches. And he argued that "so far as I can see the best pitch needn't be one of turf. It is not outside the bounds of imagination to picture a pitch of red shale for example".
Comedian Bobby Thompson was performing at the Empire Theatre when United were due to play Chelsea in the Cup and before the game he said he was disappointed he couldn’t be at St James' to support the team. He said he had arranged for a telephone call to be made to the theatre every 5 minutes during the game so he could keep abreast of the score and revealed that he had "verses ready to put across to the audience based on a Newcastle lead of 1, 2 or 3 goals". When asked what he would do if they were losing he replied: "there won't be any verses".
United arranged for the Romanian touring side to visit the pictures (in the afternoon) to see 'South Pacific'. They turned down the offer, but having changed their mind the evening was spent watching "The Barbarian and the Geisha" and "School for Violence".
Swedish side Halmstads left at 4.00am to travel to Newcastle for a a 3.00pm kick-off. But they were delayed at Malmo and they did not arrive in Newcastle until 5.30. They were whisked straight to the ground and had to play immediately. Despite their lack of preparation the visitors showed some flashes of good football and it was probably the best friendly so far. However, due to the delayed kick-off, many supporters left at half-time.