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NUFC 1979/80 - Season Review

Division 29th
FA CupR3
League CupR2
ChairmanB Rutherford
ManagerB McGarry
CoachW McFaul
CaptainM Martin
Top ScorerA Shoulder (21)

A disastrous season for McGarry in which United led the table almost continuously until February whereupon they collapsed spectacularly.

After the mass comings and goings of the previous season this was a much more settled season.Ian Davies, Stuart Boam, Billy Rafferty and Bobby Shinton all arrived but more significantly United lost Irving Nattrass under the new freedom of contract rules.

The Cups brought their usual distress; Sunderland knocking the Magpies out of the League Cup on penalties and an embarrassing home defeat by Third Division Chester in the FA Cup.

Kit images copyright Historical Football Kits and reproduced by kind permission


League Division 2

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In the first two thirds of the season United were at last beginning to look more like a sum of their parts and when they beat Orient 2-0 on January 19th they were in top spot.

Their success was mainly down to their form on Tyneside where they had won 12 and drawn 1 of their 13 games.

But after that the team went into freefall and in the last 16 games the Magpies' record was won: 1, drew:7, lost 8.

Although their home form also was poor during that period it was the results away from home throughout which really cost them as they won only twice all season.

The loss of influential midfielder Mick Martin in December and McGarry's failure to replace him is usually cited as the reason for the fall from grace, but in reality the malaise went far deeper than that.

18/8 H Oldham W 3-2
21/8 A Preston L 0-1
25/8 A Charlton D 1-1
01/9 H Chelsea W 2-1
08/9 A Orient W 4-1
15/9 H Leicester W 3-2
22/9 H Wrexham W 1-0
29/9 A Birmingham D 0-0
06/10 A WHU D 1-1
10/10 H Preston D 0-0
13/10 H Shrewsbury W 1-0
20/10 A Watford L 0-2
27/10 H Cambridge W 2-0
03/11 A Oldham L 0-1
10/11 H Cardiff W 1-0
17/11 A Bristol D 1-1
24/11 A Swansea W 3-2
01/12 H Fulham W 2-0
08/12 A Luton D 1-1
15/12 H QPR W 4-2
22/12 A Notts D 2-2
26/12 A Burnley L 2-3
29/12 H Charlton W 2-0
01/1 H Sunderland W 3-1
12/1 A Chelsea L 0-4
19/1 H Orient W 2-0
02/2 A Leicester L 0-1
09/2 A Wrexham L 0-1
20/2 H Birmingham D 0-0
23/2 A Shrewsbury L 1-3
01/3 H Watford L 0-2
08/3 A Cambridge D 0-0
15/3 H WHU D 0-0
22/3 A Cardiff D 1-1
29/3 H Bristol W 3-1
02/4 H Notts D 2-2
05/4 A Sunderland L 0-1
07/4 H Burnley D 1-1
12/4 A Fulham L 0-1
19/4 H Swansea L 1-3
26/4 A QPR L 1-2
03/5 H Luton D 2-2
01 Leicester 21 13 8 58 38 55
02 Sunderland 21 12 9 69 42 54
03 Birmingham 21 11 10 58 38 53
04 Chelsea 23 7 12 66 52 53
05 QPR 18 13 11 75 53 49
06 Luton Town 16 17 9 66 45 49
07 West Ham 20 7 15 54 43 47
08 Cambridge 14 16 12 61 53 44
09 Newcastle 15 14 13 53 49 44
10 Preston 12 19 11 56 52 43
11 Oldham 16 11 15 49 53 43
12 Swansea 17 9 16 48 53 43
13 Shrewsbury 18 5 19 60 53 41
14 Orient 12 17 13 48 54 41
15 Cardiff 16 8 18 41 48 40
16 Wrexham 16 6 20 40 49 38
17 Notts County 11 15 16 51 52 37
18 Watford 12 13 17 39 46 37
19 Bristol R 11 13 18 50 64 35
20 Fulham 11 7 24 42 74 29
21 Burnley 6 15 21 39 73 27
22 Charlton 6 10 26 39 78 22

FA Cup

R3 05/1 H Chester (D3: 8th) L 0-2

R3: Prior to the game McGarry stressed the financial need for a good cup-run and the importance of not being complacent and true to form the Magpies were beaten on home soil for the first time this season. Division Three Chester are well worth their victory.

League Cup

R2 L1 29/8 A Sunderland D 2-2
R2 L2 05/9 H Sunderland D 2-2 (lp)

R2 L1: After falling two-goals behind United scored twice in the last 15 minutes to give themselves a great chance of going through.

R2 L2: United conceded an equaliser in what was virtually the last kick of the match and then lost on penalties with Pearson's miss proving crucial. Hibbitt admitted he was a coward for refusing to take one.

Squad and Team

Barton D 35 0 2
Bird J 10 0
Boam S 40 0 1
Brownlie J 41 0
Carney S 10 1
Carr K 1 0
Cartwright P 34 5 4
Cassidy T 31 1 6
Connolly J 8 8 2
Cropley A 3 0
Davies I 39 1 2
Ferguson B 4 1 1
Hardwick S 44 0
Hibbitt T 37 0 2
Martin M 21 0
Mitchell K 6 0
Nicholson G 3 1
Pearson J 3 0
Rafferty B 20 5 4
Shinton B 10 0 1
Shoulder A 43 1 21
Walker N 11 2
Wharton K 1 0
Withe P 40 0 11

Total number of games: 45

Total number of players used: 24

Player Moves

Toon In

Name Date From Fee
Cartwright Peter 06/1979 North Shields £2,000
Davies Ian 06/1979 Norwich City £175,000
Boam Stuart 08/1979 Middlesbrough £140,000
Carney Steve 10/1979 Blyth Spartans £1,000
Rafferty Billy 10/1979 Wolves £175,000
Haddock Peter 12/1979 Professional
Shinton Bobby 03/1980 Man City £175,000

Despite their financial problems United spent almost £700,000 on new players.

Inexperienced left-back Ian Davies arrived for a hefty fee and there was also a shock move for the very experienced Stuart Boam from Middlesbrough to attempt to fill the void left by Nattrass' departure. "He is a natural leader who can do his own job as well as help other people" said McGarry.

Following the success of Alan Shoulder, United dipped into the non-league market again to bring in midfielder Peter Cartwright and central-defender Steve Carney.

With a lack of goals still being an issue McGarry again went for experince by signing Billy Rafferty and Bobby Shinton, moves which cost a substantial £350,000

Toon Out

Name Date To Fee
Blackley John 07/1979 Preston
Nattrass Irving 08/1979 Middlesbrough £375,000
Parkinson Andrew 08/1979 Peterborough
Manners Peter 12/1979 Seiko Sports
Pearson Jim 02/1980 Retired (inj)
Bird John 05/1980 Hartlepool
Withe Peter 05/1980 Aston Villa £500,000

During the summer of 1979 United lost the services of two classy defenders: John Blackley and Irving Nattrass. The loss of Nattrass was a particular blow with him moving under Freedom of Contract.

Jim Pearson was forced to retire with a serious knee injury having made only n appearances since he joined the club.

The failure to achieve promotion again meant that the departure of centre-forward Peter Withe was inevitable and he moved to Aston Villa, United receiving their record ever fee.

Drop In

Name From To Club
Cropley Alex 02/80 03/1980 Aston Villa


Something that I Said

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The season started well and McGarry appeared to be really relishing the job and the enthusiasm of the fans seemed to be rubbing off on him. "All I want to do is get enjoyment out of the job, to get enjoyment out of winning". Perhaps it has something to do with this area where the fans gain so much pleasure. You can't help wanting to share it".

By Christmas McGarry was proclaiming that "the North East is on the threshold of something big", enthusing over his managerial freedom (a rare commodity on Tyneside over the years) and extolling the attitude of the players. "There is no interference. I have been allowed to manage and get on with my own job. There is a tremendous all-for one and one-for-all spirit at Newcastle now. We are now one big happy family".

But as the results deteriorated McGarry started to publicly question the attitude of the players; "the trouble is they have started to believe their own publicity. I think some of the players got to the stage where they didn't bother to look at the team sheet. Well it won't do any harm to ginger up a few of them".

And, as the slump continued, McGarry blasted the players in the press and called for them to show the character that he had previously said they had.


Freedom of Contract had sent the transfer market crazy with certain clubs splashing out hitherto unknown sums on players. Most notably Steve Daley and Andy Gray went for figures approaching £1.5 million. United did not have that kind of cash so McGarry continued his wheeling and dealing in the transfer market. Having lost Irving Nattrass to freedom of contract he used the money to fund a number of purchases.

Bill McGarry was one of a number of managers who expressed concern over the profligacy of some clubs and warned that some would soon be in serious financial trouble. But with United struggling to score goals, he declared "I'll put the club into hock if it will take us up;" although adding that the club "aren't wealthy enough to be reckless".

A couple of days later the story had changed and McGarry stated he would have to sell before he bought again. The lack of cash was blamed on the massive cost of ground developments and the loss of income caused by the severity of the previous winter.

Within weeks the situation looked even more bleak as McGarry informed the press that he envisaged that the current 36-man professional staff would be reduced to 22 (not including youngsters) by 1980/81. He claimed that it was no longer viable for the club to maintain such a large squad and that it was a situation that would be repeated across the nation.

Unfortunately, despite spending not-insignificant sums, many of the signings made were not successful. Big money was invested in Davies, Rafferty and Shinton for very little return.

Double Dare

With coach Peter Morris having departed Iam McFaul (who had been looking after the reserves) was promoted, but only after a bizaree job-sharing idea was dropped (see Strange But Toon).

McFaul was also under consideration for the Northern Ireland manager's job which was being advertised as a part-time position, but he turned it down on the basis that he thought it needed a full-timer. Instead he settled himself with the proceeds from his testimonial year.

Too Drunk to Book

McGarry was less enamoured with referees who kept booking his players. "Referees are throwing yellow cards around like will prove the ruination of the game". However, he later he criticised the players for the number of bookings they were picking up for dissent.

Player Shorts

Freedom of Choice

Freedom of Contract had changed the relationship between players and their clubs as out of contract players were now allowed to agree terms with a club of their choice. If the sellers and buyers could not agree a fee then an Independent Tribunal would set the price. Newcastle would be one of the first "victims" as they lost Irving Nattrass during the summer.

When You're Young

Following the success of Alan Shoulder McGarry continued to seek out the cream of the local non-leagues and two more players made the step up. Council employee Peter Cartwright arrived from North Shields and airport worker Steve Carney was signed from Blyth Spartans.

One player who United missed out on though was an eighteen-year-old from Wallsend Boys Club called Peter Beardsley. He had been training at United but he was on a promise and ended up signing for Bobby Moncur at Carlisle. United's former captain was in no doubt about his ability. "Peter is going to be a great player. His potential is enormous".

One Step Beyond

The club's annual accounts showed that four players earned over £20,000; which was more than manager McGarry. He stated that with players' wages booming this was quite common and pondered whether it was sustainable at some of the less successful clubs

It wasn't all good news for the United players. They had no promotion clause and bonuses were limited to £50 for each point. Sunderland's players - in contrast - would receive a £5,000 bonus for promotion, got £100 a point and £25 for every goal above two. Sunderland were promoted, United were not.


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Shout Above the Noise

The good start to the season meant that the average home attendance improved by almost 3,000 to 23,711 with the highest crowd of 38,784 for the Tyne Wear derby. The calamitous end saw fans leaving in their droves and the lowest SJP crowd was 13,765 for the last match against Luton.

Even when United were riding high in the first half of the season the fans were on the edge. And even when they were top of the table they were occasionally jeered as when they struggled to break down a resilient Shrewsbury side in October. Alan Shoulder sympathised "they're frustrated, we're frustrated, everybody's frustrated."

Not surprisingly the frustration grew as the team slumped and two fans in particular made their feelings felt when United lost 2-0 at home to Watford. They ran onto the pitch, stomped on their scarves and "gestured" towards the director's box.

Smash it Up

There were serious disturbances at the match in Oldham. Fans rampaged through the town before the game and fighting erupted on numerous occasions on the terraces. Missile-throwing was endemic at the time and bricks and pieces of concrete were thrown in the direction of the Latics keeper Peter McDonnel. Skipper Mick Martin was furious claiming that the players had been distracted by the actions and that "no club wants to be tainted by the antics of these sort of people".

The most controversial incident involving United fans occurred when a petrol bomb was thrown into the West Ham section of the ground. Not surprisingly the club were swift in their admonishment although they claimed that some of the press over reacted to the incident. Their main concern appeared to be that they would have to spend even more money to improve safety in the ground. Compliance with Safety at Sports Ground Act had already cost the club £350,000 in the last three years.


The Supporters Club - having been founded just before the 1955 Cup Final - was celebrating it's Silver Jubilee and a commemorative mug was available.

Although membership was high the vast majority of travelling fans were not signed up. After the incidents at Oldham an emergency meeting was requested by the club but the point was made that only a fifth of the fans at Boundary Park had made their way on Supporters Club coaches.

Strange Town

A new "Football Trust" was launched which would receive £3.5 million a year from the Pools Promoters' Association. Most of the money would be set aside for the Football Ground Improvement Trust (set up in 1975) with the remainder being specifically designated to tackling hooliganism.

Compliance with Safety at Sports Ground Act had already cost the club £350,000 in the last three years, but it really was a case of papering over the cracks in an increasingly dilapidated stadium. The capacity had also been reduced to 38,008 a drop of more than a third from the start of the decade.

The club desperately needed to generate more revenue and wanted to press ahead with the development of the Leazes End. Once more the club found themselves at loggerheads with the Council who demanded that the club build a corner section first to provide a better "blend" with Leazes Terrace. They backed down, but the estimated cost of the new stand was now £1.8 million; almost double the original estimate for the complete ground.

Strange but Toon

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With coach Peter Morris having left to become manager of Mansfield, McGarry devised a bizarre job-share for his new coaches. Both Iam McFaul and Dave Woodfield (who had worked with McGarry in Saudi Arabia and joined in the summer) were to alternate on a monthly basis. In the end McFaul impressed McGarry to such an extent that Woodfield was left looking after the reserves.

When Terry Hibbitt was subbed in the Cup-tie with Chester he aimed a "V" sign at McGarry who said "that will be an expensive gesture as far as he is concerned." An unrepentant Hibbitt blasted back "he's not told me I'm being fined and if he does I will take it further." He was and he didn't.

There was another problem for Supporters attending the home leg of the League Cup tie against Sunderland as a gang of pickpockets relieved a number of supporters of their trouser contents.


Bill McGarry illustrations by Tommy Canning.

Kit illustration from Historical Football Kits

Newspapers from Newcastle Central Library Local Studies

Newspapers from British Newspapers Archive

Plus various books.

1970s Seasons