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NUFC 1980/81 - Season Review

Division 211th
FA CupR5
League CupR2
ChairmanB Rutherford > S Seymour
ManagerB McGarry > A Cox
CoachW McFaul
CaptainM Martin
Top ScorerB Shinton (7)

The 1980/81 season was almost certainly the most boring season ever for Newcastle. There have certainly been worse years, but for all round tediousness it cannot be beaten.

A terrible start to the season, including an embarrassing League Cup exit against Jim Iley's Fourth Division Bury, cost Bill McGarry his job. His replacement was Chesterfield boss and former Sunderland coach Arthur Cox; but the swashbuckling football of the future was a million miles away.

In their 42 league games Newcastle managed a pathetic 30 goals; an average of 0.71 goals a game, the worst average ever recorded by the team. The average goal per game ratio of 1.79 is also the lowest average in the club's history. There were no less than eleven goalless draws, five "0-1" defeats, and four "0-2" defeats.

In League games at St. James' the new Scottish and Newcastle electronic scoreboard was almost redundant as there were only 35 goals; 22 for Newcastle and 13 for the opposition.

Away from home Newcastle scored 8 goals, failing to score in 16 of their 21 games and not scoring a single goal in their last 7 games. In fact from December onwards (a total of 11 games) only one goal was scored away from home.

The FA Cup started brightly with wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Luton, but ended in complete darkness as United were thrashed 4-0 by Third Division Exeter City.

Not surprisingly the fans deserted in droves and the average League crowd of 16,001 was the lowest since the 1914-15 season.

One of the few bright spots was the emergence of a gangly young striker rescued from a sausage factory.

Kit images copyright Historical Football Kits and reproduced by kind permission


League Division 2

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A 4-0 defeat at Bolton in the third game of the season sent United to the bottom of the table and set in motion the sacking of Bill McGarry.

Caretaker manager Joe Harvey secured a couple of victories and a 2-1 win at QPR marked the beginning of Arthur Cox's reign.

This proved to be a flash in the pan and with United struggling to score goals or even create chances Cox decided to blood some of the club's promising youngsters (Withe, Waddle and Halliday).

Unfortunately, he soon had his fingers burned when an inexperienced side was thrashed 6-0 at Stamford Bridge. In the following 11 games up to the end of the year United scored only 5 goals and were still down in 16th place.

Centre-forward Mick Harford was signed from Lincoln City to beef up the attack and a short three-match winning run raised hopes before the familiar issue of a lack of goals dashed them once again.

United only scored 8 goals away from home all season and managed a paltry 3 goals in the last 16 away games. Not surprisingly they only recorded 2 away victories.

16/8 A Sheff Wed L 0-2 H
20/8 H Notts County D 1-1
23/8 A Bolton L 0-4
30/8 H Luton W 2-1
06/9 H Cardiff W 2-1
13/9 A QPR W 2-1 H
20/9 H Oldham D 0-0
27/9 A Bristol R D 0-0
04/10 H West Ham D 0-0
07/10 A Preston W 3-2
11/10 A Bristol C L 0-2
18/10 H Swansea L 1-2
22/10 H Shrewsbury W 1-0
25/10 A Chelsea L 0-6 H
01/11 H Watford W 2-1
08/11 A Cambridge L 1-2
11/11 A Notts County D 0-0
15/11 H Sheff Wed W 1-0
22/11 H Wrexham L 0-1
29/11 A Orient D 1-1
13/12 A Swansea L 0-4 H
20/12 H Bristol C D 0-0
26/12 A Grimsby D 0-0
27/12 H Derby L 0-2
10/1 A Wrexham D 0-0
17/1 A Luton W 1-0
31/1 H Bolton W 2-1
07/2 H QPR W 1-0
21/2 H Bristol R D 0-0
25/2 A Cardiff L 0-1
28/2 A Oldham D 0-0
07/3 A West Ham L 0-1
14/3 H Preston W 2-0
21/3 A Shrewsbury L 0-1
28/3 H Chelsea W 1-0
04/4 A Watford D 0-0
11/4 H Cambridge United W 2-1
15/4 H Blackburn D 0-0
18/4 A Derby L 0-2
20/4 H Grimsby D 1-1
25/4 A Blackburn L 0-3 H
02/5 H Orient W 3-1
W D L F A Pts
01 West Ham 28 10 4 79 29 66
02 Notts County 18 17 7 49 38 53
03 Swansea 18 14 10 64 44 50
04 Blackburn 16 18 8 42 29 50
05 Luton 18 12 12 61 46 48
06 Derby 15 15 12 57 52 45
07 Grimsby 15 15 12 44 42 45
08 QPR 15 13 14 56 46 43
09 Watford 16 11 15 50 45 43
10 Sheff Wed 17 8 17 53 51 42
11 Newcastle 14 14 14 30 45 42
12 Chelsea 14 12 16 46 41 40
13 Cambridge 17 6 19 53 65 40
14 Shrewsbury 11 17 14 46 47 39
15 Oldham 12 15 15 39 48 39
16 Wrexham 12 14 16 43 45 38
17 Orient 13 12 17 52 56 38
18 Bolton 14 10 18 61 66 38
19 Cardiff 12 12 18 44 60 36
20 Preston 11 14 17 41 62 36
21 Bristol C 7 16 19 29 51 30
22 Bristol R 5 13 24 34 65 23

FA Cup

03/1 R3 H Sheff Wed W 2-1
24/1 R4 H Luton W 2-1
14/2 R5 H Exeter D 1-1
18/2 R5r A Exeter L 0-4 H

R3: Waddle was the hero, scoring his first two senior goals. Wednesday manager Jackie Charlton was gracious as ever in defeat "luck b******s, they'll never get away with that again".

R4: Cox offered his normal unique take on the match; "they came at us like Red Indians In the second half but we refused to surrender", and describing the frantic defending towards the end Cox claimed that United "were clearing the ball so high it was coming down with altitude poisoning on it".

R5: Third Division Exeter City put up a spirited performance and deservedly came from behind to earn a draw.

R5r - United put in a disastrous performance in front of the (Sportsnlght) cameras.

League Cup

27/8 LC H Bury W 3-2
02/9 LC A Bury L 0-1

R2 L1: Fourth Division Bury were managed by former player Jim Iley and included Pat Howard and Keith Kennedy in the side. United - who were taunted by the paltry home crowd - struggled to overcome the Lancastrians.

R2 L2: Harvey told the players "you are playing for your pride" but it is a shocking performance in which the Magpies hardly create a decent opportunity even with 30 minutes extra time being available. As a result United are out on the "away goals" rule.

Squad and Team

Barton D 15
Boam S 37 1
Brownlie J 14 1
Carney S 28 4
Carr K 43
Cartwright P 4 5
Clarke, R 18 3
Davies I 27
Halliday, B 23 1
Hardwick S 5
Harford, M 18 1 4
Hibbitt T 17 1 3
Johnson, P 20
Kelly, Peter 9
Koenen, F 13 1 1
Leaver, P 1
Martin M 33 2
Mitchell K 18 1
Nicholson G 2 1
Rafferty B 17 4
Shinton B 27 7
Shoulder A 35 1 6
Trewick, J 25 1
Waddle, C 17 3
Walker N 20 1 1
Wharton K 40 1
Withe, C 2
own goals 1

Total number of games: 48

Total number of players used: 27

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Figure in brackets relates to the number of players used in that position


02: Kelly or Carney > Brownlie.

03: Davies or Johnson

04: Martin

05: Boam > Barton.

06: Mitchell > Halliday

07: Shoulder/Shinton

08: Wharton >Trewick

09: Clarke > Harford.

10: Rafferty or Shoulder > Wharton.

11: Koenan > Hibbitt > Waddle > Walker.

Top scorers: Shinton (7), Shoulder (6) and Harford (4).

Player Moves

Toon In

Name Date From Fee
Clarke Ray 07/80 Brighton £180,000
Leaver Phil 07/80 Internal
Waddle Chris 07/80 Tow Low £1,000
Koenen Frank 08/80 Nijmegen £80,000
Johnson Peter 10/80 Middlesbrough £60,000
Withe Chris 10/80 Internal
Harford Michael 12/80 Lincoln City £216,000
Trewick John 12/80 WBA £234,567

R Clarke
M Harford
J Trewick

Toon Out

Name Date To Fee
Mulgrove Keith cs/80 Barrow Free
Cassidy Tommy 07/80 Burnley £30,000
Robinson Stuart 07/80 Aldershot Free
Connolly John 09/80 Hibernians Free
Scott Jamie 09/80 Berwick Free
Ferguson Brian 12/80 Hull City Free
Rafferty Billy 12/80 Portsmouth £80,000

T Cassiddy
J Connolly
B Rafferty


New Sponsors

During the summer a new sponsorship deal was announced with Scottish and Newcastle Breweries worth around £100,000 to the club during the next two years.

In return, United wore the 'Blue Star' on their shirts whenever possible; it was the first time that the club shirt has had a commercial symbol on it.

As part of the deal an electronic scoreboard was installed at the Gallowgate End which was “the most sophisticated on any sports ground in Britain”.

Newcastle defied FA rules by wearing their Blue Star shirts in the Cup match against Sheffield Wenesday and were later fined £1,000 for doing so.

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McGarry out

Just before the start of the season McGarry admitted: “I’m under pressure and two directors are after my blood. I don’t worry about the directors who don’t like me. I’m not a likeable guy because I do the job in my own fashion”.

Someone who definitely didn’t like him was recently sold Tommy Cassidy who blasted him for being “thirty years out-of-date” and revealed how he had grown to hate training, claiming that others felt the same way. McGarry responded by calling his critics a disgrace, that he’s “not paid to be popular” and confirmed he will continue doing things his way and that he does not feel nervous about his position in any way.

McGarry only lasted four games into the season. A 4-0 defeat at Bolton followed by a less than impressive victory over Fourth Division Bury in a match which attracted less than 10,000 to St James' proved to be the death knell.

McGarry acknowledged that he had helped to bring about his own downfall by being “too smug”, citing his major mistakes as being: not making a signing when United topped the table at the end of 1979 and not appointing a new assistant when Peter Morris quit for Peterborough.

Media speculation threw up the usual quota of names with United believed to be after a young manager with a reasonable amount of experience. How many were approached is not known but Frank Clark (Sunderland assistant manager) and Jimmy Frizzell both claimed to have been approached and former captain Bobby Moncur ruled himself out of the running.

Former manager Joe Harvey, now 62, was put in temporary charge whilst the search for a new manager began. Joe said the new man would have to have "a big heart and broad shoulders".

Arthur Cox

"This is one of the top six jobs in the country. I can do a job here. I want to see fans queuing around St. James' Park again - and they will be."

Cox In

Eventually United appointed Chesterfield manager Arthur Cox who had built up an excellent reputation for running the Saltergate outfit on a shoestring. "This is one of the top six jobs in the country. I can do a job here" Arthur stated boldly. "I want to see fans queuing around St. James' Park again - and they will be."

It was not the big name manager that many fans had called for, but as Harvey said "we are not really a big club at the moment". However he promised that "the fans will love him eventually. If he equals what I did in the early sixties by getting us promotion then I will kiss his feet".

Outspoken Forest manager Brian Clough was less impressed with the appointment. Whilst wishing Cox "every success" he gave an interview in which he said that the club was in a "shocking mess" and should have attempted to get one of the four top "locally" born managers (whose clubs occupied the top four places in the League at the time): Bob Paisley, Lawrie McMenemy, Bobby Robson and - of course - himself.

He admitted it would have been difficult to entice any of them away from their current employers, but blasted the club for not even trying, implying that they only appoint managers who they feel they can control.

He feared that the club would plummet further rather than be turned around and suggested that "only time can tell if he (Cox) is capable of working such miracles."

One thing Cox demanded more than anything else was total commitment from his players and he wasn't adverse to publicly criticising them if they failed to match his standards.

He also wanted the team "to have the sort of spirit that has always existed down coal mines, where a mate always looks after a mate no matter what the circumstances".

After four wins and a draw, Cox won the Division 2 Manager of the Month award for January. "The award is an honour for the Club, players and supporters. Everyone at the Club has worked hard."

Rather than the standard summer break the players were allowed five full weeks off, taken at any time, but on a rota. And in the remaining weeks they had to attend training twice a week. Cox wanted to keep fitness levels up and for the players to work hard on improving their technique.

Stan Seymour Junior

Boardroom Changes

Just before Christmas former United chairman Lord Westwood stepped down from his position as vice-chairman although he remained a director and club president. Stan Seymour replaced him.

Then in March president Lord Westwood, chairman Bob Rutherford and David Salkeld all quit the board as they were not prepared to pay the £16,000 that the club's bank had requested all the directors to pay.

Westwood (who was 73) accepted that something needed to be done, but said that he was "too old to take on that sort of mountainous problem. There are big problems at St. James' Park and unless something is done about them quickly they will get out of hand". Stan Seymour junior took over as Chairman.

On hearing the news Fulham chairman Ernie Clay declared that he would "crawl all the way to the North East to take over the club" and claimed he would pay off the club's £500,000 debt.

He also said that he would bring some of his Fulham staff with him and possibly even introduce a rugby league club. "The whole place would take off - there would be no doubt about that. I have made a habit of taking over ramshackle outfits".

Stan Seymour took over as Chairman and immediately made it clear that "there is no way the current board will invite discussion with him".

“Never again will we buy old players. We are where we are because of our dealings in the transfer market. We're finished with buying players who are 31, 32 and 33. We want players with a future... we must put our faith in youth and we must utilise local talent."

In November, after resigning as Carlisle scout, Brian Watson became Newcastle’s Youth Development Officer.

In January United announced a complete overhaul of their scouting staff, sacking all of their scouts outside the North East area. Newcastle will now concentrate on looking for local talent.

Stan Seymour outlined the new policy for the future. “Never again will we buy old players. We are where we are because of our dealings in the transfer market. We're finished with buying players who are 31, 32 and 33. We want players with a future... we must put our faith in youth and we must utilise local talent. We will do everything we can for our fans and for the Club. We want to be big again. But I have to use the word eventually because our job is to get us out of our current mess and that means steady progress rather than spectacular."

Former United manager, Duggie Livingstone, passed away in January.

Respected journalist David Miller lambasted the club after the Cup defeat at Exeter. "Newcastle are little short of a music hall joke" and "are an insult to the most loyal supporters in English football". Not the team but "the Board of Directors, which over twenty years or so has allowed this great club to rot".

Player Shorts

Peter Kelly

Norwich made a formal complaint to the League accusing United of approaching one of their players (Justin Fashanu) through the press. Newcastle denied the allegation.

Steve Carney was sent off on the opening day at Sheffield Wednesday. Both managers criticised the decision; "if that was a sending off offence I'm my aunt's uncle and we'll change our name to 'handbags United’” said McGarry. Even the referee Ken Walmsley thought the decision was unfair and "has nothing but sympathy for the lad". He blamed the fact that the disciplinary rules were now too rigid.

United paid out a record fee of £250,000 for Bedllngton born West Brom midfielder John Trewlck.

United signed Lincoln City forward Mick Harford for £150,000 which was a record fee for a Fourth Division player. Harford had scored 15 times In 21 games so far in 1980/81. Cox admitted: "he's a nasty so and so.... I'm going to have to tame him".

The Magpies were one of a number of club’s keeping an eye on Carlisle youngster Peter Beardsley, but in a surprise move he signed for US club Vancouver Whitecaps. Bob Stokoe, defended his decision claiming that not one English club had made a concrete bid. Cox disapproved; "when you have talent you don't need to chase cash".

At the end of the season Terry Hibbitt and Peter Kelly (for the second time) were both advised to quit the game by specialists.


Newcastle revealed their plans for the redevelopment of the ground to the City Council. The club said they would need 15 years to finish the scheme, but the Council wanted the work to be completed before then.

United held talks with the Council and it was revealed that the cost of the ground redevelopment will be between £9.5m and £10.5m. In 1971 the Council gave United 10 years to redevelop the ground and they said that they were willing to give the club another 10 years. But with the club currently operating at a loss they would have to fund the work from the Development Association and feel they will need 15 years.

A new family seating area was launched at the front of the East Stand and admission prices were increased by a massive average of 17%.

Residents of Kelso Gardens in Denton Burn were furious with the manner in which United had installed an all-weather pitch on their training ground. Contractors damaged a fence and left a mound of mud. They complained to the council who knew nothing about it as the club had not requested planning permission.

A petition signed by 230 residents of the Gretna Gardens area in Fenham was presented to the Council in protest against the “appalling behaviour” of the club in installing a practice pitch and their plans to install floodlights. It was a success as the Council threw out the club’s plans.



The first home match of the season against Notts County attracted a crowd of only 17,249 which was a post-war low for a season-opener and came as a major shock to United's hierarchy. It was a sign of things to come and the average League attendance of 16,001 was the worst since the 1914/15 season.

When former captain Jim Iley brought his Bury side to Tyneside in the League Cup he was left saddened. "I could have cried when I saw the size of the crowd. Newcastle's standards have slipped so badly in the last few years.... this place used to be alive and now it's dead".

And former Leeds full-back Terry Cooper, now managing Bristol Rovers painted a similar picture. "Newcastle is a tragedy. I remember it on big match days not so long ago, yet when I came here before the match this morning it was a graveyard. The atmosphere’s gone".

Crowd Mood

Because of the poor results and the lack of entertainment it is hardly surprising that the mood of the crowd was at a very low ebb.

Cox never missed an opportunity to lavish them with praise and his words before the Exeter cup-tie were par for the course. "These people have been my inspiration since I came is players who win matches for you, but no one should underestimate the part these people can play too.

And there were some games, notably the FA Cup ties, in which they tried to rally the side and earned high praise from opposition managers.

Inevitably though there were home games (such as the home defeat to Swansea) which brought slow handclaps and chants of "what a load of rubbish"

And when the next game saw United outplayed on Tyneside by Wrexham the players were booed off at the end of each half and one fan staged a sit-down protest in the centre-circle during the second period.

When Newcastle travelled to Blackburn in mid-April most of the travelling fans missed the majority of the game because of freak snow storms crossing the Pennines.


Petrol Bomb

The Newcastle fan who threw the petrol bomb at the West Ham supporters was jailed for three years in June. One young fan required hospital treatment for burns to his legs, others suffered minor burns and damage to their clothing.

Sheffield Wednesday (A)

Six thousand travelled to Yorkshire for the game against Sheffield Wednesday and there was serious crowd trouble before, during and after the game. Forty are arrested (nearly all United supporters) and fourteen police (including a WPC) are injured.

The United fans were held back at the end of the game with police guarding the exits and a significant number were “going wild”, kicking, hurling abuse and throwing coins. Some tried to storm the gates and when the gates were opened the crowd surged forward leading to a number of police injuries.

The travel organiser for the Supporters Club, Trevor Dobson, blamed insufficient policing but accepted that a growing “idiot element” among the fan-base was giving United fans one of the worst reputations in the country. A senior police officer slammed the “deplorable scenes of damage and disorder”.

Two United fans were jailed and many more were fined as the behaviour of the United supporters was slammed by both the FA and the Football League who warned that further action would be taken if the trouble was repeated. In addition, five fans were held in custody and others were bailed with orders to report to police on Saturday afternoons.

West Ham (a) and Chelsea (h)

The other majar problem days were both in March for the game at West Ham and the home match with Chelsea.

Newcastle Supporters Association

The Newcastle Supporters Association formally open their Number 9 bar, Jackie Milburn performed the honours and he was joined by Albert Stubbins and Len White.

Strange but Toon

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Hulme and Jackie Milburn were among those given honorary Freedom of the City. The United supporting cleric is delighted to get Jackie’s autograph which he has “waited thirty years for”.

1980s Seasons