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NUFC 1989/90 - Season Review

FA CupR5
League CupR3
ChairmanG McKeag
ManagerJ Smith
CoachB Saxton
Captaintbc > R Aitken
Top ScorerM Quinn (34)

With a massive share war behind the scenes and fans being urged to boycott the matches it seemed unlikely that United could bounce straight back.

But Jim Smith's summer overhaul proved more successful with Micky Quinn and Mark McGhee forming a new front two and the experienced "Budgie" Burridge taking over in goal.

When Quinn bagged four in an opening day victory over Leeds the fans at last had something to smile about again and United got off to a strong start. And when December turned into a disaster and United lost 4-1 at home to Wolves on New Year's Day Smith reacted by signing Scotland captain Roy Aitken from Celtic.

It was an inspired signing and United got themselves into a promotion place only to slump at the very end leaving them in the play-offs with neighbours Sunderland as the opposition.

When Newcastle returned from Roker Park with a 0-0 draw United looked odds on favourites to get to the play-off final. But Sunderland won 2-0 0n Tyneside and a pitch invasion simply added to the despair. Tyneside was initially cheered by Sunderland's defeat in the play-off final by Swindon only for them to get promoted anyway due to the Wiltshire club's previous financial irregularities.

The share war continued as the Magpie Group attempted to wrestle control from the present incumbents, but McKeag hung on grimly and a truce was eventually achieved. Hall was given a seat on the Board and a Public Share Issue was to be raised as soon as possible.

Kit images copyright Historical Football Kits and reproduced by kind permission


League Division 1

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After only 3 defeats in the first 19 games the Magpies were handily placed in 3rd at the end of November.

But only 1 win in the next 9 matches culminating in a 4-1 defeat at home to Wolves on New Years day had the mood turning ugly again. Smith responded by signing Scotland captain Roy Aitken from Celtic.

It was an inspired signing and only 3 of the last 22 games ended in defeat. However United only won 1 of their last 4 games and ended in 3rd which meant they had to go into the play-offs where they would meet 6th place Sunderland who had finished six points behind them.

John Burridge saved a penalty as Newcastle drew 0-0 at Roker Park only for the Wearsiders to win 2-0 at St. Janes'.

19/8 H Leeds Utd W 5-2
26/8 A Leicester D 2-2
02/9 H Oldham W 2-1
09/9 A AFC Bournemouth L 1-2
13/9 A Oxford L 1-2
16/9 H Portsmouth W 1-0
24/9 A Sunderland D 0-0
27/9 H Watford W 2-1
30/9 A Hull W 3-1
07/10 A Ipswich L 1-2
14/10 H Bradford W 1-0
18/10 H Blackburn W 2-1
21/10 A Brighton W 3-0
28/10 H Port Vale D 2-2
01/11 A WBA W 5-1
04/11 H Middlesbrough D 2-2
11/11 A WHU D 0-0
18/11 A Barnsley D 1-1
25/11 H Sheff Utd W 2-0
02/12 A Leeds L 0-1
09/12 H Oxford L 2-3
26/12 A Stoke L 1-2
30/12 A Swindon D 1-1
01/1 H Wolves L 1-4
13/1 H Leicester W 5-4
20/1 A Oldham D 1-1
04/2 H Sunderland D 1-1
10/2 A Portsmouth D 1-1
24/2 A Sheff Utd D 1-1
28/2 H AFC Bournemouth W 3-0
03/3 H Barnsley W 4-1
07/3 H Hull W 2-0
10/3 A Watford D 0-0
17/3 H Ipswich W 2-1
21/3 A Bradford L 2-3
24/3 A Blackburn L 0-2
31/3 H Brighton W 2-0
03/4 H Plymouth W 3-1
07/4 A Port Vale W 2-1
11/4 H WBA W 2-1
14/4 A Wolves W 1-0
16/4 H Stoke W 3-0
21/4 A Plymouth D 1-1
25/4 H Swindon D 0-0
28/4 H WHU W 2-1
05/5 A Middlesbrough L 1-4
13/5 A Sunderland D 0-0
16/5 H Sunderland L 0-2
W D L F A Pts
01 Leeds 24 13 9 79 52 85
02 Sheff United 24 13 9 78 58 85
03 Newcastle 22 14 10 80 55 80
04 Swindon 20 14 12 79 59 74
05 Blackburn 19 17 10 74 59 74
06 Sunderland 20 14 12 70 64 74
07 West Ham 20 12 14 80 57 72
08 Oldham 19 14 13 70 57 71
09 Ipswich 19 12 15 67 66 69
10 Wolves 18 13 15 67 60 67
11 Port Vale 15 16 15 62 57 61
12 Portsmouth 15 16 15 62 65 61
13 Leicester 15 14 17 67 79 59
14 Hull 14 16 16 58 65 58
15 Watford 14 15 17 58 60 57
16 Plymouth 14 13 19 58 63 55
17 Oxford 15 9 22 57 66 54
18 Brighton 15 9 22 56 72 54
19 Barnsley 13 15 18 49 71 54
20 West Brom 12 15 19 67 71 51
21 Middlesbrough 13 11 22 52 63 50
22 Bournemouth 12 12 22 57 76 48
23 Bradford 9 14 23 44 68 41
24 Stoke 6 19 21 35 63 37

FA Cup

R3 06/1 A Hull W 1-0
R4 27/1 A Reading D 3-3
R4r 31/1 H Reading W 4-1
R5 18/2 H Manchester Utd L 2-3

League Cup

R2 L1 19/9 A Reading L 1-3
R2 L1 04/10 H Reading W 4-0
R3 25/10 H WBA L 0-1

Squad and Team

Aitken, R 27 0 1
Anderson, J 33 8 4
Askew, B 6 0
Bradshaw, D 11 4
Brazil, G 5 14 3
Brock, K 50 1 3
Burridge, J 36 0
Dillon, K 49 2
Fereday, W 23 5
Gallacher, J 26 7 7
Kelly, Gary 5 0
Kristensen, B 32 8 3
McGhee, M 55 0 25
O'Brien, L 17 7 3
Quinn, M 53 0 34
Ranson, R 39 0
Robinson, D 0 2 1
Scott, K 51 0 4
Stimson, M 44 2 1
Sweeney, P 17 6
Thorn, A 12 0 2
Wright, T 14 0

Total Games: 58

Total Number of Players Used: 22

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

01: (3) Burridge/Wright

02: (4) Anderson/Ranson > Scott

03: (3) Stimson

04: (4) Dillon > Aitken

05: (2) Scott > Anderson

06: (5) Thorn > Kristensen > Ranson

07: (5) Gallacher > Brock

08: (5) Brock > Dillon

09: (2) Quinn

10: (1) McGhee

11: (7) Fereday > O'Brien > Kristensen

Player Moves

Toon In

Name Date From Fee
Fereday Wayne 06/89 QPR £400,000
Gallagher John 06/89 Falkirk £100,000
Stimson Mark 06/89 Tottenham £150,000
Dillon Kevin 07/89 Portsmouth Free
Mcghee Mark 07/89 Aberdeen £200,000
Quinn Micky 08/89 Portsmouth £680,000
Bradshaw Darren 09/89 York City £10,000
Burridge John 10/89 Southampton £25,000
Clark Lee 12/89 Professional
Howey Steve 12/89 Professional
Aitken Roy 01/90 Celtic £500,000
Askew Billy 03/90 Hull City £150,000
Appleby Mattie 05/90 Professional

M McGhee

M Quinn

R Aitken

Toon Out

Name Date To Fee
Hendrie John 06/89 Leeds Utd £600,000
Mccreery Dave 06/89 Sundsvaal
Sansom Kenny 06/89 QPR £340,000
Pingel Frank 07/89 Brondby £200,000
Mcdonald Rob 08/89 Besiktas £60,000
O'Neill Michael 08/89 Dundee Utd £350,000
Kelly Gary 11/89 Bury £75,000
Thorn Andy 12/89 C Palace £650,000
Lormor Anthony 01/90 Lincoln City £25,000

D McCreery

M O'Neill

A Thorn

Drop Out

Name From To Club
Gourlay Archie Morton
Kelly Gary10/8910/89Bury
Mirandinha Francisco07/89 06/90Palmeiras


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Love Shack

At the beginning of the season The Bald Eagle stressed the importance of everyone sticking together; a thinly veiled dig at the supporters.

At Christmas time - when United went on a bad run - the supporters turned on Smith for a while. The criticism reached a peak when Wolves beat United at SJP and one fan threw his shirt at Smith as he sat in the dugout.

Although Smith publicly stated that he understood the frustration of the fans he was savage in his criticism of the fans who spat and kicked out at United players as they left the field after the play-off defeat.

Orange Crush

Jim wasn't afraid to say what he thought as was witnessed by his programme notes where he often described his team in a derogatory manner.

He was often left "angry and frustrated", occasionally he was "furious" and after a defeat at Ipswich he described the performance as "diabolically, frustratingly, sickenly awful"

Of course this was nothing compared to what went on behind dressing room walls where tongues and teacups could be used to devastating effect.

I want that man

Smith maintained his energetic overhaul of the side and there were some hits (Quinn, McGhee, Gallagher, Burridge and Aitken) and some misses (Dillon, Fereday, Askew).

It was a short-termist plan - win or bust - that demanded promotion at the end of the season.

Once again he continued to favour experience with the average age of the team hitting heights unheard of for seasons.

Trying to manage a club with so much going on behind the scenes must have been nigh on impossible and not many fans would have begrudged Smith quitting.

Surprisingly he turned down an offer to take over at First Division Man City in December claiming he considered himself to be at a "bigger club".

November Spawned a monster

All around Europe the "old guard" was being replaced as the Communist system began to disintegrate. In November came the most symbolic event of all with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. It was going to take a little longer for the revolution to take place on Tyneside

United's own party were not going to give up without a fight. There was a bit of seat shuffling at the start of the campaign with Stan Seymour and Squadron Leader James Rush accepting honorary posts and secretary Cushing moving on Board.

Many assumed that the Magpie Group were about to move in but McKeag had no intention of stepping down and any new recruits would join under his terms. As part of the propaganda war McKeag donated a page of the programme to his own personal thoughts.

The two new arrivals on the Board - Peter Mallinger and Bob Young in particular - set about trying to broker a peace between McKeag and Hall. The need to raise cash for stadium improvements meant they had little choice.

There were initial meetings at Durham but McKeag was adamant that Hall was not about to join the Board and he was not going to step-down. He stressed the need for stability and vowed that the battle was not going to "ruin another season".

Negotiations broke down again when Hall and David Stephenson were invited to join the Board. Hall made what McKeag regarded as "unacceptable demands". He wanted to examine the books and to be granted the voting rights for his 40% shareholding (as it was a private company share transfers had to be ratified by the Board).

But with debts mounting and the financial implications of the Taylor Report the Board knew they were in an untenable situation and in March Hall finally agreed to join the Board; a decision officially ratified at the April AGM.

Give It up

Lord Justice Taylor's final report on the Hillsborough tragedy was published in January and was a damning indictment of the way in which football clubs had failed to improve the conditions of spectators.

Taylor said it was "depressing and chastening" that their had been no less than eight previous investigations (most of which had followed previous disasters) before this one.

"The years of patching up grounds, of having periodic disasters and narrowly avoiding many others by muddling through on a wing and a prayer must be over".

There were 76 recommendations in all including the removal of "prison-type" perimeter fencing, the creation of new offences (eg missile throwing, racist chanting, pitch invasion) and most importantly a move towards all-seater stadia.

Crucially he also said that a national identity card scheme was unworkable and dangerous, because it would create crushing situations outside the grounds.

The government accepted the report in full and acted immediately by stating that terracing would be banned in all Division 1 and 2 grounds by August 1994 and they stressed that the majority of the funds would have to come from inside the game.

Ride on Tyne

The Board knew that the implications of the Taylor Report meant they needed to raise more capital having just borrowed most of the £5 million spent on the Milburn Stand. The £9,510 profit made in 1988/89 was not going to contribute much.

Subsequently in February they announced plans to amend the capital structure in 3 phases: revaluing the clubs assets then a rights issue to allow existing shareholders to buy more shares and finally a public share issue.

Player Shorts

The Magic Number

Mirandiha had returned to Brazil having been loaned out to his previous club Palmeiras. A fractured cheekbone sidelined him for a couple of month and then in January United decided they needed cover up front and sent a letter to Mira asking him if he would consider returning.

Mira agreed to return and held a press conference in Brazil to confirm that he was going because Palmeiras weren’t paying him enough. He then 'phoned United and claimed that, as another Brazilian club were interested in him, United should pay him a "signing on" fee; an interesting concept for a player who already belonged to the club.

Stunned by this new development the club pulled the plug: "we have washed our hands of him" said a club spokesman "he has let down the club and the fans".

This is how it feels

There were a number of long trips down to the South Coast so the club decided to improve the players' lot by flying down with Gill Air. Unfortunately the trip to Brighton was a bit of a nightmare due to gale force winds.

We Did Start the Fire

This was a bad year for players and their cars.

Paul Sweeney had David Roche and two others in a car when he crashed into a lamp post; his Escort busting into flames.

John Gallagher suffered a broken nose, fractured cheekbone and a cracked rib when he swerved to avoid a lorry and crashed into an oncoming car.

Ray Ranson had his car stolen three times in four months over the summer.

And finally Kevin Dillon was distraught when he crashed his pride and joy, "Myrtle" his yellow mini.

When You're Young

During the summer the juniors won the Northern Ireland Milk Cup, beating Liverpool and Man United along the way.

Lee Clark was voted Player of the Tournament in a side which included other future senior players Alan Thompson, Robbie Elliot, Lee Makel, Alan Neilson, John Watson and Steve Watson.

An Under 16 side (featuring many of the same players also won the prestigious Easter Tournament in Amsterdam

Do The Right Thing

Jackie Milburn's wife Laura was in attendance for the official opening of the Milburn (nee West Stand). McKeag described it as a "fitting and lasting tribute to the legendary player”.

We said goodbye to the classy, skilful George Hannah in May; he was 62 years old. Hannah made 177 appearances and scored 43 goals.

Another fifties hero - Len White - was finally granted a long overdue testimonial; but it had nothing to do with the club. It was at Whitley Bay with a shortened game between former Newcastle and Sunderland players followed by the main match between a United XI and an All-Star side.


Another Day in Paradise

The loyal core continued to travel the country in support of the team.

Bournemouth was one of the longest trips and a forest fire led to some United supporters arriving an hour after kick-off. At least they got free entry.

Pity the poor Plymouth fans who travelled to Newcastle in December only to find that the game had been postponed due to torrential rain.

One excursion most fans missed out on was the short trip to Ayresome Park with United only receiving a couple of hundred tickets. Seeing a commercial opportunity the club screened the game at St James' providing woeful viewing conditions

Get a Life

The average League attendance fell by less than 1,000 to 21,489

This was slightly above the average for Division 1 and United were the 9th best supported club in the country.

The best turnout was for the Tyne Wear derby (31,665) although slightly higher attendances were recorded for the play-off match and the FA Cup encounter with Man United.

Pump Up the Jam

Despite United's newly gained second class status there was a plethora of new publications for fans to peruse.

The club supplemented the programme with the re-launched "United" newspaper.

Two more fanzines arrived: "Jim's Bald Heed" and "Black and White"; the latter the work of members of the USC although they were at pains to deny it was an official mouthpiece.

Also launched was the glossy but bland "The North East Football Review" which attempted to cover football across the region.


The famous gates on the Barrack Road side which had let supporters in for 40 odd years were replaced by new ones.

There was a disturbing late 80s craze which saw inflatables become a common site at grounds around the country.

Each team had it's own flavour: fish at Grimsby, hammers at Upton Park and blow-up dolls and bottles of Broon at St James'.

Step On

In November The Football Spectators Bill which included the introduction of ID cards had passed through both Houses despite widespread opposition within the game; Royal Assent was pending.

However Hillsborough had changed the political landscape. No longer was it deemed acceptable to seek to control trouble without considering safety.

The Taylor Report's main recommendation was that all clubs should move towards all-seater stadia

96 Tears

Newcastle Council correctly ordered the fences down and they were removed from all areas with the exception of a small part of the Leazes where away fans were housed.

Unfortunately this had an element of risk and sure enough hundreds of United fans invaded the pitch during the play-off defeat at home to Sunderland. There were 66 arrests and 29 injuries (including a dozen policemen).

Press coverage did exaggerate the events but it was a sickening reminder of why the fences had been put up in the first place. An FA enquiry was launched.


This wasn't the only trouble of course and there was an ugly undercurrent at many matches.

Racism, coin throwing (including the striking of a Middlesbrough player) and obscene chanting were staple parts of late eighties match days at Gallowgate and all provoked criticism within the match programme.

The FA warned United that an enquiry may be launched if the coin throwing did not cease.

The police set up a National Football Intelligence Unit and pressure from the boys in blue led to the match at Roker Park being played on Sunday and kicking off early.

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Made of Stone

The United Supporters For Change - formed in June 1989 and boasting over 4,000 members as the campaign kicked off - urged fans to boycott home games

Alternative entertainment in the way of screenings of past matches was to be provided on selected match Saturdays and the organisers pledged to attend non-league games on other days.

The fact that the average attendance held up very well does not mean that the boycott was not that successful; it was more a reflection of the club's relative success. Although not all fans approved of such action these were true supporters who felt they needed to make some form of protest.

They ended their boycott when details of the public share issue were announced.

Fools Gold

In February the Board revealed details of a three phase share issue. The final stage of which involved making 20% of the shares available to the public.

Not surprisingly fans were generally supportive of any move which diluted the power of the present Board and gave fans some say in the running of the club.

However, in times of economic hardship, would fans and local companies put their money where their mouth was?

1980s Seasons