By Peter Mann
Tuesday 29 Jan 2013 15:09:00
Browse all Peter Mann articles

Having finished their debut season in the First Division in a lowly, but credible thirteenth place, there would be much improvement needed. The back-line wasn’t overly impressive and in losing fifteen of their thirty four matches, the form was closer to relegation than anything else. Times were changing and those at Newcastle United needed to realise that fact.

Jack Ostler had retired and three players would drop down to Middlesbrough, including that of Willie Wardrope, whom had netted some 52 times in his spell at the club. The replacements came in the form of some more Scotsmen. Left-back Dave Gardner arrived from Third Lanark, right-half Alex Gardner joined from Leith Athletic, and outside-left, John Fraser, a Scottish-born player, arrived from Notts County as a direct replacement for Wardrope. 

It would be the leading scorer from the previous two seasons, Jock Peddie, whom would open both his and United’s account for the 1899-1900 season when he slotted home a penalty in the 1-1 draw away to West Bromwich Albion. The Glaswegian-born centre-forward would score in the next three matches as well, all victories, as the club began with a four match unbeaten run. Bury would end this sequence when they defeated the visiting United 2-1 on September 30th with Nibb scoring. A week later and that defeat would be seemingly put to bed with a 6-0 home demolition of Notts County.

Some 20,000 spectators turned out at St. James’ Park for the visit of the other Magpies, but it would be the homesters that would fly the highest. Jock Peddie notched his now customary strike (his fifth in six matches) alongside a brace from John Fraser and a goal apiece from Alex MacFarlane and James Stevenson, sealed an impressive victory, United’s best since the high-scoring 1895-96 season.

That victory over County though would see the start of a barren spell; winning only twice of their next dozen matches. The two successes which were registered was a 3-1 win at Burnley in the mid-November, and a 4-2 home win in the reverse match against West Bromwich at the end of the year, as Stevenson bagged a double. Of those ten without a win there was to be four draws and some six losses, one of which was to be at home to arch-rivals Sunderland as the Wearsiders Bobby Hogg notched the first official hat-trick in the derby in a 4-2 defeat, MacFarlane and A. Gardner replying for United.

The second half of the season would see the year 1900 be rung in, with an abandoned match on New Year’s Day, after some 72 minutes play, due to fog. At the time, the visiting Glossop North End was leading 3-2 in front of just 1500 spectators. The erratic habitual form which the club had seemingly mastered would continue throughout the second half of the season even though the first, completed match of the New Year, away to Everton, saw a 3-2 reverse suffered, Fraser and Peddie scoring.

The first victory would be collected in the first home match in front of some 11000 spectators. Blackburn Rovers were to be the visitors on 13th January and they succumbed to strikes from Jock Peddie (2), MacFarlane, and a first goal from the home-grown favourite of John Carr. Carr would go on to become one of those gentlemen of the club whom would be around for years. Having joined in 1897 Carr would don the famous stripes for some thirteen seasons, becoming a stalwart of the Edwardian greats. As a defender of the realm, a left-back by trade, Carr would assist the Magpies in taking three league championships and appearing in three, winning one, of the five FA Cup finals the club would appear in during that early domination. Carr would go on to make over 250 appearances for United before going on to spend another decade as a part of the coaching staff, having already spent his playing career shoring up the defence.

After the victory over Blackburn United would win their home matches over the next four months or so, either losing or drawing when on the road. Of those six remaining home matches victories would be collected against Bury (2-1), Aston Villa (3-2), and the re-arranged game with Glossop North End (1-0 with Peddie scoring the only goal), Burnley (2-0) and Nottingham Forest (3-1).

The ides of March was to be a mixed month for the club as, on top the victories over Villa, Glossop and Burnley, there was to be several damaging defeats on the road to Liverpool (0-2), Sheffield United (1-3) and Preston North End (1-4). The latter match threw up the interesting statistic in the presence of Stockton’s George Mole. The Preston match would not only be his United debut, but a scoring one at that. It would also be the only time he would appear for the club, leaving for Burnley a few months later.

After the Preston defeat United would see the season out unbeaten in their final six matches, although drawing four times. The victory against Forest followed Preston and would be surpassed by goalless draws against Manchester City at home, and then Glossop and Notts County away also failed to produce any spoils. Had those three draws been converted to victories United would have finished higher up the table. The last home game of the season would follow the trio of goalless matches, a 2-2 draw with Stoke City as Peddie and A Gardner scored. The goal from Peddie would be his 16th of the season and the third in succession he would be the club’s leading scorer.

But what of the last match of the season?

Well that would be away to the other north-east side in the top flight, and a trip down the road to Roker Park, the home of local rivals Sunderland. It was to be a game in which the regions press had billed as being ‘The Championship of the North,’ and Newcastle won courtesy of a penalty.

Some 22000 turned out at Roker Park as both sides still had plenty to play for, the United players still aiming for the top six finish that would guarantee them their £10 bonus apiece. The visitors would lead as early as the eighth minute when Fraser collected a loose ball to net past Doig in the home goal. Sunderland’s McNeill then handled after twenty minutes. Reports though differ as to how the goal was to be ascertained, be it a penalty or a lay-off from a penalty. Either way though it was to be A Gardner who would net what was effectively the winning goal. United would then have a goal disallowed for offside before the homesters would reduce the deficit through that of Billy Fulton just before the interval. The second half though was to be a dour affair as neither side would be seen to press matters home and the main cheer would erupt courtesy of a stray dog that invaded the playing field towards the end of the match. The season was soon over and United had won the derby 2-1, although their rivals Sunderland would still finish two places and five points higher in third place.

The FA Cup was still to bring United cheer and, after a First Round, 2-1, home win over Reading, a lengthy trip down to the South Coast had to be endured in the next. With the scores goalless at Southampton the match was abandoned on 50 minutes because of snow. In returning a week later, a strike from Peddie was to be little consolation as it would be the Saints that would march on courtesy of a 4-1 win.

There was to also be a first on that of 5th September 1899 as Newcastle United faced their first, non-British team, defeating that of the visiting South African side, Kaffirs, 6-3. A 6000 crowd would see a Niblo double, an own-goal, and strikes from Ghee, Stevenson and Wardrope seal an historic victory for the Magpies. 

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