We know Newcastle United well, plodding around in the lower Premier League or top of the second tier. Occasionally having a good cup run, and occasionally experiencing relegation.
With the consequent torrent of dramatics from the Toon Army either way.
At the start of the 50’s, however, Newcastle were a force to be reckoned with. Runners- up in 1947-48, finishing no lower than fifth between 1947 and 1951. Geordie legend Jackie Milburn was top scorer for 4 consecutive seasons and George Robledo scored a phenomenal 39 goals in 1951-52. In an era of huge attendances, Newcastle were England’s best supported club between 1947-49, with over 54,000 on average per game.
No doubt the Geordies still talk misty eyed about these times, despite about 0.001% of them having been in the Gallowgate End during this era.
The good times didn’t last, and Newcastle settled down to finishes between 8th and 19th between 1951-59. They were a great cup team though, winning the FA Cup three times in 1951,1952 and 1955. A remarkable achievement given how average they were.
We at Villa were pretty average too, mid table at best apart from a decent 6th place in 1951-52, with legend (no misty eyes) Johnny Dixon scoring a career best 28 goals. Our FA Cup win in 1957 was sandwiched between finishes of 20th and 14th in the top flight.
So, you’d expect the record between Villa and Newcastle to reflect the similar level the clubs were at. Which it did.
Just not in the way you’d expect.
Despite Newcastle being amongst England’s best in the early 50’s. Villa won the first two games of the decade. A 3-0 win at home in October 1950 followed by a 1-0 win at St James’ Park in Spring 1951. Newcastle’s 4th place finish and FA cup win highlighted what great results these were for the Villa boys.
It didn’t last.
In 1951-52 a 2-2 draw at Villa Park in December was quickly followed by a 4-2 defeat in the FA Cup in January. Worse, we were tonked 6-1 at Newcastle in April, with Jackie Milburn and Reg Davies tearing the Villa defence to shreds.
I’m surprised they don’t remind us of this game today.
It didn’t get better. Between 1952 and 1955 Villa lost 7 out of 8 games against our Geordie friends. A lone David Walsh winner at St James’ Park in March 1954 giving us a lonely win amidst a miserable run.
During this period, Newcastle scored 22 goals against us, conceding just 9. Milburn and Davies were invariably on target. So it must have been a relief that Davies wasn’t on the team sheet for the game at St James’ Park in October 1954. His replacement was Len White.
Who scored 4 goals against us in a 5-3 win.
But this is Newcastle we’re talking about, and the good times against Villa ended in Autumn 1955. Villa were having a desperate season, and would eventually avoid relegation on goal difference. Regardless, goals from legend Johnny Dixon (wipes tear), Norman Lockhart and future manager Vic Crowe gave us an overdue 3-0 win.
The spell broken, Villa then won 3-2 at Newcastle the following March, with the great Peter McParland inevitably on the scoresheet.
I’m sure Newcastle fans will be delighted they kept us up.
We were better in 1956-57, finishing 10th. Two Les Smith goals helped us to a 3-1 win at home in October, and a few weeks before our FA Cup win, we triumphed 2-1 at St James’ Park. McParland and Jackie Sewell on target.
That was four wins against Newcastle in a row.
Then came a two brilliant games in 1957-58. At Villa Park in October, Newcastle took an early lead through Bill Curry. Billy Myerscough equalised and 5 mins before the break Johnny Dixon put us in front. Derek Pace made it 3-1 but Newcastle quickly pulled one back through Curry’s second. Seconds later, an own goal from Scott restored our two goal lead. On 85 minutes, George Eastham made it 4-3, setting up a nervy finish to a great game.
In the return at St James’, Villa took the lead in the 9th minute through Les Smith. The unfortunately named Arthur Bottom equalised 4 minutes later for Newcastle and just three minutes after that Gerry Hitchens made it 2-1 to our boys. Scot Bobby Mitchell levelled for Newcastle with a penalty just before the break. The second half was goalless until Jimmy Dugdale popped up with an 89th minute winner. With Newcastle rocking, Gerry Hitchens scored his second in injury time to make it 4-2 as we continued our great run against the Mags.
Despite our winning streak v Newcastle, Villa were bad and getting worse. New manager Joe Mercer had a huge task to halt years of complacency and mismanagement. A final 2-1 win at Villa Park in Autumn 1958 marked the end of our seven match winning run against the Geordies.
A lone Harry Taylor goal gave Newcastle a 1-0 win over us in February 1959. Villa were relegated at the seasons’ end, so this was the last game between the two clubs before the 1960’s.
In games v Newcastle, we’d gone from losing 7 out of 8 games, before winning 7 on the bounce.
All in the course of one decade.
Mercer brought Villa straight back up, but Newcastle were themselves relegated a season later. They returned in 1965, but two seasons later Villa went down as we began our descent to Division Three. This meant the two clubs only met 6 times in the 1960s, compared to 19 games in the decade before.
Overall, we have a surprisingly bad record against Newcastle. Winning 56 times, drawing 37 and losing 71. Our modern record hasn’t helped. We’ve played each other 49 times since Newcastle’s promotion in 1993, winning just 10 and losing 23.
Particularly poor considering both teams have been at a similar level throughout.
Still, no bad run lasts forever. We did win our home fixture in November, so clearly another long victorious streak v the Magpies is on the cards.
On the other hand, I’ll settle for a win on Wednesday.
*special thanks to nufc.com – great stats!