The men who made Newcastle United

A new book on Newcastle United profiles almost 1,800 individuals who played a part in The Toon's history

Newcastle United offical historian Paul Joannou
Newcastle United offical historian Paul Joannou

If you think you know your Newcastle United, take a shot at this puzzler.

Who was the popular 1960s United forward who hit 22 goals in 85 league appearances then went on to work for the prison service, run a joke shop on a seaside pier, operate a taxi and manage Coleman’s Mustard FC?

He was also name-checked by Oz in Auf Wiedershen Pet.

The answer, my friend, is to be found in an ocean of detail in another titanic book from Newcastle United official historian Paul Joannou. (You’ll also find it at the end of this article.)

Newcastle United: the Ultimate Who’s Who, runs to 400 pages and covers every player since 1881 who has appeared – even in just one game – for the club, plus profiles of every manager, coach, trainer, director and official.

The birth-to-death histories of the players include what they did with their lives after football. In all, almost 1,800 detailed biographies are offered.

Paul certainly does not use the word “ultimate” lightly.

The new book, priced at £32.50, follows Paul’s Newcastle United: the Ultimate Record, published three years ago and charting the 130-year history of the club, match by match, across 6,500 games and around 586,000 minutes of football.

Pele scores one of his three goals for Santos against Newcastle United in Hong Kong, June 4, 1972
Pele scores one of his three goals for Santos against Newcastle United in Hong Kong, June 4, 1972

At 344 pages, surely the crowning moment of a series of books by Paul about the club?

Not so. Who’s Who makes sure that no black and white stone is now left unturned and no individual’s contribution to United, however fleeting, has gone unremarked.

“Those individuals have shaped the institution that is Newcastle United since its formation on Victorian Tyneside,” says Paul.

On show are all who have worn the black-and-white – as well as the blue and red colours of United forerunner clubs Stanley FC and Newcastle East End.

To mark the publication, the man regarded as the club’s founder, William Armstrong Coulson, captain of Stanley Cricket Club and Stanley Football Club of Byker, has been inducted into Newcastle United’s Hall of Fame in conjunction with the Foundation’s Toon Times project.

The two Ultimate books now form a formidable trilogy with Paul’s Millennium edition of United: The First 100 Years & More.

“During a period of almost 35 years, I have been determined to produce the definitive story of Newcastle United,” says Paul, who was raised in Newcastle’s West End. “I am delighted that the task has now been completed for posterity.

“The tales of those who fashioned the Magpies over more than 130 years are intriguing.

“The heroes, the villains, the vaguely recalled, the completely forgotten, names much-loved, much derided, and many frequently honoured – they have fashioned Newcastle United and created what is a very special heritage.”

The rising stock of Newcastle United adter their 1905 league title win attracted brands such as Oxo
The rising stock of Newcastle United adter their 1905 league title win attracted brands such as Oxo

Everyone who follows United will have their hero and the beauty of the book is that what made them special is recorded for future fans.

Take Len White, a 5ft 7ins centre forward who started his working life in a colliery and signed for Newcastle in 1953, staying until 1962. He hit 25 goals in his first season as a No 9, then 25, 25 and 29 in subsequent seasons.

In a total of 270 appearances, White scored 153 goals - only Alan Shearer and Jackie Milburn scored more. That he was never selected for England was baffling, given that in a game for the Football League side he struck a hat trick in eight minutes.

His career at Newcastle was finished in the match at Tottenham in 1960-61 when United defeated the double-winning Spurs team 2-1. A foul tackle from behind by Dave McKay of Spurs put White on the sidelines for six months with a cruciate ligament injury. He continued playing for pub and works teams until well into his fifties, and three of his brothers all played in the Football League.

Len White was given a testimonial game at Whitley Bay in the 1980s when those who had thrilled to his goal-scoring exploits rolled up to say thanks for the memories.

White figures in a tale told about Newcastle manger Charlie Mitten, a dog racing enthusiast who, after football, ran the White City greyhound stadium in Manchester. He is said to have moved Len White off the medical table at St James’ Park so that one his dogs could have treatment.

And on the subject of managers, George Martin, who guided Newcastle to promotion during his tenure from 1947-50, was give a bonus of £250 for the feat. Before football, Martin had trained as a singer and considered a career on the stage.

Pat Heard, who played for United in 1985-85, did later take to the stage as a hypnotist and illusionist.

Newcastle United take on Aston Villa in the FA Cup final in 1924
Newcastle United take on Aston Villa in the FA Cup final in 1924

But on the managerial front, when continuity and stability is a talking point today, Frank Watt’s record is unbeatable.

He was secretary of the club from 1895 to 1932, when the post was the equivalent of today’s manager. Watt made Newcastle into a power in the land, winning four league titles and steering the side to six FA Cup finals.

He died while still in post in 1932 in his late seventies, and was succeeded by his son Frank junior, until his death in 1950 – a total of 55 years of family service.

Plans to erect a blue city council plaque to Frank Watt have still to come to fruition.

Newcastle players served in both world wars. Centre half Ernest Hall was a pilot who lost his life, aged 29, when his Wellington bomber was shot down in 1944.

Just about every off-beat detail has been assembled, such as Papisse Cisse’s uncle being at one time the official driver to the president of Senegal, while centre half Jean Alain Boumsong had a degree in maths.

Fearsome centre half Brian Kilcline, who after leaving the game back-packed with his wife through India and Australasia and wrote a book on their adventures called The Lion, the Witch and The Rucksack.

Another centre-half, John Bird (1975-80) became an accomplished artist and opened a gallery and studio.

Some North East players had meteoric rises. Alan Shoulder (1978-82) went from a wage of £14 a week at Horden pit in County Durham to £300 a week at times at Newcastle when he arrived via Blyth Spartans.

The Newcastle United party pictured outside the Rhyl Hydro Hotel in 1908
The Newcastle United party pictured outside the Rhyl Hydro Hotel in 1908

Chris Waddle’s elevation was from working at Cheviot Seasoning, a factory making sausages and pies, to commanding the fourth highest ever transfer fee, after Maradonna and Guillit, when he joined Marseilles for £4.25m.

Sausages and pies were not on the menu for Mark Viduka, when the former United striker returned to Australia and opened the Mark Viduka Bar and Grill at Warrnambool Beach offering “the best bbq cuckoo skewers and wampa-wampa steaks in town.” He is, by the way, a cousin of Luka Modric.

Full back Alessandro Pistone opened a restaurant in Milan while centre forward Joseph McClarence combined dentistry with playing for United in 1904-08 and striker Tony Cunningham (1985-87) later qualified as a solicitor.

* The book is on sale from The Journal’s front office in Groat Market, Newcastle, NE1 1ED, or online at www.ncjshop.co.uk , or telephone 0191 201 6000.

Answer to puzzler: Albert Bennett.

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