The curse of the Geordies

Only a handful of fans were alive to witness Newcastle United’s (fourth) first division league title in 1927. Others still remember The Magpies last FA Cup win in 1955. 

Since then, the Toon Army has endured an emotional roller-coaster, patiently waiting to wipe the dust from the trophy cabinet. Once again, a much too familiar story occurred, as Newcastle suffered relegation to the English Championship following a horror Premier League campaign last season. Players may come and go, although the reoccurring issues that stem from the board seem to be in a constant never-ending cycle. 

Newcastle prides themselves on having one of the best fan followings in England. It makes you wonder how they haven’t won a league title in 90 years. 

Every football team has their own superstitions, and some prefer to blame it on a famous curse that dates back 300 years ago. 

THE CURSE

In 1650, paranoia and fear of witch-craft filled Newcastle and surrounding towns. The town would perform ‘witch-pricking’ to differentiate the women from the witches. Margaret Brown was found guilty of witch-craft and sentenced to public execution along with 13 others. She did not bleed after being pricked, thus being deemed to have a devil’s mark on her body, or so the story goes. Despite pleading her innocence, the town took amusement from Brown’s suffering, along with others that were hung near St James Park. The last ever hanging took place in 1844 at the city’s execution gallows, just one mile away from St James Park. Some fans believe that this curse has haunted them since the clubs founding in 1892.

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                           The Newcastle Witch Hunt from Ralph Gardiner’s account (1655)

The curse leaves Newcastle without a first division/Premier League title in 90 years. 


THE HISTORY

Unlike many other historic clubs that have fallen before them, time and time again The Magpies continue to escape from the depths of relegation.

Newcastle United have four first division league titles to their name. A golden period in the 50’s saw United win the FA Cup three times in five years. The aftermath however, saw the Geordies fall into the relegation hole where they struggled during the early 60’s. After achieving promotion in 1965, the club looked on the rise, qualifying for European competition for the first time. Their success was short-lived, dropping to the second division just a decade later.

Newcastle has been a product for developing some of the biggest upcoming English stars. Holding onto their star men has been a totally different story, as players are too often lured away by wealthier English clubs. Take Paul Gascoigne for example, leaving the toon in his prime for London based club Tottenham Hotspur. Or even Peter Beardsley, leaving the Black and Whites to become a Red at Liverpool. Beardlesy’s £1.9 million transfer to the Reds broke an English record in 1987. Australian’s may remember him for his two game stint for Melbourne Knights. Just two years later Newcastle were relegated again.

Newcastle couldn’t even hold onto the notorious Santiago Munez from hit movie goal! 

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#MANAGEROUT

Not many managers in this world have the ability to survive the wrath of Newcastle. The Geordies have recycled through 19 managers in the last 20 years (incl Caretakers).

Even the good ones can’t seem to hold their job. Sir Bobby Robson helped Newcastle to fourth place and a Champions League qualification in 2002. The following year he was sacked, despite taking Newcastle to fifth position.

Not even club legend Alan Shearer could withstand the cut-throat approach from the board. Fans were left foul mouthed after Shearer’s head was put on the chopping block. Newcastle were relegated again in 2009.

Incredibly, it was a decision that paid off as Chris Hughton successfully took Newcastle to promotion. Newcastle managed to go unbeaten at home for the entire season. The following season in the Premier League saw Hughton remarkably sacked in December, resulting in a fan protest outside of St James’ Park.

The club statement wrote: “Regrettably the board now feels that an individual with more managerial experience is needed to take the club forward”. 

Alan Pardew was another manager who proved the doubters wrong. In his first full season, Pardew took Newcastle to an 11 game unbeaten streak, qualifying them for the Europa League. Despite taking them to the Europa League quarter finals the following year, Pardew was sacked after a horror start to the 2014/15 season.

Newcastle were relegated to the Championship for the 2016/17 season.


THE PROBLEM  

Now I’m sure you’re starting to see a reoccurring trend here. Manager’s performing well but still getting the sack? It’s frustrating just to read. For too long Newcastle has been poisoned by higher powers with the wrong long term vision.

A perfect example is Blackpool’s catastrophic tumble from the heights of the English Premier League, to the foot end of the Football Leagues lowest tier in just six years. It came as no surprise to Blackpool fans after their unpopular owners were involved in a Latvian money scandal during the off-season.

As for Newcastle, a similar situation occurred in 2011 when club owner Mike Ashley decided to rename 124 year old stadium St James Park to Sports Direct Arena. It was a slap in the face for supporters and a clear indication of the boards lack of appreciation and respect for Newcastle’s rich history. The reason? To bring in money to fund players.

Last season, Newcastle’s board spent €108 million on international signings. Only three of those signings still remain at the club today, including Aleksandar Mitrovic, Jonjo Shelvey and Chancel Mbemba.

The instability between managers John Carver and Steve McClaren resulted in squad disarray. At times last season, fans questioned the integrity of the players, when in hindsight the real issue derived from the very top.


RAFAEL’S RENAISSANCE

Maybe relegation to the Championship is exactly what Newcastle needed? Newcastle have been relegated to the Championship twice in the new Millennium. Both times they have proved to come back stronger. Former Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez has completely transformed the boards mentality, the squad and the fan support, all in under a year. He’s even turned bad boy Aleksandar Mitrović into a cult hero, scoring four goals in his last three games. Newcastle United are currently leading the Championship on 37 points, and are on track for a Premier League return.

Benitez has regained confidence in the fans, which is evident in the league record number of ticket sales (37,000 season ticket holders).

No more fan uproar, no more problems with the board, and the players are performing on the park.

The missing pieces are finally piecing themselves together. Maybe just maybe, in the near future we could see Newcastle lifting the 90 curse that has haunted them for so long.

Ari Charilaou