In the Beginning

During November 1881, the Stanley Cricket Club of South Byker decided to form an Association Football club. They won their first match 5-0 against Elswick Leather Works 2nd XI. Just under a year later in October 1882, they changed their name to East End FC to avoid confusion with the Stanley club of South Durham. Shortly after this, another Byker side, Rosewood FC, merged with East End to form an even stronger side. Meanwhile, across the city, another cricket club began to take an interest in football and in August 1882, they formed West End FC. A man named Bill Tiffen was the instigator and the club was backed by a wealthy local dignitary, William Neasham, together with the influential John Black; two names that would be long associated behind the scenes with Newcastle United. West End played their early football on their cricket pitch, but later moved to St. James’ Park. East End remained in the Byker area until the summer of 1886, when they moved a mile to Chillingham Road in Heaton. It was West End that were the first of the new rivals to impress. They possessed several big name players, among them Ralph Aitken, who had starred for Dumbarton and Scotland at outside-left, and right-half Bob Kelso, another Scottish international who later won medals with Preston NE and Everton. West End soon became the region’s premier club, largely thanks to their secretary-manager, Tom Watson (who would later become more widely known as boss of Sunderland and later, Liverpool). Watson was certainly one of the men who helped football take off in the North-East. East End were anxious not to be left behind and lured Watson into becoming their chief in the close season of 1888 and from that point, never looked back; Watson made several good signings, especially from Scotland, and the Heaton club went from strength to strength, while West End’s fortunes slipped dramatically. The region’s first league competition was formed in 1889 and the FA Cup began to cause interest. Ambitious East End turned professional in 1889, a huge step for a local club, and in March 1890, they made an even more adventurous move by becoming a limited liability company with capital of 1,000 pounds in ten shilling notes. During the spring of 1892, in a season during which their results were at an all time low, and in which they had lost to their bitter rivals, East End, five times, West End found themselves in serious trouble. They approached East End with a view to a take over, the directors having decided that the club could no longer continue. What actually happened was that West End wound up, while some of it’s players and most of it’s backroom staff joined East End. East End also took over the lease on St. James’ Park. Before the 1892/93 Northern League season got underway, however, East End tried to win election to the Football League. At the League’s annual meeting the Sunderland, East End failed to win a first division place, but were elected to Division 2. They declined because ‘gates would not meet the heavy expenses incurred for travelling’. Northern League matches at tracted little support, and East End officials became dismayed at the lack of interest in their club, and the game. By December 1892, they decided to give the club a new name and a new image. At a public meeting, several new names, including Newcastle Rangers and Newcastle City, were suggested, before all agreed on Newcastle United. The FA agreed to the name change on 22nd December, but the new title was not legalised until 6 September 1895, when Newcastle United Football Club Co. Ltd. was constituted.

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North East Footie History