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Opinion

Huddersfield woes takes me back to my worst (and best!) ever Newcastle United season

11 months ago
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A story caught my eye about Huddersfield this morning and it reminded me back to the days of my favourite ever Newcastle United season.

It is a strange one.

The story this morning concerning Huddersfield, is about potential relegation this weekend.

If Huddersfield lose at Palace, Burnley beat Wolves at home and Southampton win at Brighton, the Terriers will be down.

Huddersfield would be relegated with six matches still to go, equaling the current Premier League record.

This brings me to my very favourite Newcastle United season.

It may confuse you but I will explain.

It was 1977/78 and Newcastle won their opening match of the season, 3-2 at home to Leeds United.

We had finished fifth the season before so hopes were high of a similar position, plus Newcastle fans also ad European football to look forward to again, though it would be my very first experience of it.

However, after beating Leeds on the opening day, Newcastle went on a run of 10 straight league defeats. The Magpies also lost against Millwall in the League Cup for what became our usual early exit after having reached the final only two seasons earlier.

The only bright spot was a draw away at Irish club Bohemians, then a 4-0 win at home, my first ever European match, to take us into the next round of the UEFA Cup.

Newcastle lost to French club Bastia (2-1) in the first leg away, before then three days later beating Chelsea 1-0 at St James Park on 22 October with a goal from Mickey Burns. The first league win since the opening day.

It looked for a while as though Newcastle might have turned the corner, as starting with that win over Chelsea, the Magpies had a run of five wins and two draws in 12 games, as well as five defeats. In this period I also experienced my first ever European disappointment, the brilliant Johnny Rep scored twice and ran the show as Bastia won 3-1 at SJP and knocked us out of the UEFA Cup.

Back to the league and that 12 game run ended with winning 2-0 at Leeds on 2 January 1978.

Newcastle United didn’t win a single league match after that, playing 19 more games and drawing eight and losing eleven.

I can’t remember exactly when NUFC were officially relegated but it was mathematically with at least a few games to go and long before that you knew it was happening. Although when you are a kid you just think a miracle will happen…

The First Division table read:

19th 33 points QPR

20th 32 points West Ham

21st 22 points Newcastle United

22nd 22 points Leicester

The bottom three went down and back then it was a 42 game season and only two points for a win, so 11 points off safety was significantly more back then, than it is now with three points for a victory.

The final score for Newcastle United was:

Played 42 Won 6 Drawn 10 Lost 26 Goals For 42 Goals Against 78

You know what though, I absolutely loved it.

Winning was great but going to the match with your mates and standing on the terraces was just the best, especially in the old Leazes End.

That was my first season when allowed to just go with friends and that is what made it the best.

A strange thing when your best ever season is the one when the team probably let you down far worse than any of the 40+ seasons since.

It was a different world in so many ways back then and nowhere more so than when it came to crowds.

Attendances fluctuated greatly, whereas now maybe between 80% and 90% of Newcastle’s regular fans have season tickets, back then it was between 80% and 90% who didn’t have them in 1977/78.

That first game of the season saw over 36,000 for the win over Leeds but after that 10 game losing rum there were only 23,000+ there when Newcastle then beat Chelsea 1-0 in the second league win of the season.

It was crazy how crowds could change even match to match and this was the same for all clubs back then.

On 17 December 1977, 22,982 were there at St James Park to see Newcastle beat Wolves 4-0.

On 28 December 1977 that became 41,612, the biggest NUFC home crowd of the season, to see Newcastle lose 2-0 to Nottingham Forest.

Forest were top at the time and went on to win the league under Cloughie.

I came across this footage of that game, not great quality but interesting:

Fast forward to the second last home game of the season and only 13,463 were there to see a 3-0 home defeat by QPR.

Then the final home match and only 7,986 there to see a home draw, 2-2 against Norwich, I very definitely remember we were down by then if not a few matches before.

That was also the last game before the old Leazes End was pulled down, a sit in protest at the end of the Norwich match making no difference.

The Leazes End was THE end for Newcastle fans, the Gallowgate always a poor second best after it was knocked down and we were forced out.

Great memories and I just wish my kids could experience the same kind of atmosphere and togetherness that existed back then on the terraces.

Yes toilets were a bit of a vague concept back in those day but a river of wee flowing down the terraces was a small price to pay.

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