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Opinion

Tom Mather arrived at Newcastle United with an excellent reputation

2 days ago
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With Newcastle United having disappointed in their attempts to gain promotion back to Division 1 in 1934-35, Andy Cunningham was removed from the post and replaced as manager by the vastly experienced Tom Mather in June 1935.

Mather joined the club with an excellent reputation, having spent over 20 years in charge at Stoke City.

His time at Stoke had seen him give a debut to a young Stanley Matthews, who would go on to become one of the greatest English footballers of all time, and lead Stoke from the Football League Third Division North to the top flight of English football.

The powers that be at Newcastle were desperate to get the club back into the top flight and had been impressed with Stoke City’s second division title win in 1932-33, which had seen them secure the most victories in the Football League that season, winning 25 of their 42 matches. They had a number of excellent attacking players, including Matthews, but their promotion was built on a watertight defence with Mather’s side conceding only 38 goals in the league that season.

In his first full season in charge, Tom Mather and Newcastle finished in 8th place and reached the fifth round of the FA Cup. However the following season, in 1935-36, Mather’s methods really started to have a positive impact. Newcastle finished in fourth place and conceded just 56 goals in the league, their lowest total since the League title winning season in 1926-27. The team also scored 80 goals with Jack Smith, signed from Huddersfield Town, starring with 24 goals.

Unfortunately, for Mather that was as good as things would get during his time at Newcastle United, 1937-38 was almost a complete disaster with the side very nearly being relegated from the second division. Despite having one of the best defensive records in the league, conceding just two more than the previous season, the goals completely dried up with the team scoring just 51 times with Bill Imrie and John Park top scoring with nine goals apiece. Mather’s side took a paltry 36 points from 42 matches and only avoided relegation courtesy of a superior goal difference.

Despite narrowly avoiding catastrophe Mather kept his job for one more season, and things were significantly better as the club finished in ninth place in 1938-39. This was the final completed season in English football before the outbreak of World War Two.

Tom Mather would leave the job in September 1939, handing over the reins to Stan Seymour, a League and FA Cup winner with the club as a player in the 1920s, Mather having managed the club on 179 occasions.

After the war, Mather had short spells as manager of Leicester City and Kilmarnock before retiring and returning to live in Stoke.

(This article is part of a series looking back at the men who have managed Newcastle United. You can read previous articles about Frank Watt here and Andy Cunningham here)

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