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Opinion

Stan Seymour – ‘Mr Newcastle United’

4 weeks ago
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If Frank Watt was known as the man who made Newcastle United, then Stan Seymour would take on that mantle and would later become known as ‘Mr Newcastle United’.

It was a moniker that would be well deserved after years of service to the club, both on and off the pitch.

Stan Seymour (born 16 May 1893 – exactly 128 years ago today) had first earned the affections of the Geordie faithful with some fine performances on the left wing in the 1920s, after signing for the sum of £2,500 from Greenock Morton in 1920.

In 1923-24 Seymour scored against Portsmouth, Derby County, Liverpool and Manchester City as the team progressed to the FA Cup final against Aston Villa.

In one of the wettest FA Cup Finals in history, Seymour defied the elements in front of 90,000 supporters at Wembley to score the second goal in a 2-0 victory.

Seymour was also a key part of the team that won the Division One title in 1926-27. In all competitions he would score 73 goals in 242 appearances, before leaving the club under a cloud after a disagreement over wages and a potential testimonial match.

This decision signalled the end of his playing days with Seymour opening a sports shop and dabbling in journalism.
Following the end of World War Two, football in England resumed for the 1946-47 season, and Newcastle began it with Stan Seymour in charge of the first team. Like Frank Watt before him his official title wasn’t manager but as the person in charge of the Director’s Committee, he had overall responsibility for the success of the club on the pitch.

That first season carried much promise, with Newcastle finishing in fifth place, with Charlie Wayman the star performer with 34 goals. Perhaps more significantly though, Stan Seymour gave an opportunity to a young Jackie Milburn who would go on to become one of the club’s greatest goalscorers.

Somewhat surprisingly, after the promise of that first season, Seymour would hand over responsibility for the first team for the next three years to Scottish manager George Scott Martin. Martin would lead the club back to the first division at the first time of asking before securing 4th and 5th place finishes in the next two seasons, before resigning and handing responsibility back to Seymour.

What followed was a very successful period in the history of the club. With Milburn now fully established as the club’s central striker Seymour would lead the club to back to back FA Cup successes in 1951 and 1952. These wins meant Seymour became the first person in English football history to win the FA Cup with the same club as player and manager.

Milburn had scored 25 goals in 1950-51 but none were more important than the two he scored in the FA Cup final to lead the club to a 2-0 victory over Blackpool in front of over 100,000 people at Wembley. That FA Cup winning side was a formidable team. Captained by Joe Harvey, it included players such as Frank Brennan, Charlie Crowe, George Robledo and Bobby Mitchell. As well as winning the FA Cup, they also achieved an impressive fourth place finish in the top division.

They were unable to maintain that impressive league form the following season, finishing down in 8th place, but were able to defend the FA Cup. This was a season where Chile international, George Robledo, really came to prominence, scoring 39 goals in all competitions. Robledo, joined by his brother Ted in the starting line-up, scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Arsenal in the final.

While history will remember that Newcastle won the game and lifted the trophy, it’s worth remembering that Arsenal were hugely unlucky in the final. In a time before substitutes were allowed in the English game, Arsenal suffered four injuries and finished the game with only seven fit players on the pitch.

Both of those FA Cup victories qualified Newcastle for the season opening Charity Shield, but lost on both occasions, first to Tottenham Hotspur in 1951 and then to Manchester United the following year.

After those successes though, Newcastle struggled in the following two seasons. Early exits from the FA Cup were compounded with poor league form, finishing 16th and 15th in the following two seasons. Seymour recognised that the club may benefit from a change of direction on the playing side and appointed Doug Livingstone in December 1954.

However, this appointment would prove to be relatively short lived with Seymour seemingly unwilling or unable to cede duties to the man he had appointed.

This was most evident when Newcastle found themselves back in the FA Cup final in 1955. In the build up to the final, Livingstone decided that he was going to drop Jackie Milburn who had been a stalwart of the club’s success over the previous years. Despite his excellent record injuries had started to take their toll on Milburn and he wasn’t as prolific as he had been in previous seasons.

Getting wind of this, Stan Seymour, who had discovered Milburn and was incredibly proud of the success he had gone on to achieve, took control of picking the side for the final, restoring Milburn to the first eleven.

Ultimately Seymour would be proven correct with Milburn scoring inside the first minute as the side went on to win 3-1 against Manchester City and secure their third FA Cup in five years. Much like Newcastle’s previous victory in an FA Cup final there was some good fortune involved with Manchester City full back Jimmy Meadows getting injured in the 17th minute and being unable to continue. Unfortunately for Meadows the injury would finish his career at the age of 24.

This victory remains the final domestic trophy in the history of the club.

After being undermined so spectacularly by Seymour, Livingstone proffered his resignation shortly afterwards with Stan Seymour once again assuming responsibilities for the first team.

Unfortunately for Seymour though, he was unable to repeat earlier successes with the club only avoiding relegation in 1957-58, courtesy of a superior goal difference, with local rivals Sunderland relegated instead.

This would ultimately prove to be Seymour’s final season in charge of the team as Chairman William McKeag removed him from the role and appointed Charlie Mitten as first team manager.

Despite that disappointing end, Seymour remained on the club’s board until his death in 1978, having been appointed life President of the club in 1976.

The Seymour legacy didn’t end with his death though. His son, Stanley Seymour Jr, was appointed to the board of directors in the early 1980s, when the club was heavily in debt, crowds were staying away and performances on the pitch were poor. He would play a key role in the appointment of Arthur Cox which would revitalise the club and bring in players of the calibre of Kevin Keegan and Peter Beardsley which would eventually see the club promoted back to the top flight in 1984.

(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, Andy Cunningham here and Tom Mather here)

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