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Opinion

Newcastle United – A man for all seasons

3 weeks ago
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Some men are just meant to be at one club for the entirety of their career and if that club is Newcastle United, you must have been doing something right.

In the 1960s and 70s Geordie fans were well known for not suffering fools.

So when a young Northern Irish lad came over to Tyneside 55 years ago, it would have been a daunting prospect.

David Craig was a product of Joe Harvey’s thorough scouting network and after making his debut in 1966, he would go on to form what I believe is Newcastle United’s finest ever full-back pairing, alongside local lad Frank Clark.

David was calm, could read the game well and was an excellent cover for when the likes of Moncur, Burton etc had the occasional forage forward in the late 60s. This was never more evident than in the first leg of the Inter-City Fairs Cup Final against Ujpest Dosza.

Anybody would have been forgiven for believing that Newcastle could have been on the precipice of a golden age after we lifted the trophy in Hungary 52 years ago.

The likes of Supermac, Jinky Smith, Terry Hibbitt and Tony Green were all soon integrated into the side by the Great Joe Harvey. With the likes of Leeds and Liverpool the top teams of the early 70s, it soon became obvious that we were more than a match for the top sides on our day…..but we just didn’t have enough of those days.

Nevertheless, our swashbuckling centre-forward, aided and abetted by his cunning accomplices in black and white, carried Newcastle United to the 1974 FA Cup Final on a tide of emotion.

This was to prove heartbreaking for one man though and that man was the erstwhile David Craig. It was announced in the run-up to the match that he hadn’t recovered from injury and young Alan Kennedy was to stay in the side with Frankie Clark continuing in his switch over to David’s natural right-back position. Now I know Liverpool had a brilliant team and hindsight is a wonderful thing but I often think of what might have been, if David Craig had have been marking the Merseysiders’ man of the match…..left-winger Steve Heighway.

David Craig was undoubtedly one of the best full-backs in the 1970s but as the injuries took their toll, similarly to his old mate Jimmy Smith, he decided to bow out in the same year as Jinky in 1978.

David opened a couple of newsagents in North Shields and at one point had Ron “have goals will travel” McGarry working alongside him. Me and my mate Les used to pop in for a bit of cràic in the afternoons when the boozers used to call last orders at 2.30pm and Davy would entertain us if we weren’t p.ssed.

This region has captivated many an outsider or a visitor and I feel it is refreshing that so many of our former players from elsewhere fell in love with the area and stayed well into their retirements. The Supermacs, Jinky Smiths, Bob Moncurs, Zico Martins, David McCreerys, Tommy Cassidys, Ron McGarrys and more.

One of the quieter ones who sometimes goes under the radar is the finest player to ever pull the No.2 shirt on for Newcastle United.

David Craig still lives happily in the north east, up in Northumberland.

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