Peter Withe – No airs and graces
There has been much made in the last week or two about whether top players would be willing to join Newcastle in January for a potential relegation fight.
Well, back in the summer of 1978, a man who had been the newly crowned First Division Champions’ (Nottingham Forest) joint top scorer…joined a relegated Newcastle United in a £225,000 deal.
Eyebrows were raised, as this was an ambitious piece of business by United’s new boss Bill McGarry – but what did this say about the motivation and ambition of Peter Withe?
Peter Withe was a tall, strong and imposing centre-forward who was excellent in the air and outstanding at holding the ball up, bringing team-mates into play.
He immediately struck up a ‘Little and Large’ partnership with local lad Alan Shoulder, who we had acquired from Blyth Spartans after their own heroics in the previous season’s FA Cup competition.
Peter went on to plunder 25 League goals in 76 Second Division games over the following two seasons, as well as some outstanding team play.
This was a very average Newcastle side and it was obvious Peter Withe was too good to be wallowing in Second Division mediocrity.
Aston Villa manager Ron Saunders came calling in 1980 and signed Peter for a club record fee of £500,000, just as he was set to turn 29.
The rest is history and you could even say “Roy of the Rovers” stuff. Unfancied Villa won the First Division Championship, with Peter Withe the league’s joint highest scorer with 20 goals.
Aston Villa proceeded to go even one step better in the 1981/82 season, capturing the European Cup after a famous 1-0 victory over the German giants Bayern Munich. No prizes for guessing then who scored the only goal of the game?
By that point, Peter Withe was an England International and one of Ron Greenwood’s 1982 World Cup squad for the finals in Spain, alongside other strikers – Kevin Keegan, Trevor Francis and Paul Mariner.
When Peter Withe took the unusual decision to join Newcastle United four years earlier, nobody could have ever predicted that it would lead to one man’s pathway to such future glory.
***We live in an era now where heading the ball is under such medical scrutiny. I was only a young lad when Wyn Davies played for the Toon but heard about his aerial prowess. Peter Withe is the finest number nine in the air that I haver ever seen , since I started attending St James’ Park in the 1970s.
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