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Opinion

North East clubs 164 matches in European football – Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United breakdown

5 months ago
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I thought I would do a celebration of European football, the involvement of North East clubs down the years.

The return of Newcastle United to the Champions League has of course prompted countless headlines.

However, both Middlesbrough and Sunderland have also contributed in the past to this history of European football when it comes to the North East.

So what has been the experience of our region when it comes to European football throughout the history of the big three North East clubs?

Well, I have gone back through the seasons and produced the findings below.

Including all matches played in the Champions League (previously known as the European Cup), Europa League (previously the Fairs Cup and then UEFA Cup), Cup Winners Cup, Europa Conference League and Intertoto.

I did though draw the line at including the likes of the Anglo-Italian…

AC Milan v Newcastle United

European football history of the North East (up to 24 September 2023):

Total number of matches played

Newcastle United – 135

Middlesbrough – 25

Sunderland – 4

Trophies won

Newcastle United – 1

Middlesbrough – 0

Sunderland – 0

Number of seasons playing in European football

Newcastle United – 17

Middlesbrough – 2

Sunderland – 1

Breakdown of seasons when playing European football

Newcastle United 

1968/69

1969/70

1970/71

1977/78

1994/95

1996/97

1997/98

1998/99

1999/2000

2001/02

2002/03

2003/04

2004/05

2005/06

2006/07

2012/13

2023/24

Middlesbrough 

2004/05

2005/06

Sunderland 

1973/74

Interesting!

As somebody who been lucky enough to go on a canny few European away trips, I think one of the best things about the above, is that pretty much all NUFC fans have had the chance (if having the time / cash) to go abroad watching Newcastle United.

From the pioneers of the Fairs Cup days in the 1960s, then also the 1970s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and now 2020s, Newcastle United fans experiencing the magic of European football away days.

Yes, I know a number of other English clubs have seen their fans have more opportunities but not that many other fanbases have had that luck.

The biggest gap of course was the 17 years between the 1977/78 (relegation!) season and then Kevin Keegan marching us back into Europe in 1994.

For Middlesbrough fans it is 17 years and counting, whilst for Sunderland supporters it is 50 years and counting.

Indeed, our Mackem mates have had more seasons in the third tier (five) than they have had games in European football (four).

Newcastle Fans Metro Station Milan San Siro

THE MAG/David Jonson

Moving on, the total for North East clubs of matches in European football is guaranteed to rise to at least 169 this season, as Newcastle United will move on to a minimum of 140 European football games played, with five more Champions League group games coming up before we see 2024.

What follows on from that, who knows?

What I do know is that I am going to enjoy every single minute of this return to Champions League / European football, because as you can see from the above, not everybody gets the opportunity…

As Sunderland fans sang the other night, ‘I’d rather be in Blackburn than Milan.’

Well, at long last, this is something that Geordies and Mackems can all agree on, as we also are more than happy for Sunderland fans to see the limit of their ambitions as being Championship away nights in Lancashire, as opposed to Champions League nights in Milan, Dortmund, Paris…

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