Monday 7th May 1984
Football League Division 2
One of the first grounds to be knocked down and replaced with a swanky new stadium was Huddersfield Town’s Leeds Road in the Kirklees borough of Yorkshire. The old ground was set amongst the picturesque backdrop of Last of The Summer Wine, but on a Bank Holiday Monday in 1984 these tranquil surroundings were invaded by 12,000 Geordies arriving for a promotion party.
This particular era evokes some of my fondest memories supporting the lads away from home. On reflection it’s hard to believe that up to this point, I had been following United for only ten years, but what an eventful decade it had been.
My first season ended with embarrassment and in floods of tears on 5th May 1974 as a United side not only lost to Liverpool at ‘It’s a Knockout’ on Grandstand but were also humiliated on FA Cup final day, and when I say humiliation I don’t just mean the purple tracksuit tops the players wore as Moncur lead the players out of the Wembley tunnel.
This was following by my first Wembley visit in ’76 (more crying) the departure of my first hero Supermac, the Gordon Lee exit, the players revolt which lead to the appointment of Richard Dinnis, a brief stint in Europe and eventual relegation in 1978.
Bill McGarry had a crack at a quickie return by assembling an experienced side but fell short. The board then turned to Arthur Cox who made a steady but uninspiring start, as the club looked as far away from a return to the big time, as the night they played the last home game in Division One against Norwich City in front of a 7,000 crowd and the sad sight of a demolished Leazers End.
After the most uninspiring season in 1981-82 which is fondly known as “The Bobby Shinton Season” when the spoon nosed striker was the club’s top scorer, netting 7 times out of a grand total of a piddly 30, me and my mate Jimmy decided to purchase season tickets for the following season.
This wasn’t because of the prospect of an exciting season ahead, with the likes of Trewick, Halliday and Haddock, it was because we went to every home game anyway and there was the added attraction of a bargain early purchase price of £38 in the East Stand benches.
As it turned out this was a master stroke on our part and the best value for money from a week’s giro ever, because in the space of a few weeks United shocked the football world with the signing of England captain Kevin Keegan from Southampton for £100,000, and the rest as they say is history.
United eventually finished fifth in Keegan’s first season, hovering on the outskirts of the promotion places without actually threatening to make the final cut. The team had improved greatly with the signings of McDermott, Clarke, McCreery and the emergence of youngster Chris Waddle, however the team lacked that extra spark, which came the following season as a little lad from Wallsend came half way around the world to play for his hometown club.
As I’ve mentioned this particular period conjures up some great memories. I travelled to away matches with the Newcastle United Supporters Club on the Armstrong Galley coaches. Bookings for away travel were taking at the club shop in the Haymarket, where you purchased your travel tickets and also got your membership book stamped, so you could show off how many away matches you’d attended. The “Sarnie Squad” always used to travel on the same bus together with John Moody (who took these photographs) as our coach steward.
During that promotion season I travelled to almost every away match, even back in those days I was an avid football ground bagger, making sure I went to the grounds I hadn’t been to that season, as I was positive that we were on our way up and hoping we wouldn’t be returning to these Second Division backwaters again.
The promotion party was expected to take place nine days before the last away game at Huddersfield, when we took over the tiny Abbey Stadium in Cambridge. The required victory was a formality when you consider our hosts were without a solitary win in 31 games. However in typical Newcastle United tradition we blew it, going down to a shock 1-0 defeat, which still ranks as the greatest day in their 35 year Football league history.
The players made up for that disappointing afternoon in the Fens with a dazzling display the following Saturday, thrashing Derby County 4-0 which virtually guaranteed promotion, as we lead fourth place Grimsby Town by six-points with two games remaining, plus we had the advantage of a 15 goal swing in our favour.
And so to make it all official (i.e. when our name is coloured in different from the others in the league table on final score) we just needed a point at Leeds Road. United went into the game without our talisman Keegan for the one and only time that season, but what difference would it make? Keegan was retiring so we had to get used to not having him in the side, plus it was only Huddersfield Town, we’ll piss this especially with a large fanatical backing which would virtually make it like a home game.
Prior to kick off trouble flared in the cow shed paddock, the terrace shared between both home and away supporters. Running battles took place with the police struggling to cope until the aggro died down as just as kick off approached. There were Geordies here, Geordies there, Geordies every *cough* where, as the Toon Army ranks were gathered in different pockets of the ground with a few climbing the floodlight pylons to get the best possible view.
As for the match itself, The Terriers started the game in a positive manner against a United side which looked disjointed and nervous in the first quarter of an hour. In the 22nd minute the Yorkshiremen took the lead, when a free kick from Brian Laws was flicked on by Jones and Cooper was on hand to smash home from six yards.
Four minutes later Town doubled their lead when a long ball from Wilson got caught in the wind and in true comical United style the ball glanced off the back of Steve Carney’s head over the hapless Kevin Carr. The script wasn’t going according to plan and as the ball hit the net a thought crossed my mind which was echoed by a fellow Toon fan standing next to me on the terrace; "We're shite without Keegan, we're a one man team"
Any negative doubts I had were soon diminished by half time by Keegan’s “Heir Apparent” Peter Beardsley who produced two pieces of magic in a frantic five minute spell just before half time. Wearing the United legend’s coveted number 7 shirt in his absence, he halved the deficit on 41 minutes. A cross by McDermott found David Mills just inside the area, who laying the ball into the path of Pedro who unleashed a vicious 20 yard drive which rifled into the roof of the net for his 19th goal of the season.
Two minutes later John Anderson had a goal disallowed for offside, and then on the stroke of half time United were level. Beardsley returned the earlier favour by flicking the ball into the penalty area for Mills to score his fifth goal in only ten full appearances during this campaign.
United failed to capitalise on their supremacy in the second half as Beardsley continued to torment the Terriers defence, but it didn’t matter, we had done enough and it was now official - Newcastle United were back in the First Division after a six year absence.
The final whistle was greeted with a mass invasion of the Leeds Road pitch from the Geordie hordes, as Arthur Cox and the players were chaired off the pitch by the supporters. We stayed behind as the players finally remerged to do a lap of honour with Kenny Wharton holding the “Pride of Blakelaw” banner which had first made its appearance at St James Park 48 hours earlier.
A fabulous finish to one of my favourite seasons, this matchday being one of many highlights which including great away wins at Leeds, Man City, Charlton and the best of the lot being the 4-1 win at Portsmouth. These matches were all attended on the Armstrong Galley buses with the Supporters Club, an organisation which is still sadly missed, nevertheless the spirit of the “Sarnie Squad” will always live on.
This updated version titled 'The Sarnie Squad' from the post originally written in September 2006 was published for Issue 8 of Toon Talk Magazine.
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