Newcastle United fans of 120 years ago – on the eve of the club’s biggest decade

On Saturday 23 November 1901 remarkable footage was filmed of the game between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James’ Park

These remarkable images show the faces of Newcastle United’s early supporters.

They were captured at St James’s Park 120 years ago in November 1901 in a match against other emerging northern giants, Liverpool.

The two clubs only existed for nine years at the time, having been formed in 1892.

READ MORE: Wyn Davies – Newcastle United’s top-flight center forward in the 1960s

Association football was relatively new and its popularity was soaring, aided by the relentless rise of newspapers (including the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, founded in 1885) which helped to quickly spread the popularity of the game, and aided by the rapid expansion railways that made it easier for teams to travel across the country to compete.

Support for emerging magpies has increased rapidly. For that game, less than a decade after the club was formed, there were around 20,000 “devotees” (as the newspapers then called football fans) in attendance – a massive crowd for the time.

The Division One game on Saturday, November 23, 1901, a time well before discerning football, kicked off at 2:30 p.m. to take advantage of the winter daylight hours.

Both sides were made up exclusively of Englishmen, but mostly Scots, including United center-forward Bob McColl, the scorer of the game’s only goal. He will then open a well-known confectionery chain – RS McColl – around Tyneside and Scotland.

Other notable names for the home team included Andy Aitken, Jock Peddie and England goalkeeper Matt Kingsley, who can be seen emerging from the tunnel dressed in black and white just like his teammates, while wearing a cap.

Our stills, courtesy of the British Film Industry (BFI), are stills from a seven minute feature film originally shot by Mitchell and Kenyon, the Blackburn-based filmmakers whose early commercial films captured everyday Edwardian life. in the towns of northern England and today give us a unique insight into those bygone times. You can watch the film here on BFI Player.

The blurry, choppy action isn’t quite Sky Sport’s standards – with St James’ Park’s three crank cameras all missing the game’s lone goal – but the real fascination is in the spectator footage.

The seemingly all-male crowd, shrouded in a haze of tobacco smoke, is in good spirits, jokes, smiles and laughs at the camera and waves their newspapers, smokes pipes and hats for effect.

Interestingly, the social status of the individuals in the film can roughly be determined by their headgear: shipyard workers, coal miners, and factory workers with their flat caps; managers, office workers and store owners in their bowlers.

It would be a relatively successful season for the Magpies who would finish third in the league and reach the quarterfinals of the FA Cup.

But even better was just around the corner.

In the first decade of the 20th century, Newcastle United fans would see their team crowned three-time England champions and make it to five FA Cup finals – with the first victory, in 1910, plunging the city into chaos .

They didn’t know it at the time – but United fans would never have it so good again.

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