Saturday, 13 August 2011

Ground 179: Swans Recreation Ground, Newcastle East End

The original Newcastle East End Football Club was founded on the occasion of Stanley Cricket Club’s annual general meeting, 15th of November 1881. The members, whose club was named after the vacant plot of land they played on near Stanley Street in Byker, voted in favour of forming a football team. Eleven days later they played their first game, beating Elswick Leather Works 2nd XI by five goals to nil.

After changing both their name – the initial choice had caused the club to be confused with two County Durham teams, Stanley Nops and Stanley Albion - and home ground, East End settled near a railway junction on the Chillingham Road at Heaton. In November 1883, while still based in Byker, they drew the first of their derby games against Newcastle West End. Two years later, they defeated their city rivals in a semi-final replay on their way to lifting the Northumberland Senior Cup. In 1887 East End made their first appearance in the FA Cup, losing 3-2 after extra-time to South Bank of Middlesbrough.

Both East and West participated in the opening Northern League season, a crowd of 1,500 turning up at Heaton for East End’s first home game against Darlington on September 7th 1889. A week later West End won the city derby 2-0 in front of a 4,000 crowd at their home ground, St James’ Park. West End finished runners-up on goal difference to Darlington St Augustine’s with East End two places behind.

West’s ascendancy wouldn’t last for long. In February 1890, East End became the first of the city’s clubs to turn professional, the board of directors issuing 2,000 public shares and electing Adam Gilchrist as their first chairman. The eighty-two men and one woman who bought ten shilling shares in the club listed occupations including wine merchant, hosier, bookbinder, schoolmaster, traveller, milkman and spinster. Despite a disappointing second season for both clubs – East finishing one place above West in sixth as Middlesbrough Ironopolis won the first of their three successive titles – the tide had turned in favour of the Heaton-based club. East End finished fourth behind Ironopolis, Middlesbrough and Sheffield United in 1892, lost 2-1 away to Nottingham Forest in the First Round of the FA Cup and beat West End no fewer than five times, including a 7-1 thrashing at Chillingham Road. In April 1892, struggling on the pitch and beset by financial problems off it, two West End committee members offered East End “the West End ground for the rest of the lease and £100” to take over the running of the club. Although East End Wednesday continued for a time at Chillingham Road, Newcastle’s two biggest clubs became one on May 8th 1892, East End moving their team and main stand to St James’ Park. The opening game at their new stadium was a friendly against Celtic, the visitors winning 1-0 in front of 6,000 fans.

Rebuffed in their attempts to join the top flight of the Football League – the club polled just one vote at a meeting of First Division clubs and rejected the offer of a place in Division Two – East End played one final season in what was now a six-team Northern League, finishing eight points behind runaway champions Middlesbrough Ironopolis. Gates remained stubbornly low, prompting the club’s chairman to tell the local press: “If the public want a professional team they must be prepared to pay for it”. In an effort to widen the club’s appeal a public meeting was called to discuss a change of name, a near unanimous vote opting in favour of Newcastle United. The side turned out for the first time under its new name at Christmas 1892 in a home defeat to Middlesbrough seen by 2,500 fans. On September 6th 1895, the legal title was finally amended: East End was no more.

A century on, as Kevin Keegan’s side prepared for their ill-fated assault on the club’s first title since 1927, Charlie and Kelly Scott reformed Newcastle East End as a grassroots football club with just a single junior team. The club now has twenty different sides and four hundred members, an FA Charter Standard award testament to the strength of its work in the local community.

The senior side ended last season tenth in Division One of the Northern Football Alliance, one place ahead of Morpeth Sporting Club. Morpeth, formed as recently as 2009 following the amalgamation of FC Morpeth and Morpeth Town Juniors, finished fifth and won the Northumberland Minor Cup in their first full season but, like East End, have more recently established themselves among the division’s more nondescript teams.

It’s an overcast, mid-August day and the blackberry pickers are out along the Shields Road as the Northern Alliance 2011-12 season gets underway. The two managers give their final instructions at separate ends of the pitch – “Keep talking to each other” and “Massive game for us” – while a home defender nips to the touchline to take a last minute piss through the metal perimeter fence. East End see a shot hooked off the line and another clear the bar by mere inches in the opening five minutes. With Jamie Richardson dominant down the right and Paul Blakey cleverly linking the play, the home side have the better of the opening quarter, Morpeth’s attempts to find their two big forwards invariably ending in raised offside flags until the 24th minute when Chris Musgrave bursts through two challenges and is clipped as he drags his shot wide of the post. Wayne Buglass gets a hand to Rob Haney’s penalty but can only push it into the corner of the net.

East End run and tackle hard but stumble over the final ball, while Haney goes close again in the 40th minute, the home side losing their shape after referee Michael Shearer awards a disputed free kick. An increasingly ill-tempered second half is largely devoid of goalmouth action until a Dan Grey mistake on the hour leaves Haney free behind the defence. Buglass saves the first shot only for Michael Starkie to follow up with a first time shot low into the corner of the net.

Buglass makes two good saves and watches a shot smash against his crossbar before his side are reduced to ten men following a studs up challenge on the edge of the box with ten minutes left to play. East End lose their last remaining vestiges of discipline and the third goal Morpeth have been threatening finally arrives with almost the very last kick of the game.

Admission: Free
Date: 13th August 2011

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