Toon Army - The Sixties

During the sixties the relationship between clubs and their fans underwent a major transformation. Football fans had always stood apart from spectators of other sports due to their almost religious passion and fervour. Despite this their influence within the game had been occasionally noisy but generally passive; by the end of the decade this was no longer true.


The average gate at SJP was about 33,000 compared with 41,000 in the fifties and 51,000 in the forties. In the space of a decade that represented a loss of a third of the crowd; although some of the crowds were obviously slightly underestimated due to the vantage points on the Leazes Terrace side....

This was partly due to the fact that United were relegated and spent four years in the Second Division; but even when they were in the lower tier the gates held up pretty well.

In reality it reflected the situation across the country. 41 million people went through the turnstiles in 1948/49 but by 1963/64 this had dropped to 27 million.

Skinhead Toonstomp

The sixties started with juvenile invasions and a fad that had many a footballing wife making repeated journeys to the corner shop to replenish her bottom cleaning materials.

And as pop music became a multi million pound industry the supporters also found their voices. It created a new raucous atmosphere at games and tended to increase the age desegregation of the crowds.

However, not all the songs and chants were suitable for family listening. One of the earliest chant toppers was a rewording of "Oh My Clementine" which alleged that the referee was incomplete in the parent department.

But it was in the latter half of the decade when the real problems started. The sixties had seen the inexorable rise of youth culture and juvenile delinquency. Mods and rockers fought their battles on the beaches but the skinheads preferred the football match as their venue.

As the song used to go "skinheads, skinheads everywhere... they got big boots (regularly removed by the police as illustrated above!) and they got no hair".

United supporters were involved in their fare share of trouble, but in 1968/69 and 1969/70 they were awarded the John White Award for the best behaved supporters in the First Division.

More detail can be found in The history of Toon Trouble - The Sixties

Supporters Clubs

Although most blamed the rise of hooliganism on the general breakdown in society and family values some thought it was the result of an increasing level of separation between the clubs and players on one side and the supporters on the other.

Official supporters clubs - including Newcastle's - were thriving and many were keen to forge closer links with the club. But although they were given some "buy in" there was no real enfranchisement. A page in the programme and temporary use of club facilities was all that was on offer on Tyneside.

Membership grew throughout the decade especially among younger supporters and smaller satellite branches appeared in places such as Durham, Westerhope and London.

A Supporters Handbook was produced for the first time for the start of the 1965/66 season and included contributions from club players and officials as well as the press

Wembley of the North

The St James' that the fans attended each week had hardly changed since the turn of the century despite numerous attempts to undertake redevelopment. Two major obstacles had always hindered progress; the council's reluctance to allow redevelopment of the East Stand due to the proximity of Leazes Terrace and the fact that the council and not the club owned the ground

The matter came to a head when it was announced that SJP was to be one of the World Cup venues; but only on condition that certain ground improvements were made.

The club were prepared to finance some gradual and limited development, but they wanted long term security of tenure. The council appeared reluctant to comply at least not without being allowed some influence over the running of the club.

The controversial T Dan Smith was rebuilding Newcastle and he had a far more grandiose scheme that would make St James' the "Wembley of the North". The facilities would be shared between the club, the university and the general public.

The club wanted no part of this; stalemate ensued, the World Cup was lost and the club drew up plans to move to Gosforth. The ground remained the same.

Euro Tour

Entry into the Fairs Cup extended the boundaries of United's most loyal fans and in the successful 1968/69 campaign the Supporters Club organised travel to all but one of the games; the Zaragoza game on New Years Day proving logistically impossible

The Supporters Club laid on packages which included a match ticket, coach and air travel, hotel accommodation and even the ability to hire a car on the continent.

Match of the Day

The argument over whether televised football is good or bad for the game goes back a long way and it took a lot of negotiating before the armchair football fan finally got a regular football highlights programme when Match of the Day arrived in 1964/65.

Newcastle (in their promotion season) appeared for the first time when they met Leyton Orient on February 20th 1965; true to form they lost 2-1. Interestingly the crowd of 8,319 was the lowest to watch a United game that season.

The TV companies would have preferred live football and the ITV actually secured a deal with the Football League in 1960/61 to show live football on a Saturday evening. Games would kick-off at 6.50 with coverage starting at 7.30. The commercial station had offered the League 150,000 for 26 games with the teams receiving 1,000 each for each game covered.

"The Big Game" kicked off with Blackpool versus Bolton and the next match selected was United's visit to Highbury. However many of the clubs were against the deal and the Arsenal board stated that they would refuse to allow the cameras in.

They received backing from the United directors; Stan Seymour stating "this Saturday night TV League project is a wonderful plan ..... if we all want to commit economic suicide".

The deal collapsed, but the media companies tried again for live football in 1966/67, but once again their advances were rebuffed.

Read All About It

There was a growing market in football literature. "Football Monthly" still led the way in the monthly charts but it had been joined by "Football Supporter" which later re-badged as "Football Pictorial" and the glossy but expensive "International Football Illustrated"

The weekly market was also hotting up. "Soccer Star" had arrived in the fifties and survived through until the end of the decade but would eventually lose out to a host of new arrivals . "Jimmy Hill's Football Weekly" and "Goal" were first published at the start of the 1968/69 and "Shoot" arrived a year later.

"Northern Soccer" was a short-lived publication that lasted from 1963 to 1966. It concentrated on North East soccer but also covered teams across the North

The younger comic reader still had "Tiger" (starring Roy of the Rovers), which celebrated it's 40th anniversary and in the last season of the decade two new football obsessed younger brothers "Scorcher" and "Striker".

There was also a proliferation of books with many of the magazine titles having annuals. Many players gave their names to books such as Alan Ball and Billy Wright; even commentators like David Coleman got in on the act. No United player was deemed to have sufficient attraction.

The first published history of United arrived with Arthur Appleton's "Hotbed of Soccer" within which the Toon had to get between the sheets with their North East neighbours. This was followed by "The Newcastle United FC Story" in 1969; penned by John Gibson this was part history and part review of the 1968/69 season.

Two more volumes of "Gibbo's" musings would appear during the following two years and these mixed season reviews with revealing interviews with players and management.

Swop yer

Boys like football and collecting therefore anything which combines both obsessions is on to a sure fire winner. Trading cards had been popular for decades, but they really took off in the late sixties.

Magazines, cigarette manufacturers, tea companies, bubble-gum manufacturers and many others were all at it.

1968/69 saw the arrival of the first "Soccer Stars" collections which created a craze which remains popular to this day; no longer was there a requirement to "lose" some tea bags or eat a bit of cardboard chewing gum to get your prize; these were pure, unadulterated stickers.