On the Pitch, On the Pitch, On the Pitch ...

Far too much exposure is being given at the moment to the hooliganism that only a few years age nearly strangled the life out of the game and I have no intention of glamorising it any further.

Encroachment onto the pitch is something rather different. It can vary between some brave soul shedding their inhibitions and making a solo run across the pitch to a mass invasion of the pitch by hundreds or thousands of fans.

On some occasions it has simply resulted from overcrowding in the stands

It has been used to make a protest such as when a supporter at Anfield (apparently) suggested Kenny Dalglish might be better off getting his kit on and playing rather than attempting to manage the team

It has been a form of celebration. Children dancing and running around after another Pop Robson goal and the short-lived end of season party on the pitch during the 1980's

And most dramatically, it has been used as an attempt to alter the course of a game or to get it abandoned

The Good Friday Riot - 05/04/1901

Sunderland were the current leaders and Newcastle were in 7th. The capacity of St. James was only 30000 at the time and it was estimated that somewhere between 50 and 70,000 people had turned up. In contrast, there was only 25 policemen on duty. By 2.15 the ground was packed and the gates were locked.

Despite this people still attempted to get into the ground and the stadium gates were knocked down and fencing was demolished. Some fans climbed onto the roof of the main stand. Thousands spilled onto the pitch as a result of the crush. A multitude of Pitch and Toss gambling schools started up on the pitch. Police - some of them mounted - drew their truncheons and attempted to clear the pitch to no avail. The teams made an abortive attempt to enter the arena and it was announced at 3.45 that the match was to be abandoned

Things started to turn ugly. The rival fans engaged in a mass fight on the pitch and it was reported that "three or four thousand persons, mostly young fellows with caps formed themselves into one compact body and went on an expedition of wreckage" The goals were wrecked and the club flag was torn to shreds. Improvised weapons were made from barriers and fencing and bottles and stones were flying everywhere.

Eventually the police regained control following a series of baton charges but it took until 5.00pm to clear the ground. Amazingly only 15 people were injured and 9 required hospital treatment (including someone who had fallen off the roof and others who were hit by the crossbar of the goal they were demolishing)

A Sunderland fan tried to raise a protest but only 3 others turned up to the meeting he arranged. He was unsuccessful in his attempt to sue the club for wasted admission and expenses and had to fork out for the legal costs (some 70) himself (shame)

The match was eventually played 19 days later with an estimated 20,000 people seeing Sunderland win 2-0; their third successive victory at SJP since United had joined the top division.

Bring on the Galloping Horses - 18/09/1909

Eight years later and another massive derby crowd congregated for the match at Roker Park. An estimated 40,000 crowd squeezed in which was way beyond what it could safely accommodate.

United (who had finished as Champions in the previous season) scored after only 13 mins through Albert Shepherd and the crowd began to encroach onto the pitch. The police tried in vain to force the crowd back into the stands. Then two policeman attempted to arrest a man, but he wasn't going to go without a scrap. The three of them ended up having a stand-up fight in the centre of the pitch

The secretary of Sunderland was forced to come onto the pitch and persuade the man to leave; he left with the cheers of the crowd ringing in his ears.

After a 12 minute delay the teams re-entered the arena with police on horseback lined up along the touchline to prevent another incursion. At one stage, as reported in the Sunderland Daily Echo one of the horses "created a tremendous amount of laughter by galloping across the playing pitch scattering the players in all directions"

Newcastle scored again in the second-half with a goal from Stewart; the result taking them to the top of the table.

Please Keep Your Excitement to the Terraces

During the 1960's the behaviour of fans at matches was causing increasing concern. Throughout the decade there were periods where constant encroachments were being made onto the pitch by youngsters. Warnings were repeatedly made and the "Boys Gates" were closed on a number of occasions

A "newsletter" in the programme for the match against Aston Villa on 17/12/66 was typical of the club's exasperation. "Over the past few years there have been repeated warnings to youngsters to keep off the pitch... When Wyn Davies scored the first goal [in the previous home game v Chelsea] crowds of youngsters came swarming over the pitch doing untold damage " [to the grass].

The programme alleges that the referee had threatened to abandon the match if it happened again and that if that had happened the club may have to play behind closed doors. The youngsters did reappear on the pitch again, but at the end of the game so the referee took no action.

"Now this action must be stopped at once and the police are determined to stamp it out...and have been instructed to remove any offenders they catch, from the ground" "So there you have it a firm warning" PLEASE keep your excitement to the terraces and DO NOT RUN ON THE PITCH"

Bottles In the Air - 21/05/1969

Newcastle had secured a goalless draw in the first leg of the semi-final at Ibrox and Tyneside was invaded by thousands of Glaswegians for the return leg on 21/5/1969. When Newcastle went 2-0 up in the 77th minute all hell let loose

The air was filled with flying bottles and various other missiles and the Scottish fans poured onto the pitch behind Iam McFaul in the Newcastle goal. Mcfaul said at the time "suddenly bottles were whizzing over my head and, even before play was stopped I'd sprinted towards the half-way line to get away from the trouble, it was frightening

Welsh referee John Gow took the teams off while the heavily outnumbered police attempted to restore order. Luckily, and wisely, the United supporters kept off the pitch. It took 17 minutes for the police to regain control and the final minutes were played out with a police cordon strung across the Gallowgate

After the game Rangers held an inquest into the riot, questions were even asked in the House of Commons.

Four for the Baying Crowd - 09/03/1974

In the FA Cup run of 1974 United entertained Second Division Nottm Forest in the 6th round of the FA Cup. United were struggling and the fans had become incensed by some of the decisions being made by the man in the black, Gordon Kew.

Newcastle were 1-2 down when he gave a penalty for a challenge by Howard. Howard was sent-off for dissent and Forest scored from the spot. Cue hundreds of United supporters swarming onto the pitch.

It took the police eight minutes to restore order and when the game recommenced 10 man United produced a remarkable recovery to win 4-3 and reach the Semis; or so they thought. Forest appealed and the FA decided that the tie must be replayed. Follow the link for the full story of the match that didn't count Newcastle v Nottingham Forest 1974

In the clarts - 29/01/1977

Three years after the Forest fixture, the 4th round of the FA Cup and the Newcastle supporters were at it again. Gordon Lee had just announced his resignation, the team were losing 1-3 at home to Man City; it must be time to invade the pitch

However this team, disullusioned by Lee's defection had no fight for a comeback

Derby Disaster - 16/05/1990

This was perhaps the most futile and depressing of them all. Having finished 3rd in the League United missed out on automatic promotion and were forced to enter the "play-offs". In the semi-final they had been drawn against Sunderland. A bad tempered match at Roker Park finished goalless and United were clear favourites to go through the the "final" at Wembley.

United played poorly . In the 85th minute Gabbiadini broke away to score the second prompting hundreds of United fans to invade the pitch. The game was delayed for 20 minutes whilst the police restored order.

It was a futile gesture and there was never any question that referee George Courtenay was going to abandon the match with only a few minutes left. The last few minutes were duly played out and the Makems went on to meet Swindon in the play-off final at Wembley

Get 'em Off!

Last game of the season at Filbert Street and the future of both clubs hangs in the balance.Leicester need to win to. Newcastle needed to win to ensure they did not drop into the 3rd tier for the first time in the club's history.

Gavin Peacock put Newcastle ahead on the stroke of half time and in a tense second half they managed to hold onto their lead. Then with only minutes left Leicester equalised. It looked as though the unthinkable could be about to happen, but while the Leicester fans were still celebrating Leicester defender Steve walsh, under pressure from, slid the ball into his own net.

The leicester supporters swarmed onto the pitch and Keegan frantically shouted at his players to "Get off the Pitch". Nobody was sure whether the final whistle had gone; but the game was never re-started.

In the end Newcastle escaped relegation by n points due to the results in the other matches