Between 1904/05 and 1910/11 Newcastle reached five FA Cup Finals as well as being crowned Champions three times; it was by far Newcastle's most successful period in their history. But despite the fact that they were lauded as the team of the decade their refusal to compromise their "scientific" tactical ideals resulted in them losing four of those finals
All the illustrations in this article are by Tommy Canning and were originally published in "Ha'way the Lads" [Mainstream publishing]. They must not be reproduced without the consent of the artist and publisher
United's first FA Cup Final appearance was in 1904/05. They had just won the First Division Championship for the first time, but they had tough opposition in Aston Villa who many believed were still the best team in the land. Although The Valiants had finished fourth that season they had already won both the League and the FA Cup three times .
The Cup run starter inauspiciously as they required five games to see off two opponents from the Southern League: Plymouth and Tottenham. After disposing more easily of Second Division promotion chasers Bolton in the quarter finals United faced much tougher opposition in the Champions of the previous two years; The Wednesday. A brilliant performance and a missed handball which would have given The Owls a penalty saw them through to Crystal Palace.
Having already beaten Villa twice that season en route to The Championship - the home win only 10 days before the Final - United were firm favourites.
But, on the big day United were well beaten with Villa's more expansive and direct style proving far more effective than United's more cautious short passing game.
Hampton put Villa ahead after only two minutes when United failed to clear a cross and they had numerous chances to extend their lead. Eventually, with fifteen minutes remaining, Lawrence could only parry a Hall shot and it fell to Hampton who got a second.
We were back at The Palace a year later and once again we were up against one of the founding members of the Football League: Everton. The Toffeemen had been one of the best teams in the country for years but despite winning the Championship in 1902/03 they seemed to be the nearly men having finished runners-up four times and being losing Cup finalists twice.
In the League that season United finished 4th and Everton a disappointing 11th. Once again The Magpies had won both League games between the clubs and once more they were installed as favourites.
The road to Sydenham had seen United cruise past Second Division opponents Grimsby and Blackpool and beat Derby and Birmingham after replays before beating Woolich Arsenal - who had never previously got this far - in the semi.
Both teams had a reputation for good football and the Final was eagerly anticipated; but it proved to be a complete let-down with the supporters howling their derision from the sidelines. Tynesiders and Merseysiders alike played well below par and the game was settled by a single goal from Everton centre-forward Sandy Young fifteen minutes from time
Two finals, two losses and the debate raged over why. It was generally put down to the size of the pitch and the length of the grass which interfered with United's passing game. Perhaps a change of tactics was in order?
Two years and another Championship (1906/07) later the Geordies were on the march again where they met a third of the founding members: Wolverhampton Wanderers. This was The Wolves fourth Final having won once and lost twice, but they were a team in decline having been relegated in 1905/06 and they finished 9th in Division 2. Surely we could win this time!
The qualifying rounds proved pretty straightforward this time with United winning all their games. They disposed of Nottingham Forest and Liverpool of the First, Grimsby and Fulham of the Second and Southern League West Ham.
Yet again United refused to change their tactics. In the first half hour they created and wasted numerous opportunities and their game gradually got bogged down in midfield. The misses proved costly as the much more direct and physical Wolves side scored twice just before the interval. The first from the Reverend Kenneth Hunt came in the 40th and Hedley added a second three minutes later
United fought back and with 17 minutes left a goal from Howie broke United's Final duck and got us back in the game. We pressed forward and almost equalised, but as we pushed more and more forward Harrisson broke from his own half to score a third.
The Reverend later said "Newcastle had 90% of the play. But our 10%, plus our dash and directness, was enough for victory".
A third successive defeat, especially against such inferior opposition, had tongues wagging and there were even suggestions of bribery, corruption and nobbling.
Two more years and yet another Championship (1908/09) and United were back in the Final (having been beaten at the sem-final stage in the intervening year). Their opponents were once again from the Second Division; Barnsley (who had finished 9th). The Tykes had only joined the League eleven years earlier and had never come close to either promotion or a Final
Once again the route to The Palace was navigated with reasonable ease. They needed a replay to see off non-league Stoke but then recorded straight victories over Fulham, Blackburn, Leicester and - in the semi - another non-league side, Swindon.
United seemed determined to adopt a more physical approach and there was much criticism over the amount of fouls and the aggressive tackling of both sides. Just before half-time a Bartrop shot deflected off Veitch and the Second Division side were ahead.
They remained comfortably in control until the last twenty minutes when United eventually broke free from their self imposed shackles and got the slice of luck they needed. With only seven minutes left a long ball found Rutherford - looking well offside - who headed the equaliser.
The replay was played at Goodison Park five days later and United - in their desperation - adopted an even more physical approach. Barnsley's custodian Mearns was laid out early on by Higgins and Dick Downs - already hobbling from an earlier challenge - needed treatment after being kicked in the stomach. All around the ground there were cries of "Dirty Newcastle".
The Novocastrians were "mixing" their playing style too; their normal possession football being augmented with some longer, quicker balls. We completely dominated the first half but despite several near misses could not score.
Within minutes of the restart Shepherd shot United ahead and soon after he was clattered in the area and converted the penalty (the first ever awarded in a Final) himself.
The following season Newcastle reached the Final for the fifth time in seven years and the opposition was once again from Yorkshire. There was also a new cup to play for as the old one had been presented to founder Lord Kinnaird; the cup was made in Bradford.
The Bantams had entered the League in the same year that United reached their first Final and were promoted in 1907/08. They finished 5th that season; three places and five points better than United. Early in the season United had thrashed them 6-1 at home, but a couple of weeks before their palace showdown Bradford won the return 1-0.
First Division Bury, Southern League Northampton (after a replay) and three First Division sides: Hull, Derby and Chelsea had all been beaten by Newcastle along the way.
United suffered serious blows when they lost stars Shepherd and McWilliam before the game. The match itself was dire; with both teams failing to cope with the windy conditions. Newcastle were the better team, but failed to take any of the few decent chances created.
The replay took place at Old Trafford the following Wednesday. Once again a swirling wind made good play difficult but The Novacastrians opened brightly and rained shots in on the Bradford citadel.
But after 15 minutes an innocuous lobbed ball got caught in the wind causing confusion in the United defence. Lawrence failed to collect allowing Spiers to score in City's first meaningful attack.
Despite the fact that United continued to dominate possession, Bradford defended in numbers and United could not find a way through.