28 September 2008

Football History: Newcastle United (Premier League)

Newcastle Utd were elected to Division Two in 1893 and have never been out of the top divisions in their league history. The beginning of the century heralded a period of great success as they won the title three times and reached five FA Cup finals, winning just one in 1910.

Since then, only one league title has come to St James Park (1927) although the FA Cup has been more profitable with five more triumphs, the last in 1955. Despite producing heroes such as Malcolm MacDonald, Chris Waddle, Peter Beardsley and Paul Gascoigne, there have been some very lean years for the Toon army with two long periods in Division Two.

Kevin Keegan arrived as a player in 1982 and two years later, Newcastle were back in Division One but their five seasons only produced a best finish of 5th place and by 1989, they were back in Division Two. Things got worse and worse until, in February 1992, Keegan returned, this time as manager.

At this point, Newcastle looked like they would drop into Division Three, but Keegan managed to keep them up before building a side to challenge the big boys. They were promoted to the Premier League in 1993 and have stayed there ever since, seemingly growing ever closer towards the championship. However, in 1997 they managed to lose a big lead at the top of the table, with Keegan losing more than that in an infamous post-match rant, and had to watch Manchester United race past them to win the title.

That seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Magpies and they struggled for the next few years under Kenny Dalgish and Ruud Gullit, before veteran boss Sir Bobby Robson took over in 1999 and turned their fortunes around, building a young and exciting new team around star striker Alan Shearer, and starting them back on the road towards really challenging for the championship again.Their fortunes went up and (mostly) down after that though, as managers came and went, leading to the return and abrupt departure of Keegan in 2008.

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