The Tyne-Wear Derby Chronicles: Part One


Newcastle United and Sunderland both have long and illustrious histories dating back to the late 1800’s, that time before professional football. This was a period when league football was but a pipe-dream and the matches that were being played were friendlies. Back then, Newcastle weren’t even United, they were still as the club’s fore-runners, that of East End and West End. Newcastle East End themselves even began as two separate teams, before those of Stanley and Rosewood amalgamated in 1882. This was the same year that Newcastle West End was also formed.

During those formative years statistics show that a Newcastle Rangers side (1878-1885) played Sunderland on several occasions, and winning all their matches. The first of those came in February 1880 in the semi-final of the Northumberland & Durham FA Challenge Cup, with the Rangers winning quite emphatically, 5-0, at their Alexandra Road ground. The final match came in October 1883 when Sunderland was defeated 1-0.

The significance there is that the match between Rangers and Sunderland was played but a matter of weeks before the first friendly between East End and Sunderland, this at Byker in the early November. Unfortunately for East End, the visitors won the first ever derby game with a 3-0 result and would proceed to dominate subsequent derbies (there are debates over the venue as to whether the match was at Byker, or at Heaton). June of 1884 saw a Sunderland side defeat East End 3-1 in the final of the Town Moor Temperance Festival Cup competition.

After numerous friendly matches, the first East End victory over Sunderland would not arrive until 1891, even though the match was abandoned after an hour due to bad light, the result stood. Of the two East End scorers, Thomas Crate went on to become an early United hero, and J. Spence was signed from Sunderland in the July of 1891.

Early January 1892 and the sides were involved in a ten-goal thriller at Chillingham Road. In a remarkable encounter the home side were three up after just eleven minutes, and 4-1 at the interval as Willie Thompson with two, Crate and Reay netted. However, by the time final whistle had been blown, East End had lost 6-4. The first friendly at St. James’ Park also resulted in defeat as Newcastle United (as they were now known) lost 6-1, two months after the name change was announced. The first victory at home didn’t arrive until April 1894 when some 7,500 spectators saw United win 4-1 with goals from Campbell, Quinn, Willis and Crate.


(Above: Len Ahsurst’s Sunderland testimonial against Newcastle was at Roker Park in November 1969, Sunderland winning 4-2; Below: Ollie Burton’s Newcastle testimonial against Sunderland was at St. James Park in May 1973, Newcastle winning 2-1)


Ironically, in their early years, Sunderland’s home matches were played at Newcastle Road, the first Roker Park friendly being played in February 1899 as a brace from Jock Peddie helped United win by the odd goal in seven, with Stevenson and Niblo also netting.

There were however to be more friendly matches between the two clubs in the past two decades than there would be over the next century, without question being courtesy of the introduction of the football league.

United would not win another friendly at Roker Park until 1961, although only four matches were played there in sixty ears, in comparison to the fourteen at St. James’ Park. That 1961 friendly saw a solitary Leek goal give United victory. Of those home friendlies, the two in 1918 for the War Funds stand out as August saw Sunderland win 4-0, and in December United would be winners by the same score.

The friendlies of the seventies were that of testimonials. Len Ashurst’s was first up in November 1969 at Roker Park, Sunderland winning 4-2 in a match which had seen legendary Cats ‘keeper, Jim Montgomery, play both in goal and outfield, even scoring. Four years later, in May 1973, it was Ollie Burton’s testimonial at St. James’ Park, with Tudor and Cassidy netting in a 2-1 United win. A year later belonged to Sunderland legend, Jim Montgomery, at Roker Park, United proceeding to upset the party with a 3-2 victory, Terry McDermott scoring twice. A point also worth mentioning is that ‘Boro stars Platt and Craggs, Sunderland’s Swinburne, and West Ham’s Robson all pulled on United jerseys that day. Martin Harvey and David Craigs both had testimonials in 1975 before the last one belonged to that of United’s legendary defender, Frank Clark, at St. James’ Park in April 1976. Just short of 20,000 turned out for the match in which United went on to win 6-3 as both Mick Burns and Alan Kennedy scored two apiece alongside strikes from ‘SuperMac’ Malcolm Macdonald and Alan Guy (who only made eight professional appearances for the club).


About petermannwriter

Freelance (Sports/Music) Journalist

Posted on 21/10/2015, in Football, Newcastle United and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: