On Saturday, Newcastle United are visitors to Carrow Road. The same Newcastle United against whom we were once battling relegation but who now, helped by a ginormous injection of Saudi Arabian cash, have miraculously secured mid-table safety.
While City spent the princely sum of zero in January, the Toon spent 490 million Saudi riyals (circa £100 million); money I suppose they’ll consider well spent.
Either way, it matters not what we think, or anyone else for that matter – the times they are a changin’ in the North East.
While they have always been considered one of the ‘big boys’, in terms of support, stature and history, they’ll be hoping – in their capacity as the richest club in the world – to gatecrash the big six, perhaps make it the big seven. Maybe when the European Super League gets resurrected, as it inevitably will, it’ll be a breakaway seven.
With the upper echelons of football rapidly turning into a game of my owner is richer than your owner, Newcastle United wins every time.
In order to celebrate the arrival of the Galacticos of Tyneside in Norfolk, we’ve resurrected Allan’s We Meet Again… piece, telling tales of City/Toon battles of years gone by.
The 1905-06 season marked Norwich’s first as a professional club and their first in the Southern League. By contrast, Newcastle’s ‘Edwardian Masters’ were the reigning English League Champions and FA Cup runners-up.
The two clubs couldn’t have been further apart as City continued to find their feet within the non-league pyramid while Newcastle were the Manchester City of the day, dominating English football, winning a further two titles and an FA Cup.
It wasn’t until the 1934-35 season that the clubs first met on a level playing field. With Newcastle’s glory days behind them and City having just enjoyed a first-ever promotion, it was in Division Two, where honours were even, both enjoying 2-0 home wins.
It was as second division clubs, 27 years later, that the two meet for the first and only time in the FA Cup. Newcastle had a proud cup record, winning the trophy on three occasions during the 1950s, however, in 1962-63 they were blown away by a rampant Canaries and a red-hot Terry Allcock (who ended his career second in Norwich’s all-time top goal-scorers list) bagging four goals in a 5-0 Norwich win.
The two first met in the top division during the 1972-73 season, with the Geordies coming out on top in both league meetings, winning 3-1 at St James’ Park and 1-0 at Carrow Road, courtesy of a goal from number 9 legend Malcolm ‘Supermac’ MacDonald.
Newcastle would again do the double over City in the 1975-76 season. Norwich, in contrast, have never doubled the Toon. Considering City have achieved this over the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, this is a rare blemish in the Canary history book.
If Newcastle held the upper hand in the 1970s, then City edged the 1980s.
Despite it ending in a 1-1 draw, one particular game that stood out during this period came in September 1987. The game would attract the attention of the national media and capture the imagination of football fans throughout the country.
The reason – a young striker by the name, Mirandinha.
In the ‘80s, an overseas player in the top flight was a rarity, and one from Brazil was unprecedented. It was a Newcastle club-record transfer that shocked all, adding a splash of colour, glamour and wow-factor to the English top-flight.
Mirandinha’s debut turned out to be an anti-climax as City’s defence kept him (and also a young Paul Gascoigne) at bay. There was no samba rhythm that September evening at Carrow Road, in what ultimately proved to be a disappointing time in England. The Brazilian magician failed to ignite a success-starved Newcastle public and within two seasons he was gone.
[*As a footnote, one of Mirandinha’s teammates that night was the late Glenn Roeder who would later manage Norwich during the dark days of the late 2000s.]
Newcastle did eventually find the swashbuckling, all-out attacking style that the fans craved. Kevin Keegan’s ‘entertainers’ always provided high-quality opposition for City. Their 2-1 win at Carrow Road in January 1994 was especially pleasing on the eye, full of fluidity, movement and attacking intent.
This game also marked a watershed movement in Norwich’s recent history. It was the last game of manager Mick Walker’s first spell in the hot seat and, as such, marked the end of a thrilling era of City success – a time when they competed with the best of the best and whose football allowed us to dream.
As Walker left, the team that every City fan can recall with fondness, began to unravel. The first high-profile star to depart was flying winger, Ruel Fox, when in February 1994 he left for £2.2m to, yes you’ve guessed it, Keegan’s Newcastle United.
Following that Newcastle defeat, Norwich’s form dropped drastically, winning just two more games that season, finishing 12th after such a great first half of the season. Despite the record sale, in the summer, of striker Chris Sutton, Norwich rallied the following year 1994-95. That was until again a Christmas date with the Tynesiders would provide another watershed moment.
When Keegan’s much-fancied team were dispatched 2-1 at Carrow Road on New Years’ Eve 1994, it left City welcoming in 1995 in sixth place. As in 1994, the Newcastle game was followed by a collapse of epic proportions. One win in 20 and a shocking relegation. The run included a 3-0 reverse at St James’ Park – a defeat that put one nail in the City coffin.
In recent times, remarkably, those watershed moments that seem to follow a Norwich v Newcastle fixture continued.
First to mind, 18th October 2015. Norwich arrived at St James’ Park having settled well on their Premier League return, while Newcastle was a club in crisis. Nobody, therefore, predicted Norwich’s 6-2 thrashing. It marked the end of Alex Neil’s long-lasting honeymoon period, a heavy defeat that brought a change in tactics, a change in mentality and an inevitable downturn in form.
Norwich ended that season in the bottom three. One rare moment of hope came in the return fixture. A classic six-pointer and a dramatic last-minute Martin Olsson winner filled Carrow Road with hope. Alas, it wasn’t enough. Newcastle too would drop, the first time both clubs had been relegated together.
We didn’t have to wait long for the next classic. 28th September 2016 and a 4-3 loss at St James’ Park. The scoreline though did not reveal the full story.
Unbelievably, Norwich were 3-2 up going into injury time only to somehow contrive to throw it away with a late late Dwight Gayle double. Norwich had entered the game flying, having lost just once in nine league outings. Newcastle, by contrast, were wobbling.
That game would define both clubs’ seasons. Norwich, and Alex Neil, in truth never really recovered. Rafa’s Newcastle never looked back, claiming the title at the end of the campaign.
Today, Newcastle, the club, could not be further from our own. What was once a disenchanted, disconnected club in crisis is now one in total harmony. Mike Ashley’s ownership is no more and the media darling that is Eddie Howe has been handed the reins, after the unceremonious removal of Steve Bruce, along with a bottomless pit of cash.
When we played each other in November – prior to nice-guy Eddie getting his hands on the cash – we drew 1-1, although with Newcastle down to 10-men from the ninth minute it was a game we should have won. In the end, we were grateful to Teemu Pukki for rescuing us a point thanks to a 79th-minute equaliser.
Let’s hope we can go one better on Saturday.
In addition to writing his fascinating, We Meet Again… series for MFW, Allan and his mate, Val Tolhurst have recorded a series of podcasts to accompany them. They can be found here:
And on Spotify: