Exiled Rabid has been digging into Tigers history again…
No I haven’t been peering into some astrologers crystal ball for Saturday – given the state of the Toon at the moment, who knows what’ll happen – instead I’ve been delving into history, back to an amazing day, just as the 1930’s were opening.
In the late 1920’s, City fully deserved the ‘mercurial’ tag, in 26-27 they finished 7th in the old division two, the following season saw them drop to twelfth and in 1929, the team were fighting to stay in mid-table, as City manager Bill McCracken found himself doing what many City managers have had to do, build a successful team on a shoestring budget.
The bright spot was a good Cup run, uncannily prophesied by City’s inspirational captain of the time, Matt Bell. Bell, who was the ultimate utility player in defensive positions and was unfailing first choice emergency keeper – by all accounts he was quite useful – stated that ‘I think the Tigers will go far in the Cup-ties this year’, after he heard the third round draw. They beat Plymouth 4-3 at Home Park (not an easy journey), then saw off Blackpool 3-1. The fifth round saw the Tigers travel to Maine Road, for a difficult tie against Man City where goals from Paddy Mills and Billy Taylor gave them a courageous 2-1 win.
Their sixth round opponents? Newcastle United. Although United were struggling at the wrong end of the first division table, it was still expected that the Magpies would be too strong for City. After all, they had Hughie Gallacher, one of the leading players of the day, who was sure it was his year for a Cup winners medal, and no one on Tyneside disagreed with him. Ah but fate has a way of kicking the mighty in the teeth.
In front of 63,000 fans (Newcastle struggle to get that today!), and some 6,000 City fans, the teams played out a typical Cup-tie, bad tempered, scrappy and not something to write home about. A Tommy Lang goal set the Magpies on their way midway through the first half, and things did not look good for the Tigers. Centre forward Stan Alexander was having to work solo in the middle, as City drew the sting out of Newcastle by dropping two of the 5 forwards into midfield. However, the fleet footed Alexander managed to throw himself bravely between defenders to nod the ball home from a Dally Duncan cross. In the later stages City threw everything at Newcastle to try and force a result, leaving the back exposed, but City keeper Fred Gibson was steadfast and brave to keep the Newcastle forwards outas the teams settled for the replay at Anlaby Road on the following Thursday afternoon.
There was so much interest in the game that the City Council decided to adjourn its business so that the members could watch the game as well. As 33,000 crammed into Anlaby Road, the biggest crowd ever recorded at the old ground, the teams resumed their battle. The first half was quite even, with neither side being able to breakdown the other and half time was reached at 0-0. It was difficult to tell who would ultimately be successful, and it all turned on two people’s amazing performances.
Part way through the second half, City’s Scottish international Jimmy Howieson picked up the ball in midfield from a pass from Billy Taylor. He looked around and the Newcastle players clearly expected him to slide the pass out to Duncan on the left wing or play it back to Taylor on the right. He did neither. Having sized up the options, he took the ball forward a few yards and rifled in an unexpected left foot shot. Newcastle’s keeper McInroy could only get his fingertips to the ball as it flew in the corner of the net. The crowd, stunned for a second, then let loose a roar that could probably have been heard in the City centre. Newcastle, more stunned than the crowd, couldn’t believe it.
But the game wasn’t yet won. City now had to play out the remainder of the game, and they had to defend desperately as the Magpies threw everything they had at the Tigers defense. It seemed like repeated avalanches of black and white fell on the Tigers penalty area, but they hadn’t reckoned with the City defense of Childs, Goldsmith and Bell and the feats of keeper Fred Gibson. Time after time, his positioning and anticipation denied the Newcastle forwards certain goals. Gallacher did his utmost to break it down, but the defenders and Gibson proved resolute to the end.
As local cartoonist Ern Shaw said, in one of his best cartoons; ‘Hughie Gallacher said he was going to Wembley, the supporters, the press, the directors, the captain and players said he was, but a resolution that Hughie would NOT be going to the final was proposed by Jimmy Howieson, seconded several times by Fred Gibson, and the Mayor and Corporation dashed back the Guildhall and carried it unanimously!’ (Its better on the cartoon, believe me!)
So, City were in their first semi-final, and the draw gave them Arsenal. That’s another story entirely…