Pre-season kickabouts are rarely meaningful and are usually pretty drab affairs. Nevertheless, through the decades, Newcastle United have featured in some humdingers that have been either competitive, dramatic, important, bruising, rapturous, hilarious, well-attended, or memorable for some other reason. We take a look at some of those occasions which have stood the test of time, moreso than the majority.
IFK Norrkoping 5-0 Newcastle United / Newcastle United 3-2 IFK Norrkoping
The war was over and Newcastle’s promotion campaign restarted after a six-year cessation of competitive football. Buoyed by the signing of Joe Harvey from Bradford and the emergence of a tidy looking winger named Milburn, a bullish Magpies travelled to the continent to face the fearsome IFK Norrkoping in a warm-up. The Swedes were utterly dominant in their post-war domestic campaigns and handed their Geordie visitors a 5-0 hammering, sending Stan Seymour et al packing with their tails between their legs.
By June 1947, Wor Jackie had been astutely relocated to centre-forward and inspired a rousing 3-2 victory at home to the VitaBlå in a re-match.
Newcastle United 4-0 Aberdeen / Newcastle United 0-4 Hibernian
As the nation was celebrating a new Queen in May 1953, Glasgow was hosting a commemorative tournament to determine the Kings of British football.
Involved thanks to their triumphant FA Cup campaign in 1951-52, Newcastle appeared alongside other respective league and cup winners in this event organised by the English and Scottish FAs.
It wasn’t a successful tournament for the Magpies, as one win (4-0, vs Aberdeen) and one defeat (4-0, vs Hibernian) wasn’t enough to secure a semi-final place. 117,000 watched Celtic win the final in what would have been the best-attended kickabout the Toon had ever taken part in… had they got there.
Newcastle United 1-0 Benfica
Newcastle’s European conquests in the late sixties had put the Toon very much on the continental map; so much so that glamorous warm-ups against foreign giants were being held at St James’ Park.
One such opponent was the mighty Benfica of Portugal, famously led by the iconic Eusebio, who featured in this 1971 encounter and delivered one of its few highlights: a free-kick from distance which leathered Willie McFaul’s post.
Tommy Gibb found the winner for Newcastle, converting after a set piece was delivered by Frank Clark. Friendly or not; it was a cracking 1-0 win.
Between 1978 and 1991, Newcastle made the land of the Blågult (blue-yellow) a frequent setting for pre-season preparations.
Why Sweden was so frequently chosen as a destination could be something to do with the apparent likelihood of morale-boosting trouncings delivered to sides of varying capability and status.
Below is the full list of our results from that period in the nation that brought us Ibrahimovic, Brolin, Larsson, Ljungberg and Andreas Andersson; but the snapshot is: P27 W19 D6 L2 F81 A18.
Newcastle United win the Japan Cup
The Japan Cup presented an opportunity for a prestigious pre-season tour ahead of what would be a successful promotion campaign for Newcastle. Featuring the likes of Kevin Keegan, the Geordie contingent vanquished the other invitees to win a five-team mini-league.
After hammering the hosts’ national team 4-0 - thanks to goals from Keegan, Chris Waddle (2) and Jeff Clarke - Newcastle drew with Yamaha (now called Jubilo Iwata) and beat the Syrian national team. First place was accomplished with a goalless draw in a bad-tempered encounter with another exotic opponent; this time Botafogo of Brazil.
With the tournament rebranded as the Kirin Challenge Cup in 1992 and since then featuring only international sides, the Toon are the last English team to have won it.
Newcastle United 3-0 Ujpest Doza
In 1991, Ferenc Bene - who featured on the wrong side of United’s glorious Fairs Cup victory in 1969 - brought his Ujpest Doza side back to Tyneside to participate in a nostalgic friendly.
A famous treble from Bob Moncur helped Newcastle to glory against Ujpest in the sixties, and there was another trio of goals from a single player here to ensure that there would be no payback in the rematch.
Newcastle’s 3-0 victory over their Hungarian opponents in this kickabout was provided by a more likely source of hat-tricks: Newcastle's number 9, Micky Quinn.
Newcastle United 0-4 Manchester United
Forgive us for reminding everyone of this painful Wembley encounter where the Red Devils heaped more misery on Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle, as if losing out to them in the previous season’s title race wasn’t painful enough. But, so far, it is our only appearance in the barely-coveted Community Shield in the modern era, so it’s just-about worthy of a mention in our list.
Thankfully, a helping of revenge wasn’t too far away.
Newcastle United 4-4 Troyes
An incredible night at St James’ as, despite securing a clean sheet in France, Bobby Robson’s Newcastle allowed an unremarkable Troyes side to score four goals against them at home, before levelling the scoreline come full time.
After two minutes, Nobby Solano whizzed a 25-yarder past the opposing goalie but, by the hour-mark, United were inexplicably 4-1 down. Goals from Shola Ameobi, Gary Speed and Robbie Elliott meant total embarrassment was avoided, but the away goals rule meant UEFA Cup football would not be coming to Newcastle that season.
Sir Bobby remarked that it was “nothing to be worried about… something to build on.” Given the domestic campaign that followed, he was probably right...
Chelsea 0-0 Newcastle United (Chelsea win 5-4 on pens)
Asia again, and this time a goalless draw and a failed penalty shootout meant the Magpies were leaving the continent empty-handed.
Sir Bobby said of Jenas' decisive failed chipped penalty:
“I just felt in his case it was an outrageous way to try and take a penalty. He’s young and for some reason he’s gone against all his education, all his practice to do something different and he has come unstuck because of that.
“He’s a young player and he has to learn from being unprofessional in that sense. I’ve never seen him do that. If I knew he was going to take the penalty like that, he would have been last.”
That's a generous review, to be honest, Sir Bobby. Even if it was just a kickabout. More quotes in the video below.
Leyton Orient 6-1 Newcastle United
The 6-1 defeat at Leyton Orient might be one of the most important matches in Newcastle’s recent history.
The brutal inquest which followed the defeat – led by senior players such as Kevin Nolan, Alan Smith and Steve Harper – ensured that any individuals not interested in a promotion challenge needed to leave the club immediately. And any individuals who wanted to stay and fight: it was time they got their act together.
The rollicking from senior pros prompted a number of departures: the likes of Obafemi Martins, Habib Beye, Sebastian Bassong and Damien Duff played virtually zero part in the season; whilst players such as Jose Enrique, Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez all stayed and upped their games dramatically. What followed was an emphatic Championship title victory. Job done.
Another relegation would obviously come in 2016, but had we not returned at that first attempt in 2010, heaven only knows where the club might be now.