Next up we welcome Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal with United looking to reverse a bad run of results in this fixture in recent years. It all started so well in the first time the sides met at St. James Park in 1893 when our side made up primarily of Scottish players turned the then named Woolwich Arsenal (then also from South London) over 6-0 with Joe Wallace and Bill Thompson both scoring a hat trick each, unfortunately I can’t confirm which player took home the match ball. I can however confirm who took home the match ball in April 1927 in a 6-1 win which helped us on our way to our last ever league title win; none other than Hughie Gallacher, who would supposedly need to be dragged from the boozer over the road from the ground 10 minutes before kick off each week!
The Toon will be hoping for a repeat of the festive cheer in 1954 when at this same time of year we battered The Arsenal 5-1 with doubles from Vic Keeble and Bobby Mitchell which were supplemented by the expected Jackie Milburn strike. Another legendary number 9 was on the scoresheet in 1972 when Malcolm Macdonald scored the winner in a 2-1 win over an Arsenal side featuring the likes of George Graham, Alan Ball and Frank McLintock, David Craig scored the other goal for The Magpies. Supermac scored in this fixture again 5 years later but this time he was wearing a red shirt as he scored the opening goal in a 2-0 victory for The Gunners on his return to Tyneside.
We only managed one win in this fixture in the 1980s, that came in 86 when Glenn Roeder scored the only goal against a handy looking back 4 containing Sansom, Keown, O’Leary and Anderson. There was a day of glorious celebration and football in the sun at the end of the 93/94 season with European football already secured, United turned it on against an Arsenal team with one eye on the Cup Winners Cup final, Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley getting the goals in a 2-0 win. Much was the same on the final day of the 99/00 season too, minus the European football of course. With a weakened Gunners line up ahead of the UEFA Cup final against Galatasaray, United coasted to a 4-2 win with Alan Shearers goal in particular a treat, the other goals were scored by Andy Griffin and Gary Speed (2). Two years later, Newcastle’s title hopes were much ended by the eventual champions by what was quite possibly the best goal seen at St. James in living memory. Dennis Bergkamp flicking the ball past Nikos Dabizas and slotting the ball past Shay Given, not easy to appreciate but it was something special. Sol Campbell scored the other goal for The Gunners.
Our last win in this fixture came in December 2005 when a gritty United performance perhaps exemplified most by the efforts of Alan Shearer and Scott Parker who ran themselves into the ground (the latter losing a few teeth in the process) the teams were separated by a Nobby Solano strike late on. The last game of note most certainly felt like a victory; things were looking bleak for Newcastle United after the senseless sacking of Chris Hughton and the sale/non replacement of Andy Carroll and with the team 4-0 down by half time to a rampant Arsenal side, relegation was on the lips of many fans drinking in the concourse.
What was to follow was the greatest comeback potentially in Premier League history with United rallying in front of a raucous Gallowgate end 2 penalties from Joey Barton and a Leon Best strike set up an assault on the Arsenal goal which resulted in Cheick Tiote’s volley from 20 yards.
We almost won it at the end too when Kevin Nolan fired just wide of the post, but after all beggars can’t be choosers.