Here we go again.
1899 was to be known for the infamous riots between Celtic and Rangers. After a Scottish Cup final replay the fans tried to burn down the ground and trouble continued for several hours in the streets of Glasgow with 81 policemen having to be treated in hospital. There was also trouble at Everton’s Goodison Park after the ref had abandoned a game.
Newton Heath had their own problems with a " scandal " behind the scenes when two players (Boyd and Cunnigham) were suspended by the club for their extracurricular activities. The two players were have said to have been drinking, the Athletic News reported: “If men who are paid good wages don’t think it worth their while to keep themselves in condition they are better off out of the team.” The week following these suspensions it was the fans turn. After the Heathens took a 2-1 defeat at New Brighton Tower a group of supporters took action by surrounding the referee as he walked off the field, jeering and booing him. The situation could have been worse if it hadn’t been for several Club officials and Policemen who escorted the poor referee to dressing room safety. By all reports the referee had been very poor and the youths had been provoked by several dubious decisions. The result of the game seriously dented any hopes of Newton Heath’s promotion chances for that year.
The 1898–99 season was Newton Heath’s seventh season in the Football League and their fifth in the Second Division. They finished fourth in the league, which was not enough to earn promotion back to the First Division. In the FA Cup, the Heathens managed to take Tottenham Hotspur to a replay back at Bank Street after a 1–1 draw at Northumberland Park, before losing 5–3 in the replay.
The club also entered teams in the Lancashire and Manchester Senior Cups in 1898–99, but little progress was made in either competition. The club received a bye to the third round of the Manchester Senior Cup, but lost 4–1 to Bury. It was a similar story in the Lancashire Cup, as they beat Darwen 5–0 in the first round before losing 6–1 to Blackburn Rovers in the second round.
Season Statistics 1898-1899
Secretary : A. H. Albut
Second Division : 4th
FA Cup :First Round
Top goalscorer League : Joe Cassidy (19)
All : Joe Cassidy (20)
Highest home attendance : 20,000 vs Manchester City (10 September 1898),20,000 vs New Brighton Tower (18 March 1899)
Lowest home attendance : 2,000 vs Loughborough (22 October 1898), 2,000 vs Darwen (24 December 1898),2,000 vs Gainsborough Trinity (31 December 1898)
Average home attendance : 7,389
Joe Cassidy top scorer again 3 out of the last 4 seasons
In March 1899 the Athletic News reported that the club had placed two players on the transfer list and suspended a third following an investigation into their extracurricular activities (orginal press article below). Quite what these were was never explained but there were enough hints to summise that the three had been drinking (the original Robbo, Whiteside and McGrath). ‘If men who are paid good wages dont think it worth their while to keep themselves in condition they are better out of the team.’ roared the Athletic News. ‘The directors are to be congratulated for dealing with offenders in a firm manner.’
The two players suspended and placed on the transfer list where Boyd, who the paper described as a ‘most capricious individual’, and Cunningham. Little is known about either except Boyd was something of a prolific goalscorer, hitting 35 goals in only 62 appearances for the club. Cunningham, an inside forward, had joined the Heathens in 1898 and was a regular choice, having made his debut on 5th November that year. The other player involved was Gillespie, also an inside forward, but he apologied for ‘certain indiscretions’ and was forgiven by the club, though not before serving a suspension. Gillespie and made his league debut for the Heathens in November 1896 and remained a first teamer until the 1900 close season, making 89 appearancesin all and scoring 21 goals.
Athletic News article 13th March 1899
A week after this incident the Athletic News reported yet more trouble at Clayton. This time it was the fans who were causing problems. Following a 2-1 defeat by New Brighton Tower in front of a huge gate of 20,000, which seriously dented Newton Heaths hopes of promotion, a group of supporters took unilateral action against the referee. By all accounts the game had been badly handled, with the referee ignoring his linesman on at least one vital occassion and making a number of other questionnable decisions. As the referee walked of the field ‘a crowd of hot-headed youths got round him and jeered and booed him’, reported the Athletic News. But help, fortunatel, was at hand as ‘officials of the club together with several policemaen prevented anything approaching mobbing’. Nevertheless the whole incident was severely frowned upon by the newspaper., even though it was prepared to admit that the youths had been provoked by some dubious refereeing. At the end of the season the two points hardly mattered, although arguably a win might judt have spurred them on to sustain a serious challenge.
Above Boyd and Gillespie in happier times. In front of them is the Lancashire Senior Cup, which the Heathens won for the first time in 1897/1898 beating Blackburn Rovers 2-1 in the final. Boyd, a scorer on that day, was soon on his way.
Quite a short update for the 1898-1899 season, unfortunately there are no recorded team photographs for this season. However, the squad players for that season are listed below:
Francis Barrett Goalkeeper
Henry Boyd Centre forward
William Henry Brooks Forward
Willie Bryant Outside right
James Cairns Inside right
Walter Cartwright Wing half
Joseph Cassidy Forward
James Collinson Full back/Inside Forward
James Connachan Forward
John Cunningham Forward
Levi William Draycott Wing half
Fred Charles Erentz Full back
Matthew Gillespie Inside left
John Gourlay Centre half
William Griffiths Centre half
James Hopkins Inside right
Owen Jones Forward
Edwin Lee Centre forward
William Morgan Right Half/Centre forward
W Owen Outside right
Francis Pepper Centre half
George Radcliffe Outside right
WA ‘Bogie’ Roberts Outside left
Harry Stafford Full back
John Turner Half back
Robert Turner Defender
Robert Walker Centre half
James Coupar Forward
David Fitzsimmons Wing half
Richard Smith Inside left
John Henry Whitney Wing half
To be continued …