Update #8 : United Teams through the ages (Newton Heath 1900 - 1901)

Here’s the next installment of the history thread.

The season 1900/01 was the worst season for Newton Heath in seven years of second division football. They started the season with hopes of promotion to the first division, but finished a long way off their target. They ended the season at the tenth place, with 16 defeats out of 34 matches played. Their goal average was just positive with +6 (38-32). This was the sign for the directors to fire their secretary Mr A.H. Albutt and appoint a new one. The new secretary was Mr James West.

West oversaw Newton Heath’s financial collapse and near bankruptcy, followed by the club’s re-birth as Manchester United on 28 April 1902.

The players are: back, left to right: Stafford, Whitehouse (gk), Erentz. Middle: Billy Morgan, Griffiths, Cartwright. Front: Alf Schofield, Hugh Morgan, Leigh, Jackson, Fisher.

The 1900–01 season was Newton Heath’s ninth season in the Football League and their seventh in the Second Division. They finished tenth in the league, some way off from the promotion places. In the FA Cup, the Heathens were knocked out by Burnley after a replay in the First Round, having beaten Portsmouth in the Intermediate Round.

The club also entered teams in the Lancashire and Manchester Senior Cups in 1900–01. Although they were knocked out by Manchester City in the second round of the Lancashire Cup, the Heathens managed to reach the final of the Manchester Senior Cup for the first time since 1893 before being beaten by the same opposition.

James West the new secretary is middle of the back row (black hat). James West was appointed Secretary on August 27th 1900. He had earned a reputation for astute financial management in three years as Secretary at Lincoln. By January the club were able to announce a small increase in gate receipts and lower wages. After a brief spell in the bottom four, the team were now in a safe mid table position (they would eventually finish 10th). Perhaps West would prove the savior was the hope of many Heathen fans that year. The 1901-1902 season will reveal all in the next installment.

The other two officials on the back row are Mr T Taylor (Director), Mr F Palmer (Director)

A clipping from the Manchester Evening News (previously Athletic News) 17th February 1901 advertising the bazaar at St James’s Hall. A pivotal moment, more about this in the next update.

Newton Heath at the turn of the century were little more than an average second division side. After almost a decade in the Football League they had little to show for their endeavours, two years in the first division and on both of those years finishing in bottom place. Since then they had shuffled along fairly comfortably in the second division, initially challenging for promotion but at the end of 1900/1901 season they finished 10th, their worst ever position.

But, just as their fortunes seemed at their lowest ebb, a fairy godmother turned up and with the wave of a magic wand (or in this case a bundle of cash) their luck began to change. The fairy godmother was John Henry Davies, the managing director of Manchester Breweries. His involvement with United arose out of a chance meeting at a bazaar organised by the club to raise funds. The clubs lowly position was causing alarm among its members and their only solution was to raise £1,000 in order to buy new players. And so they hit upn the idea of the bazaar to raise money. It was held from Wednesday 27th February for four days at St James Hall. ‘Judging by the programme it should be one of the best bazaars ever held’. reported the Manchester Evening News, announcing that the Northern Military and the Besses-o’th-Barn brass band would be playing. The bazaar was formally opened by Sir James Fergusson, the conservative MP for Manchester North East who told those assembled that ‘the members of the club have come to the conclusion that they must collect a handsome sum to enable them to engage a team which will be capable of securing and holding a place in the first league’.

Secretary James West moved a vote of thanks and the audience was left to wander around the various exhibits which included scenes depicting the splendours of India, Italy and the Meditarranean. The bazaar ended on the Saturday evening, but the proceeds turned out to be far less than expected. When the cost of hiring the hall had been deducted there was barely any profit. But a fortuitous meeting as a result of the bazaar reaped larger dividends.

Strangely, it was a dog which was to play a part in setting up that meeting. The dog was a St Bernard which belonged to the Netwon Heath captain Harry Stafford. Stafford had loaned loaned the dog to the bazaar and each day it wandered about the hall with a collecting box hung around its neck. But one evening the dog escaped and was later found roaming the streets by the licensee of a pub owned by Manchester Breweries who also happened to be a friend of John Henry Davies. He showed the dog to Davies who took a fancy to it and bought it from him. Feeling guilty, Davies decided to trace the dogs owner and soon discovered that it belonged to Harry Stafford. The two men met, whereupon, Stafford told Davies how the dog had disappeared from the hall and how the bazaar had been organised to raise funds for the club. Davies seemed genuinely concerned at their difficulties, and, as a gesture of goodwill, made a contribution, also promising to help in the future.

Stafford did not forget that promise. Within a year results had gone from bad to worse and the financial plight of the club had hit rock bottom. It would be time soon to call upon Davies again soon.

Season Statistics 1900-1901

Secretary : James West
Second Division : 10th
FA Cup : First Round
Top goalscorer League : Tom Leigh (14)
All : Tom Leigh (14)
Highest home attendance : 10,000 vs Blackpool (26 December 1900), 10,000 vs Burnley (12 January 1901), 10,000 vs Burnley (9 February 1901)
Lowest home attendance : 1,000 vs Chesterfield (27 April 1901)
Average home attendance : 5,658


Top goalscorer all competitions Tom Leigh

The shirt below is in display in the united museum, this shirt is tagged as “Thought to have been worn by George Stacey”. Stacey joined United in late 1907 but the only photographs showing players (such as Harry Moger) in similar shirts come from 1903/04. It is believed that this shirt however was being worn around the 1900-1901 season initially. However, this is unsubstantiated by any evidence. In fact the only known evidence suggest this was not the case. Should any come to light I will be sure to update this post.

To be continued …