Due to some extenuating circumstances over the summer and a change in how we do things, this piece didn’t appear as it should have as a prelude to the World Cup. So, rather than lose it, we’ve decided to publish it online as we head towards a fallow weekend of PL football (Thank God). We all hope you enjoy this.

Like a lot of Newcastle fans it’s the Mags all the way for me. I’m not that interested in international football unless there’s a Newcastle player playing or someone with whom we’ve been linked. The last time I got properly excited about England, Baddiel and Skinner (with the slight assistance of the Lightning Seeds…) topped the music charts and Alan Shearer topped the scoring charts, adding a few million to the price we eventually paid.

So, while I can’t be bothered about all the media hype about the national team, I thought it might be interesting to look back on the involvement of Newcastle United players at World Cup tournaments. Only if they were actually playing in the famous Black & White stripes at the time, mind. Which rules out the likes of Keegan, Waddle, Gascoigne, Moncur, Solano and Phillippe Albert, who scored in the 1994 tournament in the USA but before he signed for us. There have been a couple of players, one from quite a few years back and another from the Twentieth Century, who have played in the finals who even the staunchest of fans may struggle to recall but I’m keeping them to the end. It’s what us authors call building tension…

The first United player to appear at the finals while on our books was Jorge (George) Robledo Oliver for Chile in Brazil in 1950. The South Americans were in England’s group in that tournament and Robledo actually played against them. He also managed something England couldn’t do which was score against the USA in Chile’s 5-2 win, the first goal by a Mag at the Finals. Given he scored 82 goals in 146 games for the lads it wasn’t a surprise to see him on the scoresheet as his goals per game ration was actually better than the second NUFC player to appear in the finals, one John Edward Thompson Milburn. Wor Jackie was an unused sub in England’s 2-0 victory against Chile and their 0-1 defeat against the USA in Belo Horizonte but made his World Cup debut in their last game, a 0-1 defeat by Spain.

The first Newcastle player to score two in the finals was Ivor Broadis who played in all three of England’s games in Switzerland in 1954 and scored two against Belgium in a 4-4 draw. Broadis signed for the Mags in 1953 but didn’t play in the 1955 FA Cup Final because of a falling out with the trainer, Norman Smith. Clue – one of our mystery players did play in that game. Broadis was also part of the first England team to reach the quarter finals. At leat their exit wasn’t on penalties.

1958 saw Newcastle players Alf McMichael and Dick Keith as the full-back pairing for Northern Ireland as they reached the quarter-finals. NI beat Czechoslovakia 1-0, lost to Argentina 1-3  but then drew 2-2 with West Germany to emerge from Group Three before finally losing 0-4 to Raymond Kopa’s France who went on to finish third, after losing 2-5 to Brazil. Kopa scored a scarcely believable thirteen goals during the tournament but a seventeen year old kid called Pele got a hat-trick when it mattered in the semis. Still the best I’ve seen.

There then followed a fallow period of NUFC involvement in the tournament which probably was due to the team for some of that time not doing all that well but also due to the reluctance of selectors to venture north of Tottenham when looking at players. We were playing in the Second Division in  the Garrincha tournament of1962 and weren’t that great in 1966. I must admit to a wee bit of excitement that year. In my defence I was just a lad and the Italians were staying at the Five Bridges Hotel in Gateshead, Facchetti, Rivera and Mazzola among them. Curse those bloody North Koreans!

Despite winning the Fairs Cup in 1969 we didn’t have any representatives at the 1970 Finals; how Pop Robson didn’t get a cap is one of the great injustices of football, almost as unfair as Len White. England didn’t qualify for the 1974 finals and Scotland didn’t pick Jimmy Smith. To be fair they did have Bremner, Johnstone, Dalglish and Lorimer to choose from but if an ageing Denis Law could make the squad I think Jinky should have been in with a shout.

No NUFC players in the 1978 Scotland squad either as once again England failed to qualify. To be fair we, i.e. Newcastle, were shite in 1978 (Richard Dinnis etc) and Scotland had another decent squad – Gemmill, Macari, John Robertson, Sounness, Dalglish and Jordan among them. 1982 was almost as bad as we were a Second Division side again, waiting for the arrival of our Messiah. However, David McCreery, newly signed from Tulsa Roughnecks, played in every game of Ireland’s memorable run which included a famous 1-0 win against the hosts, Spain. The 1982 competition used a unique format. The first round was a round-robin group stage containing six groups of four teams each. Two points were awarded for a win and one for a draw, with goal difference used to separate teams equal on points. The top two teams in each group advanced. In the second round, the twelve remaining teams were split into four groups of three teams each, with the winner of each group progressing to the knockout semi-final stage.Northern Ireland won their group with four points from their three games (0-0 v Yugoslavia, 1-1 v Honduras and 1-0 v Spain) which took them into the second round where they drew 2-2 with Austria but lost 1-4 v France. However, it was a historic tournament from the Irish point of view and Davy Mac was actually named in the All Star Select XI at the tournament for the quality of his performances.

Keegan’s impact could finally be seen in 1986 as Peter Beardsley forced his way into Bobby Robson’s team after a stellar season at St James’ Park but only after England had lost 0-1 to Portugal and struggled to a 0-0 with Morocco. Pedro’s arrival coincided with a burst of form which changed Gary Lineker’s career with a hat-trick  against Poland in a 3-0 and another two in the 3-0 win against Paraguay where Beardsley also notched. Next up, Maradona’s Argentina and the ‘hand of a rascal’ as Sir Bobby so memorably put it.

1986 was actually a decent year for NUFC involvement as Northern Ireland included winger Ian Stewart as well as David McCreery in the heat and altitude of Mexico. Northern Ireland began their campaign with a 1-1 draw against Algeria before being narrowly beaten 1-2 by Spain and losing to Brazil 0-3 in their final match. Stewart came on as a sub in the first two games while playing the whole 90 minutes against the Seleção. McCreery, as he did in 1982, played every game, taking his World Cup tally up to eight, giving him Newcastle’s World Cup Finals appearance record.

By  Italia 1990 three world class players, Beardsley, Waddle and Gascoigne, had all left the football club and we were in the depths of the Second Division under the Chairmanship of Gordon McKeag and the management of Jim Smith. However, it didn’t stop us having the captain of one of the finalists as a regular at SJP. Step forward Roy ‘The Bear’ Aitken, formerly captain of Glasgow Celtic and brought in by Smith to drive us to promotion. Despite the fact that Roy’s best days were behind him (although anyone who was there will never forget his debut in 1990 when he inspired the black and whites to come from 2-4 down to snatch a dramatic 5-4 victory) he was still captain of Scotland and played every game for them in the tournament. Unfortunately, as per usual, that was three defeats – 0-1 v Costa Rica, 1-2 v Sweden and 0-1 v Brazil.

None of the home nations qualified for the 1994 finals in the USA and neither Marc Hottiger nor Phillippe Albert had signed for us yet so we had no representation at the tournament.

In contrast to 1994, in 1998 we actually had three players in the England squad  for the first time ever and all three appeared. Rob Lee, one of the best midfielders I’ve seen in a black and white shirt, came on as a sub in the 2-0 victory against Colombia while David Batty played in all four matches alongside England skipper Alan Shearer. For the record, as well as the win over the South Americans, they were a 2-0 win over Tunisia where Shearer scored England’s first, a 1-2 defeat against Romania and a memorable 2-2 draw against Argentina. Alan Shearer scored England’s first, equalising a Gabriel Battistuta penalty before and 18 year old Michael Owen (of whom more later) scored the goal that, arguably, made his career. Javier Zanetta equalised for Argentina but the moment that many remember is David Beckham getting sent off for a sly kick at Diego Simone. This led to a valiant effort by ten-man England to stay in the tournament and saw Alan Shearer playing in a midfield role for much of the second half and subsequent extra time. Shearer scored with his extra-time penalty. Unfortunately, David Batty did not. He later confessed that he had never taken a penalty in a competitive match before. Probably not a great time to start learning…

Shearer had retired from international football by the time of the next tournament but we still had representation in the England squad through Kieron Dyer who made three substitute appearances in the 1-1 draw against Sweden, the 3-0 win over Denmark and the 1-2 quarter final defeat against Brazil, chiefly remembered for Ronaldinho’s outrageous shot from distance and David Seaman’s feeble attempt to save it. One keeper who did make his mark, however, was Shay Given who played for Ireland in their 1-1 draws against Cameroon and Germany (where he was outstanding) and their 3-0 win against Saudi Arabia. This saw them qualify for the knock-out stages where they lost on penalties to Spain. Andy O’Brien was an unused sub in each game. However, the Irish campaign is probably best remembered for Roy Keane’s famous fall-out with Mick McCarthy and his request that the manager do something which is, frankly, anatomically impossible.

Also appearing in 2002 was one of Mick Wadsworth’s recommendations to Bobby Robson, Diego Gavilan. Gavilan came on as a sub for Paraguay in their 2-2 draw against South Africa and started the game against Spain which they lost 1-3, where his most notable contribution was an early booking. He was an unused sub in their 3-1 win over Slovenia and their 0-1 defeat against Germany in the Round of 16 which sent them back home.

2006 saw the appearance of England’s Michael Owen as a Newcastle player but he only lasted one minute of the game against Sweden before suffering a damaged anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The injury kept Owen out of regular football for nearly a year, until April 2007 and sparked a “club-versus-country” row centring on the liability of FIFA and the FA for the cost of injuries to players incurred while on international duty. Newcastle were understandably aggrieved at the length of time Owen would be out of action as a result of the World Cup injury, particularly as he had been out for the half-season prior to the World Cup which he later admitted was to try to make sure he was fit to play in the 2006 Finals. If memory serves he only started one or two games before the World Cup to effectively prove he was fit for selection. We now understood why Liverpool fans had taken to calling him ‘England’s Michael Owen’  when he would often be absent from club games immediately before international duty.  We went one better by paying his wages for about eighteen months without him actually setting foot on the pitch. Under the existing insurance arrangements between club and country, FIFA and the FA paid £50,000 of Owen’s £110,000 weekly wages after he suffered the injury, which totalled £2 million by the time he was back on the pitch. By September 2006, however, Newcastle were threatening to sue the FA for further compensation, for a reported figure of £20 million a claim which included the £10 million cost of buying Owen’s replacement, Obafemi Martins, £6.2 million towards Owen’s salary costs while injured, the possibility of long-term damage to Owen’s fitness and ability, the loss of league position and cup competition progress, depreciation of Owen’s four-year contract, and the cost of medical treatment for Owen. The club finally reached a compromise settlement figure with FIFA and the FA. FIFA indicated that the settlement was between £6 million and £7 million. The club, stating that Owen’s wages had “now been paid in full”, stated the overall compensation achieved totalled £10 million.

Clue – one of the mystery players lasted a bit longer than Owens at the 2006 tournament and actually scored a goal, while the other appeared in 1958. Nee cheating mind!

South Africa 2010 saw Jonas Gutierrez start for Argentina in a 1-0 win against a Nigeria team containing a former player, Obafemi Martins, who had left the club the year before. That rascal Diego Maradona was managing the South Americans and played Jonas at right back. He kept his place for the 4-1 win over South Korea but was ‘rested’ in their 3-0 win over Greece. It later transpired that he was, in fact, injured and also missed the 0-4 defeat in the quarter final against Germany.

The last finals at Brazil 2014 saw Mathieu Debuchy and Moussa Sissoko play for France and Cheick Tiote play for Cote d’Ivoire. Tiote started for Cote d’Ivoire in their 1-0 win over Japan, wearing the famous Number Nine shirt – maybe not that famous in Abidjan…Unusually for him, he picked up a booking in their next game, a 1-2 defeat by Colombia and was subbed as another famous centre-forward, Wilfried Bony, came on as the Africans chased the a game they had to win against Greece. Unfortunately they lost 1-2 to a George Samaras penalty in the 93rd minute so Cheick was on his way home. Mathieu Debuchy  started in front of Arsenal’s Bacary Sagna and Sissoko came on as a sub in France’s 3-0 over Honduras in their opening game but both started the next game against  Switzerland which they won 5-2. Sissoko had the distinction of scoring Newcastle’s last goal in a World Cup Final tournament in the 73rd minute. Having qualified, Sagna came in and Debuchy was rested in the 0-0 draw against Ecuador while Sissoko’s reward for his goal was to keep his place in the starting eleven. That Debuchy was France’s first choice right back was demonstrated as he was recalled for the Round of 16 game against Nigeria which Les Bleus won 2-0. Sissoko came on as a sub in the second half. France’s final game was a 0-1 defeat to the eventual winners Germany, but Sissoko didn’t come on making Mathieu Debuchy our last player to compete in the World Cup Finals.

But what about our mystery men? Well, well done if you remembered that Craig Moore, a centre half signed on a free from Borussia Mönchengladbach, was on our books when he played for Australia at the 2006 World Cup including a 3-1 win over Japan. He was subbed in that game and his next against Brazil which the Socceroos lost 1-2. He actually scored a penalty in the 2-2 draw against Croatia which took them into the round of 16 which they lost 0-1 to Italy. Moore was released by Newcastle after an injury hit two seasons and moved to his hometown club Queensland Roar in the Australian A-League. I can just about remember Moore playing but I have no recollection of our other mystery player who played in the 1958 World Cup tournament for Northern Ireland in Sweden. Nicknamed ‘Cast Iron’ because of his robust approach in midfield, this player joined Newcastle in 1951 and played in the 1955 Cup Final against Man City.

He left the club after the 1958 World Cup Finals where he represented Northern Ireland in their 2-2 draw against West Germany and their losing quarter-final against France. Take a bow, Tommy Casey, international man of mystery!