Many Newcastle United supporters may never have heard of Malcolm Dix who died yesterday at the age of 79 following a short illness. And yet it is not a wild statement to say that without Malcolm there would have been no ‘Entertainers’ and the whole glorious period of Kevin Keegan’s second coming would never have happened.

He could, in many ways, be seen as the catalyst for the modern day Newcastle United, changing the course of history for the club through his persistence in campaigning against the prevailing acceptance that Newcastle United could not compete at the highest level of football. Malcolm was there before social media but he was a rebel figure amongst supporters who had grown to understand how the ancien régime of the McKeag family and Lord Westwood et al had about as much care and love for Newcastle United as Mike Ashley, though even they provided some fondly remembered bright-spots in the 60s and 70s.

That praetorian blazered old-guard with old-money pretences in the stuffy West Stand imagined themselves as the unquestioned holders of power at Newcastle United. Those on the terraces were simply turnstile fodder whose opinion counted for nothing.

Malcolm Dix was unquestionably a Newcastle United supporter but one with a rebel heart. Malcolm, like many of you reading this refused to accept the thin gruel on offer from the self-styled SJP elite. He recognized the slow catastrophe of the club’s fortunes from the late 50s onwards. An era where old men with vested interests guarded their privileges in the FA’s old boys club as United let a historic honour of hosting games in the 1966 World Cup slip from its grasp due to disputes with the City Council over regeneration of SJP. A position that became so bad, the club took the city crest off the United shirt.

Malcolm was a thorn in the side of the Directors of NUFC in the 1980s, campaigning against the likes of Gordon McKeag, a local solicitor and the Chairman of the Board (who described Newcastle United as “the family silver” and “an interest”), because of the lack of ambition for the club which he always believed should be a force in football.

This was an era where United showed its potential as one of the best supported clubs in the land but simultaneously allowed a manager of great potential in Arthur Cox leave because of a lack of ambition and compounded their error with the sales of a golden Geordie generation of Waddle, Beardsley and Gascoigne. That lack of ambition would propel the club back into the Second Division and ultimately to the brink of relegation to the Third in the early 90s.

Malcolm’s grandfather Walter Dix had been an early pioneer, playing for Newcastle Rangers before buying shares in Newcastle East End, who were becoming the most powerful club in the city and, for a time, took over the Rangers old ground.

These in turn subsequently were transferred into Newcastle United when the East End were renamed following the demise of West End and ended up with Malcolm via his father.

The fight against McKeag’s Board needed someone with shares to take the fight on. Malcolm Dix decided he was that man.  The fight almost ruined him financially but eventually he managed to persuade Sir John Hall to invest some of the money he had made in developing the Metro-centre to revive the football club, languishing at the time in the lower reaches of the old second division, at the same time breaking up the cosy club of shareholders who only seemed interested in the kudos that being a director could bring. Malcolm was pivotal in sparking Hall’s interest in the region’s biggest club. Prior to that, Hall was not known at St James’ Park.

Between them and others such as John Waugh, Alan Rooney and Peter Ratcliffe, they set up The Magpie Group to try to achieve change in the St James’ Park boardroom. It took two years but it changed the club beyond recognition.

Malcolm was also instrumental in setting up the old Newcastle Supporters’ Association (it’s HQ was where the current Tyneside Irish Centre is on Gallowgate) with its own news sheet, “The Supporter”, which presaged the emergence of fanzines and was given away free outside St James’ Park before matches. In that sense the drivel you are currently reading owes a great deal to Malcolm, a visionary from the East End of Newcastle.

After Hall’s takeover he was made a lifetime honorary vice-president of the club he loved and saw the results of his persistence pay off with the arrival of Keegan as manager and the subsequent journey to the upper reaches of the Premier League, playing the best football most have seen in our lifetimes.

Malcolm Dix’s influence was wider than just Newcastle United, however. He was involved in setting up the Newcastle Sports Council (now called Sport Newcastle) supporting sports people and helping them to develop, continuing his involvement for over forty years. Olympic Gold Medalist and still Triple Jump World Record Holder, Jonathan Edwards, was only one recipient of their support. He also worked with Newcastle Gosforth at the beginnings of the professional era of rugby and even managed to find the time to be part of the Tyne Theatre and Opera House Trust.

So when we remember Malcolm Dix we should remember a great Geordie who contributed so much to his city.

I had the honour of meeting him in 2019 and he was characteristically modest about his contribution to the club we see today.

Nevertheless, he made people’s lives richer through his energy and persistence at a time when the club and the city seemed to be stuck in a circle of under-achievement. As Sir John Hall said

“If Malcolm had never fought the first battle we would never have won the war. What Malcolm did not just for the football club but this city must never be forgotten”.

Malcolm had the vision to see what the city and its sporting institutions could and should be.

We all owe him a debt of gratitude.

WALLACE WILSON

 Our condolences to all of Malcolm’s friends and family. 

The next issue of TRUE FAITH (TF159) will be dedicated in his honour!