Newcastle’s away day heyday


Father and son Newcastle United fans dress up for the FA Cup Final, 1910

Away days adventures are among the many joys of being a football fan, and have been since the Victorian era. But how did fans travel to or follow away matches in the days before cars and buses, or TV and radio? This article, originally for The Popular Side, looks at Newcastle’s earliest away days, tied to the release of my new book All With Smiling Faces.

For many of us, an old-fashioned away trip meant a sweaty Armstrong Galley coach journey to somewhere as exotic as Burnden Park. But football fans have been travelling to away matches for the best part of 150 years, by steam train or horse-drawn carriage – and even by boat, while those who didn’t travel waited at home for the results to arrive by telegraph wire or carrier pigeon.

Newcastle United fans have been travelling away since the 1880s, when the club was still known as East End. A root around the archives while researching my book about Newcastle’s early history revealed that newspapers advertised football special trains, and fans subscribed to ‘brake clubs’ to travel by brake carriages. In those days the furthest journey they had to make was to Darlington, but even that was a decent outing at a time when most folk never ventured outside of their home town. Continue reading

All With Smiling Faces media coverage

awsfmediaThe past couple of weeks have seen some excellent media coverage for my new Newcastle United history book All With Smiling Faces. Following a launch event at the Toon Times exhibition at Newcastle’s Discovery Museum, I was interviewed by BBC Radio Newcastle and Premier League TV, and the book was given great spreads and featured on the front pages of both the Chronicle and Journal newspapers. Links to online versions of the articles can be found below. More coverage is lined up, and further details can be found at the website

The forgotten grounds of Newcastle United – The Chronicle
How the fledgling Magpies played at four long-forgotten grounds in the East End of Newcastle

New book by Paul Brown looks at Newcastle United’s golden past – The Journal
Newcastle fan was looking for something to smile about – and ended up writing a book

Why Newcastle United fans are among the most passionate in football – The Chronicle
New book explores the Victorian and Edwardian roots of Newcastle’s huge and fervent fan base

Living North Magazine – September To-Do-List
An alternative look at Newcastle United, All With Smiling Faces focuses on fans in particular.

Total Sport – BBC Radio Newcastle
Author Paul Brown talks about his new Newcastle United book to Simon Pryde and John Anderson

Premier League TV News – Football City: Newcastle
What role did football play in the development of one of England’s major one-club cities?

UPDATE: From one of NUFC’s most famous fans:

History of the magic sponge

fft245The latest issue of FourFourTwo magazine contains a big feature on football injuries, which includes a piece by me on the history of injury treatment and the football trainer’s miraculous magic sponge.

“The magic sponge is one of football’s most familiar artefacts, having being variously applied to players’ bumps and bruises for more than a hundred years. Originally used in boxing and athletics to help relieve pain and reduce swelling, the cold wet sponge became popularly regarded in football as an apparently miraculous cure for virtually any injury. ‘It’s remarkable what that magic sponge can do,” wrote a football reporter in the 1930s. “One dab appears to cure broken legs.'”

Read the full story in the November 2014 issue of FourFourTwo.


All With Smiling Faces

All With Smiling FacesMy new book All With Smiling Faces is out now in paperback and as an eBook. Subtitled How Newcastle became United, 1881-1910, it’s an early history of the club, covering the 30 years from its formation in 1881 to the first FA Cup win in 1910. It pays particular attention to the role of the fans, and explores what it must have been like to support Newcastle in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

The title is taken from the lyrics of Blaydon Races, the Tyneside music hall song that shares its Victorian heritage with Newcastle United and is still sung at St James’ Park today. The cover features an exclusive painting by football artist Paine Proffitt. There’s a dedicated website, featuring more details, images and extracts, at

“How did Newcastle become United? When was the club formed, and where did it play before moving to St James’ Park? Who were the men who built the club, and how did they turn it into the most successful club in the country? What was it like to support Newcastle in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and why has the bond between the club and its fans remained so strong?

All With Smiling Faces takes a wander through Newcastle’s early history to discover how the club came to mean so much to so many. Covering the first 30 years, from its foundation as Stanley FC in 1881 to the triumphant FA Cup win in 1910, the book visits the grounds, meets the players, mingles with the fans, and relives the matches that made Newcastle United.”

All With Smiling Faces is available now from Amazon

Find out more at the website