The 18th February 1984 saw Manchester City attract a crowd of 41,767 in the Second Division for the visit of Newcastle United. The attendance was the biggest of the day (see image above to compare with Arsenal for example). It was also City’s and the division’s second biggest crowd of the season (the division’s highest was 41,862 for City v Sheffield Wednesday). It’s worth stating that the highest average League crowd of the season was 42,534 (Manchester United) and the next best was Liverpool with 31,974.
City’s average was the sixth highest in the entire League at 25,604 while fellow Second Division side Newcastle were the third best supported team that season with 29,811.
The Blues had been relegated the previous May (it was a shock relegation!) but with three automatic promotion places available City felt certain they could achieve an immediate return. Unfortunately, they did not account for the role Kevin Keegan would play in Newcastle’s fortunes. Newcastle had been struggling to make an impact since relegation in 1978, but then Keegan returned as a player and the whole place seemed revitalised (part of the reason Newcastle’s crowds were their best for six seasons), indeed he had helped the Geordies achieve a 5-0 thrashing of City in October.
City boss Billy McNeill later admitted: “There are few players that I have greater respect for than Keegan and this time, I’m referring only to his ability on the pitch, he was the heart and soul of Newcastle. It’s a terrible thing to admit, but every time I read that Kevin had an injury I hoped it would keep him out of the Newcastle side for a game or two. Usually it didn’t and I was glad in the end because I have such a high regard for him. He was certainly the difference between City and Newcastle. They had Keegan’s inspirational qualities and we didn’t.”
By 11th February City and Newcastle were level on points with the Blues in third place, and Newcastle fourth with a game in hand. Above them lay Chelsea and Sheffield Wednesday. The four sides were termed the ‘Big Four’ by the media who regularly chose to feature games from the Second above those in the First. As always Liverpool seemed destined to win the Championship and so much attention turned to the glamour clubs of the Second, especially Newcastle with the charismatic Keegan.
On 18th February came the vital Maine Road clash between the ‘Jocks’ and the Geordies. A win would put City six points ahead of Newcastle, yet defeat would put the two sides level with Keegan’s men also having a game in hand. The crowd saw Steve Kinsey score but fine goals from Beardsley and Keegan gave Newcastle a 2-1 victory. It also gave the Geordies the advantage.
Here’s film of the game (poor quality but well worth watching for Steve Kinsey’s lobbed City goal):
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