Skip navigation
Crystal palace

      Crystal Palace, Newcastle and one of English football’s greatest shocks


      When Crystal Palace travel to Newcastle United these days, it’s always anyone’s game – but more than a century ago, one side was the biggest in the country and the other was fighting to emerge from non-league. The result? One of English football’s greatest shocks to this day.

      Some context: Newcastle dominated the early 1900s. Of their four league titles to date, three came within a five-year spell at the turn of the century. They were crowned champions in 1905, 1907 and 1909, as well as winning the FA Cup in 1910 – they very nearly became the first side to do the double, losing to Aston Villa in the 1905 FA Cup final.

      Years later, Peter McWilliam – who played at the heart of defence in that first great side – confidently stated: “The Newcastle team of the 1900s would give any modern side a two-goal start and beat them, and furthermore, beat them at a trot."

      He had clearly forgotten an encounter with a plucky side from south London.

      The Glaziers had beaten Rotherham County in the fourth qualifying round, a match played at neutral Stamford Bridge because of a double-booking fiasco – a rugby international was taking place in south London.

      Then, the big draw: away at St James’ Park. The ground was a genuine fortress, with regular crowds approaching 30,000 and an unbeaten home record stretching back more than a year. In the FA Cup itself, they were unbeaten at home for more than a decade, since 1896.

      The papers delighted in Newcastle drawing what was perceived as one of the easiest opponents in the competition, and the form pointed to one obvious result: the Magpies had dropped fewer points than anyone in the First Division, while Palace had only been back playing competitive football for two years in the Southern Division.

      But in football, as is still true today, none of that matters once you cross the white – well, muddy – line.

      If you were to step out of a time machine into a febrile, crowded St James’ Park, a few unfamiliar sights may have greeted you.

      Firstly, there was no away end as such. This mattered little, as there wasn’t really an away following to facilitate. Palace had taken 1,500 fans to Stamford Bridge in the previous round, but the long journey to the North East meant – according to the club’s estimates – just two or three had travelled. Against 28,000 home supporters, it would prove a struggle to make themselves heard.

      The rain trickled down all afternoon, billowing this way and that in the wind and soaking those in the stands.

      The teams emerged into the drizzle, Newcastle in their traditional black and white shirts with blue shorts, Palace in their claret and blue shirts handed down to them by Aston Villa.

      There was some difference in the pedigree of the sides. The hosts fielded 10 full internationals, while Palace had a novel way of saving money: club secretary Jack Robson, a former employee of Middlesbrough, had signed several northern players who failed to make it at his former club. Their family roots in the North East meant they had a place to stay, and the club wasn’t burdened with a bill for accommodation.

      Just four of the side had ever played in the Football League, let alone for their national side.

      Such was the home side’s confidence, that the fans shelved their normal intimidating welcome and applauded the Palace players onto the field – but then things went wrong.

      Starting sloppily, Newcastle gave the ball away time and again and Palace took control, believing they had scored the opener via Dickie Roberts before a controversial offside decision kept the scores level.

      Just before half-time, Horace Astley, the club’s top scorer, skipped around two defenders and unleashed a scorching drive into the back of the net – past Newcastle’s legendary goalkeeper Jimmy Lawrence in goal. Lawrence still holds the record for the most appearances for the club with 496, but this was surely the biggest upset he experienced.

      In the second-half the Newcastle pressure ramped up a notch, and for the final six minutes injury reduced Palace to 10 men. The barrage kept coming, and only Bob Hewitson in the Palace goal prevented a dramatic late equaliser.

      The final whistle confirmed one of the great cup shocks: non-league Palace had beaten champions-elect Newcastle United.

      Quote Icons

      [Palace's win came] to the utter astonishment of the football world.

      The Penny Illustrated Paper

      St James’ Park gave the travelling Glaziers a standing ovation as they left the field, and news of the result was soon being gawped at far and wide. Palace’s win was “to the utter astonishment of the football world,” wrote The Penny Illustrated Paper, while Athletic News added: “[It would] be many a long day before the glorious victory will be forgotten”.

      Legend has it that, while the northern players stayed with their families that night, a depleted squad arrived back in south London long after midnight to be greeted by a crowd of more than 2,000 supporters who celebrated long into the night.

      Quote Icons

      The name Crystal Palace is sufficient to cause trepidation in the minds of Newcastle’s supporters.

      Dundee Evening Telegraph

      The rest of the team returned home the following Monday, with fans gathered in their numbers once again to hoist captain Wilf Innerd on their shoulders and parade him through the streets in adulation.

      Palace would go on to beat Fulham and Brentford to reach the quarter-finals, where they took an early lead against Everton but were pegged back, losing in the replay at Goodison Park. They would not be back in the last eight until 1965.

      After the First World War, Palace drew Newcastle once again in the FA Cup first round, where the memories of 1907 were still raw. “Now the moment for revenge has arrived – after 13 years,” wrote the Dundee Evening Telegraph, “but even yet the name Crystal Palace is sufficient to cause trepidation in the minds of Newcastle’s supporters.”

      More than a century later, the result of that January day in 1907 still lives on as one of English football’s greatest upsets.

      Newcastle: Jimmy Lawrence, Andy McCrombie, Billy McCracken, Alex Gardner, Colin Veitch, Peter McWilliam, Jock Rutherford, Jimmy Howie, Finlay Speedie, Ronald Orr, Bert Gosnell.

      Palace: Bob Hewitson, Matthew Edwards, Archie Needham, Bill Forster, Charles Ryan, Wilf Innerd, Dick Roberts, George Woodger, Horace Astley, Dick Harker, Charlie Wallace.