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GOSFORTH FOOTBALL CLUB was formed in 1877, playing in the green and white hoops of Durham School as many members were ex-pupils. In the early days the club led a nomadic existence hence the name Gosforth Nomads which was adopted in the 1890’s through the early 1900’s and which in recent times was the name given to the Veteran’s XV.
For many years Gosforth shared the Northumberland County Ground (which has now been replaced by a supermarket!) with Northern Rugby Club until, in 1951, land was bought next to the Great North Road. The club chairman, Leslie Baty laid the foundation stone in 1954 and in September 1955 Joe Brunton, President of the RFU, opened the ground and clubhouse. The New Ground, as it was called, was to be Gosforth’s home for the next 35 years.
In the early 1900’s Gosforth held junior club status and were raised to senior status in 1906 by winning the Northumberland and Durham Second Teams Competition. During the early part of the 20th century Gosforth did not enjoy much success although the County Cup Competitions were the only trophies at stake. Percy Park & Rockcliff dominated the Northumberland Senior Cup with the odd success by Northern, Tynedale and Seghill and it was not until 1928 that Gosforth won the cup beating Percy Park 5-3 in the final. Despite further final appearances in 1932, 1936, 1950 and 1951, a second cup win was not forthcoming until 1956 when a side containing brothers Doug, Johnnie & Norman Smith beat Northern 6-3. Although Gosforth lost the 1957 final they were about to make the cup their own. In the 35 years from 1960 to 1994, the cup was won 27 times and shared once.
In the late 1950’s Gosforth were joined by Arthur Smith, who captained Scotland and the 1962 British Lions and in the early 60’s by Irish International Ray McLoughlin who toured with the Lions in 1966 and 1971. It must be remembered that there were no national leagues or cups at this time but Gosforth’s ability not only to attract international players but also fixtures against the major national sides of the times such as Coventry, Blackheath, Rosslyn Park, Harlequins and Richmond meant the club was developing a national reputation. In 1971-72, Gosforth won the Sunday Telegraph Northern Merit Table for the first time and then the John Player Cup in 1975/76, retaining it the following season.
During the 70’s players were provided to the County sides of Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Cumberland & Westmoreland (as Cumbria was then known) and Notts, Lincs & Derby as well as North East Counties (against South Africa and New Zealand), North of England, England (Roger Uttley, Malcolm Young, Peter Dixon and Dave Robinson), Scotland (Duncan Madsen) and the British Lions (Uttley & Dixon).
A further John Player cup final appearance came in 1980/81 but Gosforth lost 15-22 to Leicester. Steve Bainbridge won England and Lions caps during the 1980’s and Colin White also gained caps for England while Richard Breakey & Jim Pollock played for Scotland. In 1985/86 season National Merit Tables (the forerunners of leagues) came into being and Gosforth were in Division A. Unfortunately, relegation at the end of that first season meant that when league rugby finally arrived in 1987/88, Gosforth started in Division 2.
The end of the 1980’s saw the decision to sell the New Ground and re-locate to Kingston Park. The decision was based on financial considerations but almost cost the club dearly in playing terms as Gosforth finished bottom of Division 2 having to play all their homes games away at Percy Park, while Kingston Park was built. Fortunately, due to re-organisation of the leagues, relegation was averted. RFU President, Mike Pearey, an ex-player at Gosforth, officially opened the Kingston Park ground in September 1990, which was followed by a match against an England XV captained by Will Carling and bound for the World Cup final the following year. Another former player and coach, Mike Mahoney, was appointed the newly named Newcastle Gosforth’s first Director of Rugby and in a brand new facility a determined attempt was made to secure promotion to Division 1 (now the Premiership) of the National Leagues. In 1992/93, this was attained but success was short-lived as Newcastle Gosforth was relegated the following season. A youthful Martin Corry who later captained England served his apprenticeship in the Club as did Garath Archer, while Paddy Johns of Ireland played for a brief period.