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Mercantile Tournament 
Wembley Stadium, Saturday 16th April 1988 

One of the most peculiar things involving NUFC we've ever witnessed took place during April 1988, when the entire league fixture programme was suspended to allow a sixteen team, two day tournament to be staged at Wembley Stadium for the purposes of celebrating 100 years of the Football League.

Qualification for the Mercantile Credit Football Festival was based on league performance over a portion of the season and brought the following 16 teams to the event (NB: a separate knockout competition, the Mercantile Credit Centenary Trophy took place throughout the season and involved NUFC): 
Division One (8): Everton, Liverpool, Luton Town, Manchester United, Newcastle, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday, Wimbledon.
Division Two (4): Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Crystal Palace, Leeds United. 
Division Three (2): mackems, Wigan Athletic.
Division Four (2): Tranmere Rovers, Wolves.

Eight First Round games were played on the Saturday, followed by four Quarter Final ties, all of 40 minutes duration and settled by a penalty shootout that perhaps uniquely, started at the sudden death phase.

The draw was structured to mean that ourselves and the mackems could only meet in the final, but that still meant that both sets of fans - and those of the 14 other clubs - were still in the stadium. 

From memory, there was no crowd trouble inside (although scuffles outside involving Wolves before the first game) and over the course of the Saturday afternoon, various bizarre alliances were formed (eg NUFC and LUFC fans congregating in one standing section and singing, "there's only two United's."


Day One of the Football League Centenary Tournament and United were the second game of the day, kicking off at 10.50am and having sold 2,300 tickets for the event (seats and standing).

After a goalless draw, the tie went straight to a sudden death penalty shootout. Goalkeeper Gary Kelly's outstretched boot denied Steve McMahon before Neil McDonald sent future Magpie custodian Mike Hooper the wrong way to put United through.

NUFC: Kelly, McDonald, Tinnion, McCreery (Stephenson 25), Anderson, Roeder, Mirandinha, Gascoigne, Goddard, O'Neill, Wharton. Subs n/u: tbc

LFC: Hooper, Gillespie, Ablett, Nicol, Watson, Aldridge (Durnin 23), Aldridge, Barnes (Beardsley 39), McMahon, Macdonald, Staunton. Sub n/u: Hansen.

Referee: David Axcell (Southend)

Goals: None

Crowd: 27,000 


At 1.20pm, Newcastle played another 40 minute match, a Quarter Final against fourth tier opposition.  

They deservedly lost, with Rovers custodian Eric Nixon denying Neil McDonald from the penalty spot in the second half after a handball offence.

NUFC: Kelly, McDonald, Tinnion, Anderson, Roeder, Mirandinha, Gascoigne, Goddard, O'Neill, Wharton, Stephenson (Cornwell 20). Subs n/u: tbc

TRFC: Nixon, Higgins, McCarrick, Martindale, Moore, Vickers, Morrissey, Harvey, Steel, Muir (Bishop 35), Mungall. Subs n/u: tbc

Referee: Brian Hill (Kettering)

Goals: Morrissey 6, Muir 17pen

Crowd: 27,000 

PS: Newcastle obviously played no part in the conclusion of the tournament on Sunday, when just 17,000 fans were in attendance to see games lengthened to 30 minutes each way.

Nottingham Forest lifted the cup after beating Sheffield Wednesday on penalties following a 0-0 draw. The Tricky Trees had earlier defeated Tranmere on penalties in the semi-finals and included no less than four future Magpies in their winning lineup: Stuart Pearce, Terry Wilson, Franz Carr and Tommy Gaynor.

Forest boss Brian Clough declined to attend the second day.

Tournament results:

First Round - Saturday:
Tranmere Rovers 1 Wimbledon 0
Leeds United 0 Nottingham Forest 3
Luton Town 0 Manchester United 2
Aston Villa 0 Blackburn Rovers 0 (Villa won on pens)
Everton 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 (Everton won on pens)
Crystal Palace 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0 (Wednesday won on pens)
Wigan Athletic 0 mackems 0 (Wigan won on pens)
Liverpool 0 Newcastle 0 (Newcastle won on pens)

Quarter finals - Saturday:
Newcastle United 0 Tranmere Rovers 2
Nottingham Forest 0 Aston Villa 0 (Forest won on penalties)
Everton 0 Manchester United 1
Sheffield Wednesday 1 Wigan Athletic 1 (Wednesday won on pens)

Semi-Finals - Sunday:
Tranmere Rovers 2 Nottingham Forest 2 (Forest won on pens)
Sheffield Wednesday 2 Manchester United 1

Final - Sunday:
Nottingham Forest 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0 (Forest won on pens)


Page last updated 20 July, 2022