A Fine Mess We've Got Ourselves Inter: Newcastle United's Intertoto Cup Adventure

Some say Newcastle haven't won a major honour since 1955. But are they wrong?
07:00, 31 Jan 2023

Suffice to say it’s been a while since Newcastle United won a trophy. As the Magpies prepare to contest the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final and book a first Wembley appearance since 1999, it feels appropriate to look back at their last cup triumph. But this lineage is more muddy than it would seem.

So when was Newcastle’s last competition win? Well it all depends on what you consider a worthy competition. The Tyneside club lifted the Championship in both 2010 and 2017 but few count it due to its second-tier nature. Their most recent success in a still-active top flight competition came when they lifted the 1955 FA Cup. However, while this is commonly cited by both fans and press as their last silverware, technically they have won a number of now-defunct competitions more recently.


The Inter-Cities Fairs Cup may no longer be active, but it is considered the precursor to the UEFA Cup, which later became the Europa League. Newcastle lifted the Fairs Cup in 1969, a good 14 years after their supposed last trophy. But the trophies don’t stop there. The Magpies also picked up the 1974 Anglo-Italian Cup, a fairly self-explanatory bauble that intermittently pitted English sides against those from Serie A. Newcastle also picked up back-to-back Texaco Cups during the mid-70s, a trinket designed for English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh clubs not participating in European competition.

There is one equally dubious but far more recent honour that could be argued as Newcastle’s most recent title. The 2006 Intertoto Cup. Football’s ultimate web of contradictions, the now-defunct summer club competition did not make a lick of sense.  

It crowned up to eleven champions at once, with the competition consisting of a series of two-legged ties with no final. It had the word “cup” in its title and yet the prize was a certificate in a cheap perspex frame. It had the word “Toto” in the title and yet completely neglected to make soft-rock mega-hit Africa its official theme song. In short, the Intertoto Cup was a competition like no other.

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But was it a competition at all? UEFA certainly thought so. While the competition had existed since 1961, the European governing body took the reins in 1995 and put qualification for the UEFA Cup on the line. However, the fact participation for the Intertoto Cup itself was decided via application erodes the idea of it as a genuine competition. Teams were invited to apply for qualification, with the successful applicants being chosen based on league placing in their country. 

While the quality of this “cup” can be questioned, and the lack of a trophy in particular has been oft-mocked, what cannot be denied is that Newcastle won it. They welcomed Norway’s Lillestrom to St James’ Park in the first leg for a 1-1 draw, with Albert Luque scoring the equaliser. The away leg played out in front of a crowd of around 9,000 and featured two goals from Shola Ameobi and an Emre Belozoglu strike to seal a 3-1 win. 

But Newcastle weren’t outright Intertoto Cup winners just yet. At this point they were just one of eleven winners. Their supremacy as the winner among winners was sealed when they went the furthest in the following year’s UEFA Cup, in which they reached the last 16. A tournament decided by how you do in a completely different tournament? So far, so Intertoto.

If you subscribe to the fact its UEFA sanctioning and European qualification places make it an official tournament, then Newcastle’s trophy drought is overstated. The likes of Everton, West Ham United and Leeds United have gone longer without top flight silverware. But the counterpoint here is that the Intertoto Cup is not exactly silverware. It’s a certificate awarded for a competition that you apply for and that you win alongside a load of other teams.

Ultimately, Newcastle fans are looking forward rather than back. At this point, they have their eyes on the next trophy rather than the last. A Wembley date beckons, if they can get past Southampton at St James’ Park on Tuesday. Finals don’t come along very often for the Magpies but their passionate fanbase will be hoping Wembley visits become the new norm.

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