Tom Mather arrived at Newcastle United with an excellent reputation
Newcastle United having disappointed in their attempts to return to Division 1 in 1934-35, Andy Cunningham was removed from his post and replaced as manager by the very experienced Tom Mather in June 1935.
Mather joined the club with an excellent reputation, having spent more than 20 years at the helm of Stoke City.
His time at Stoke had seen him make his debut as a young Stanley Matthews, who would go on to become one of the greatest English footballers of all time and lead Stoke from the Football League’s North Third Division to the pinnacle of English football. .
The powers that be at Newcastle were desperate to bring the club back into the top flight and were in awe of Stoke City’s second division title victory in 1932-33, which saw them achieve the most wins in the Football League this season, winning 25. of their 42 games. They had a number of excellent attacking players, including Matthews, but their promotion was based on tight defense, with Mather’s side conceding just 38 league goals that season.
In his first full season at the helm, Tom Mather and Newcastle finished in 8th place and reached the fifth round of the FA Cup. However, the following season, 1935-36, Mather’s methods really began to have a positive impact. Newcastle finished in fourth place and conceded just 56 league goals, their lowest total since the league title-winning season in 1926-27. The team also scored 80 goals with Jack Smith, signed from Huddersfield Town, with 24 goals.
Unfortunately for Mather it was as good as things were going to get during his time at Newcastle United, 1937-38 was almost a complete disaster with the team almost relegated from the Second Division. Despite one of the league’s best defensive records, conceding just two more than the previous season, goals have completely dried up with the team scoring just 51 times, with Bill Imrie and John Park scoring the top scorers. with nine goals each. Mather’s side took a meager 36 points in 42 games and only avoided relegation thanks to a superior goal difference.
Although he narrowly avoided disaster, Mather kept his job for one more season, and things were going much better as the club finished in ninth place in 1938-39. It was the last completed season in English football before the outbreak of World War II.
Tom Mather would step down in September 1939, handing over the reins to Stan Seymour, winner of the League and the FA Cup with the club as a player in the 1920s, Mather having led the club 179 times.
After the war, Mather had short periods as manager of Leicester City and Kilmarnock before retiring and returning to live in Stoke.
(This article is part of a series about the men who have run Newcastle United. You can read previous articles on Frank Watt here and Andy Cunningham here)