Colin Veitch (1881-1938) was a versatile and talented football player who captained Newcastle United FC during their Edwardian heyday - that first era of glorious success during which the team won three Football League Championships: 1905, 1907, and 1909. They also won their first FA Cup in 1910 and were FA Cup finalists an incredible five further times between 1905 and 1912. Veitch was capped for England six times.
A unique figure in the history of the game, Veitch was a versatile tactical innovator and Renaissance man, whose life off the pitch was every bit as fascinating as his successful football career.
During his career at Newcastle, Veitch played successfully in almost every position except goalkeeper. A one-time schoolteacher, he introduced the idea of using a blackboard to illustrate and develop tactics diagrams in pre-match planning and post-match analyses.
Along with his team mate Bill McCracken, Veitch developed an offside trap (or "offside bogey" as Colin called it), a defence tactic that was so successful it eventually led to an FA rule change.
Though a self-confessed 'gentleman amateur' before joining Newcastle, Veitch quickly became an outspoken champion of professional players' rights.
A committed socialist, he was a founder member and later chairman of the Association Football Players Union (now the PFA). This would place him at the forefront of many disputes with various club managements, eventually estranging him from both his own club and the FA.
At the height of his career Veitch was asked by a number of political groups to stand for parliament. He modestly declined, preferring to focus his political talents on reforming the game he loved.
After service as an army officer during the First World War, Veitch returned to Newcastle seeking to make a career in management.
Ever the innovator, he founded and coached the Newcastle Swifts, one of the first ever youth development teams of any football club. Unfortunately, the United board preferred the instant results afforded by buying in new players rather than cultivating their own. Before they'd had a chance to prove themselves, the fledgeling Swifts were disbanded in 1926 and Veitch was sacked from the club he'd served for a quarter of a century.
Veitch also began a successful career in sports journalism, writing in the regional and national press and then later broadcasting on the radio. However, he was notoriously outspoken in his criticism of both his former club's performance and the way in which the game was run by the FA and the Football League. In retaliation, Newcastle United barred him altogether from St James's Park in 1929.
Always a keen dramatist, Veitch was a co-founder in 1911 of the People's Theatre, which still flourishes in Newcastle today, nearly a century later.
He became a friend of the playwright Bernard Shaw, appearing in many of the writer's plays such as Candida and Man and Superman.
Veitch was also active in the very early days of radio drama.
Backstage at the People's Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne in June 1936, after a performance of Bernard Shaw's Candida. Shaw is seated (centre), Veitch (in a false beard) is standing, second from the right.
It is a mark of Veitch's lasting influence on the game that his untimely death whilst convalescing in Switzerland in 1938 was marked by a number of glowing obituaries in the national press (obituary from The Times here). Veitch would still be remembered years later, his skills and Newcastle's glory days fondly recalled by both local and national football correspondents.
Click headline above to see obituary from The Guardian, 29th August 1938
Veitch (centre right) represents the Players' Union at a meeting with officials from the Football League.
Veitch's lasting presence within the Players' Union is apparent in the way he was often represented in their magazine. The masthead above from 1912 heads a page of the latest news from the Union committee; Veitch is clearly represented as the third figure from the left. On the front cover of the April 1924 edition (right), he is the player on the right wearing the black and white stripes of his beloved Newcastle United.
Top 5 in Evening Chronicle's 100 Greatest Geordies 2012!!
It is a sign of Tyneside's enduring respect for the man that in 2012 (over 60 years after his death) Colin Veitch was voted an amazing No.4 in the Evening Chronicle's 100 Greatest Geordies. This placed him above Alan Shearer (No.5)! Click on the Chronicle logo to the right to see the page...
Heaton History Group win campaign to get Veitch a blue plaque!
In 2013, Heaton History Group won a campaign to get Newcastle City Council to place a blue plaque at Colin Veitch's former home in Stratford Villas, Heaton. The plaque was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle on 25th September 2013. Chris Goulding gave a talk on Colin Veitch, The Man who was Superman, to Heaton History Group at 7pm that evening at the Corner House pub.
See a two-page feature from The Journal (2nd Sept. 2013) about Chris Goulding's talk on Colin to Heaton History Group, also a review of the talk from NUFC.com, by clicking on the page images here: