Ayr born centre half Andy Aitken began his football career playing for local Ayrshire sides Annbank in 1892, Ayr Thistle in 1893 and Ayr Parkhouse in 1894. He signed for Second Division Newcastle United in July 1895, making his Football League debut against Loughborough the same September, scoring in a 3-0 victory. His first two seasons were as an inside forward, but when he moved back into the centre half position he immediately helped the club to promotion in 1898, when they finished Second Division runners up, and was a key member of the side as they established themselves in the First Division, captaining the side from 1899 to 1905. He was first capped for Scotland in March 1901 when he played in a 3-2 defeat to England at The Crystal Palace. In total he won 14 caps between then and April 1911, a considerable number for the era.
A genuine stalwart of the club during his time at Newcastle, a period which laid the foundations for and encompassed the first half of their greatest era, he helped them win their first League Championship in 1904-05 as well as appearing in Newcastle’s first two FA Cup Finals, both losses, to Aston Villa in 1905 and to Everton in 1906. However by 1905 he was no longer assured of his first team position, and he left Newcastle United in November 1906 after 41 goals in 349 appearances becoming player-manager at Middlesbrough, where he scored once in 79 appearances through to February 1909. He then took on the player-manager’s role at Leicester Fosse from April 1909 until May 1911, scoring twice in 71 appearances.
He returned to Scotland to finish his playing career with Dundee in 1910 and Kilmarnock in 1912, his career ending in January 1913 with a serious groin injury. He then returned to the north east to manage Gateshead Town.
NB This superb image was published on a postcard published before the FA Cup Final at The Crystal Palace on 15th April 1905, which Newcastle United lost 2-0 to Aston Villa, with both goals scored in either half by Harry Hampton. This was to be the first of four FA Cup Final appearances in 6 years, although they only managed to win it in 1910.
The team line up, from left to right, is:
Back Row – Andy Aitken, Billy McCracken, Bert Gosnell, Jimmy Howie, Jock Rutherford
Middle Row – Andy McCombie, Peter McWilliam, Ronald Orr
Front Row – Jimmy Lawrence, Jack Carr, Colin Veitch
In reality Billy McCracken, who played some of the games in April 1905 and was still a young player, and Ronald Orr didn’t play in the Final, Alec Gardner and Bill Appleyard, both not pictured, played. Regardless, it’s a beautiful image.
A similar postcard of the Aston Villa team was also published.