The Great War was seven months away the last time a Newcastle United team conceded five goals at home in the FA Cup. Ninety-three years later and there is fresh conflict looming in the chill Tyneside air. If a series of brave but flawed performances by a team heavily reliant on inexperienced youngsters had served to paper over the cracks at St James' Park, this embarrassing capitulation at the hands of lower-League opposition brutally exposed familiar weaknesses.
Newcastle, in all honesty, were fortunate to escape a humiliating defeat at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday but on this occasion the club's Republic of Ireland international goalkeeper, Shay Given, the hero of the hour at White Hart Lane, was powerless to prevent a rout. United's manager, Glenn Roeder, must now act swiftly and decisively in the transfer market in order to ensure a painful defeat does not infect his squad with potentially crippling self-doubt and endanger the Magpies' Premiership status.
Incredibly, the margin of victory in Birmingham's favour did not flatter Steve Bruce's inventive charges and had City displayed a more ruthless streak before half-time then Sheffield United's 5-0 FA Cup victory at St James' in January 1914 would have been eclipsed.
The striker Gary McSheffrey's 16th goal of the season gave the visitors a fifth-minute lead and when the Newcastle defender Nolberto Solano slid the ball past his own goalkeeper on the stroke of half-time, a two-goal advantage was the least the visitors deserved.
Had D J Campbell and Cameron Jerome shown more composure in between, a woeful United team would have been staring at a damning deficit before the interval.
"My players have enjoyed performing in front of a national audience and we ran out worthy winners," said Bruce, who was born 25 miles north of St James' in the Northumberland town of Corbridge. "Not in my wildest dreams did I think that we would come here and beat Newcastle 5-1 in their own backyard."
For the Bruce clan this result was more of a nightmare. "I am a Geordie and when I think of my mam and dad, and my mother-in-law and my father-in-law, I know I'll be in for a tough time in the next few days," he added.
A fierce drive by the midfielder James Milner 11 minutes after the re-start offered a lethargic Newcastle side brief hope, but seconds later the England Under-21 international defender Steven Taylor was dismissed by the referee, Peter Walton, for hauling down the advancing Campbell on the edge of United's goalmouth.
Sebastian Larsson's free-kick ricocheted into the path of the defender Bruno N'Gotty and with an unexpected flash of the Frenchman's right boot, Birmingham's two-goal advantage was restored.
Larsson, the Swedish midfielder on loan from Arsenal, and the ever diligent Campbell completed the rout in the final seven minutes and a chastened Roeder appeared genuinely embarrassed to have played a part in one of the most crippling defeats in Newcastle's proud history.
"We didn't start and we didn't finish," he conceded. "It's unacceptable. I can only apologise. That's the least I can do. Nobody was hurting as much as me but I'm a big boy and I will take it on the chin. I will come out fighting. I know the players will come out fighting too."
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Solano, S Taylor, Ramage, Huntington; Milner, Butt, Dyer, Pattison (O'Brien, 57); Sibierski (Carroll, 80), Martins. Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Edgar, LuaLua.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; N'Gotty, Martin Taylor, Upson, Sadler; Larsson (Danns, 86), Johnson, Muamba (Nafti, 82), McSheffrey (Kilkenny, 88); Jerome, Campbell. Substitutes not used: Doyle (gk), Gray.
Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire)Reuse content