Sometimes a person is so ingrained in the club’s DNA that they just matter. There are many people Newcastle can say that for from Kevin Keegan and Jackie Milburn to Malcolm MacDonald by the way of Alan Shearer. There’s one more, though: Joe Harvey, one of the early great stewards of the game in the area.
Harvey’s career started during the period between the wars. He started his career with Edlington Rangers while working as a fitter at a pit brass foundry. By 1936 he was off to Wolverhampton but was farmed out on loan to Bournemouth six months later. Harvey’s time at Wolves was short—they released him in 1938. He was not clubless for long, as Bradford City picked him up.
Then World War Two started, and Joe joined the Royal Artillery, becoming a sergeant in the Army Physical Training Corps, being a soldier during the week, and a player during the weekends. During the War Years, Harvey’s battalion moved around, and he ended up featuring as a guest for a number of clubs including Hatelpools, Aberdeen, and Dundee United. This was a very common thing for soldiers based in the homeland; they would turn out for whatever club was near where the barracks were—Bill Shankly during the War actually guested for Liverpool years before he turned that club around.
Joe did play some matches for Bradford during the War Years, one such match was the opening game of the 1943/44 season against Newcastle United scoring two goals. He was actually the club’s top scorer with 17 goals.
Around this time Harvey was stationed at Fenham Barracks. Stan “Mr. Newcastle United” Seymour asked Harvey to play for United, which because of his obligation to Bradford he could not. By the 1945/46 season, Seymour asked Bradford for their valuation of Harvey and was quoted ten thousand pounds. Apparently, other clubs wanted to take him, that group of organizations including Middlesbrough, Leicester and Blackburn. On October 20th, Newcastle and Bradford agreed to a forty-five hundred pound fee, and Joe was on his way to Tyneside.
There were a bunch of strikes while he was a player. The first was in 1946/47 when he joined Len Shackleton on strike over the quality of accommodations the club provided the players. The club refused to back down, and the players were suspended for a match after giving a public apology. Five years later, Joe’s wife Ida, a formidable woman herself led the wives' rebellion of 1951 over the Wembley seats they had been offered. Hours before the Cup Final, the club directors were told that they would not turn out, unless the seats were changed, and they were. He was also caught up in the scandal of 1952 of illegal distribution of Cup Final tickets. Joe was not charged, but in the eyes of many supporters, he was guilty.
Once at the club, Harvey’s stature grew steadily. In his second match he was made captain and that was a role he went on to hold until the end of his career, making him the longest-serving captain in Newcastle’s history.
Harvey led United to promotion in 1947/48, then two FA Cup Final victories in 1950/51 and 1951/52, also the most successful skipper as well. Joe was hard on his teammates, expecting everyone to play their best, and when they didn’t he would have a go at them.
And while Harvey must not have been the greatest of players, he was a rugged competitor and had great stamina. Oh, and of course, Joe was also known to have a couple of pints of Guinness on the morning of the match. Quite the lad.