It was October, 1980 and there were dark clouds above St James' Park.

Newcastle United were at one of their lowest ebbs - stagnating in football's Second Division, playing in a crumbling, half-empty stadium, and with little money in the coffers.

The glory days of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and the adrenalin rush of the Supermac era were long gone.

In the wider world four decades ago, Margaret Thatcher's Tory government had been in power for just over a year; Wallsend-born Sting and his band The Police were number one in the charts with Don't Stand So Close To Me; and, at the cinema, new releases included the horror film, Friday the 13th.

Fallen giants Newcastle United and West Ham United had both seen better days when they met at St James' Park this weekend 40 years ago.

If the final 0-0 scoreline on the day reflected a largely uneventful match, there was plenty of action off the pitch on the terraces. Our images show police moving in to quell trouble on an afternoon rival fans clashed repeatedly.

It was a regular occurrence at St James', and indeed at football league grounds around the country, at the time.

Beginning in the late 1960s and growing in severity during the 1970s and '80s, the problem of football hooliganism was eventually dubbed the 'English disease' as football clubs and the national team itself became the focus for fan disorder.

And there was a knock-on effect. The trouble was helping to drive large numbers of supporters away.

Newcastle United's average league attendance in the 1980-81 season was 16,001 (by far the lowest in modern times) compared to 30,000 a decade earlier.

But it wasn't just a problem at Newcastle, as crowd numbers plummeted at grounds around the country during the 1980s.

At St James' Park, the often volatile atmosphere from the late '60s onwards manifested itself in two major incidents that both made national headlines.

In May 1969, visiting Glasgow Rangers fans rioted inside the ground and caused mayhem across the city as their team lost 2-0 to the Magpies in the semi-final of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.

Police quell crowd trouble at St James' Park during the match between Newcastle United and West Ham, October 4, 1980
Police quell crowd trouble at St James' Park during the match between Newcastle United and West Ham, October 4, 1980

And in March 1974, hundreds of Newcastle fans invaded the pitch during a now infamous FA Cup quarter-final clash with Nottingham Forest.

As the 1980s dawned, new-found hooligan 'firms' had attached themselves to football clubs up and down the country.

The average rank-and-file fan probably hadn't heard of Newcastle's NME (Newcastle Mainline Express - later the Gremlins) or West Ham's Inter City Firm, but they were real and sizeable enough.

Fans who were around at that time might recall how matches between Newcastle and West Ham were often played out amid edgy, intimidating atmospheres at St James' Park, and how rival supporters would have a heavy police escort through the city centre.

In scenes totally unimaginable in the modern-day Premier League match experience (pre-Covid, of course), a petrol bomb had been thrown on the terraces when the two sides met at Gallowgate earlier in the year.

There was no repeat of that during the October 4 match, but it was still a bad-tempered occasion.

A week later, the Chronicle reported how 50 football supporters appeared before Newcastle magistrates, most of them accused of behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace during and after the match. Fines totalling £3,350, and ranging between £100 and £500, were dished out to 15 youths.

Unfortunately it would not be the last time trouble raised its ugly head at St James' Park.

Back on the pitch, where it mattered, in the 1980-81 season, West Ham would be promoted as champions of Division Two, while Newcastle laboured to an 11th-place finish.

It would take the arrival of a certain Kevin Keegan in the summer of 1982 to lift the mood at St James' Park.