ONLY football fans of a certain vintage are likely to remember how Newcastle United ended up winning its first, and to this day only, major European trophy despite only finishing tenth in the First Division the previous season.

That was all that was required for the Magpies to qualify for the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup the following season in 1968-69. Hard to believe these days, given how Rafa Benitez’s class of the last couple of years has seen them secure similar finishes.

A foray in Europe couldn't be any further from Newcastle’s minds this summer, as talk of Benitez’s contract and Mike Ashley’s attempts to sell to Sheikh Khaled dictating the June talk on Tyneside. If only it was as exciting as it was some 50 years ago.

June 11, 1969. It remains a day that will never be forgotten in Newcastle, because of the way Bob Moncur got to lift the Fairs Cup under the management of Joe Harvey, having successfully attacked the competition in which they were not expected to do so well in.

“We were the underdogs in every game we played,” said Moncur. “It helped us because we were relaxed and took everything in our stride.”

That was mainly because of Newcastle’s mid-table finish the previous season, which somehow – and nowadays must seem incredible to believe – earned them the right to take on Europe, and succeed.

The Fairs Cup, which morphed in to the UEFA Cup just two seasons after Newcastle’s maiden overseas competition, was an attempt at bringing the continent closer together. Newcastle essentially qualified by being a one-city team, which was a tournament created to celebrate trade fairs as much as football.

It meant Newcastle qualified at the expense of Everton, Arsenal and Tottenham, who all missed out because they finished below Liverpool and Chelsea, who took the places instead from that campaign before in the First Division.

But Newcastle’s fortunate inclusion in the competition should not detract from the achievement of going on to win it. Make no mistake, the standards of opposition and entrants in the competition was high.

That was highlighted by the fact they had to negotiate Feyenoord, who actually went on to win the European Cup the following year, in the first round. There were then further wins over Sporting Lisbon and Real Zaragoza before a quarter-final battle with Vitoria de Setubal.

Victories in all of those teed up the Battle of Britain with Rangers when 70,000 fans watched the goalless first leg at Ibrox, and Newcastle’s 2-0 win at St James’ Park in the return was interrupted twice by Gers supporters invading the pitch. A third, which would have seen the game postponed, never arrived and Newcastle booked their final spot against Ujpest Dozsa to a backdrop of Alsatians and policemen.

Newcastle took command in the first leg against the Hungarians in front of 60,000 at St James’ Park when Moncur scored twice in 11 second half minutes before Jim Scott added the third on May 29, 1969.

Newcastle were in good health but back in Budapest a couple of weeks later on June 11 – 50 years today – Ujpest were desperate to make a fight of it and wanted to try to make their first European adventure end in glory.

For a period at the Megyeri uti Stadion – renamed the Szusza Ferenc Stadion since 2003 - it looked like they might get their wish.

“For 45 minutes they absolutely pulverised us,” former Newcastle defender Frank Clark said. “The goalkeeper, Willie McFaul, was fantastic but we couldn’t get a kick. We were 2-0 down at half-time and it looked like they would go on and win the game comfortably.

“We were all sat there very despondent and Joe Harvey just said ‘listen, all you have to do is score a goal’. We looked at each other, thinking ‘how can we when we can’t get the ball?’ Then we said ‘OK boss’. Anyway, within two minutes Bobby Moncur, who was a defender but had scored twice in the first leg, scored again. It was like pricking a pin into a balloon because that meant they had to get five to get through. They just collapsed. We coasted through the rest of the game and won it 3-2.”

Newcastle’s other two goals came from Preben Arentoft and Alan Foggon who, like the rest of the Newcastle team, benefitted from having a powerful striker like Wyn Davies providing headaches for the defenders.

It was an evening in Hungary that has seen its memories grow stronger with every passing year, with Newcastle fans wondering whether they will ever taste trophy success again.

John Craggs, the back-up right-back during that era to David Craig, played in the two quarter-final ties with Setubal and in the first leg of the semi against Rangers at Ibrox he describes as the “most fiercely contested and intense match” he has ever played.

Craggs told the club website: "I watched the second leg of the final along with some of the other non-playing staff on a bench nearby the dugouts. It was magic. We could all breath huge sighs of relief and that's aside from feeling immensely proud to be part of a team that had won a European trophy at the first time of asking.

"The Ujpest players and staff were very magnanimous in defeat and that was really nice. Would we have been the same? I don't know but I'd like to think we would.

"Bob got the cup from Sir Stanley Rous and the rest of the night was a bit of a blur to be honest. I can remember drinking champagne out of the cup, sat in the changing rooms afterwards, and then going back to the hotel where they'd organised a special 'winners banquet' for us, attended by all the playing staff and the club directors - men like Lord Westwood and Jimmy Rush, who'd accompanied us on the trip.

"The following morning we got a lovely picture taken down by the banks of the Danube before jetting home and starting party number two. We arrived in Newcastle and when we disembarked there were already hundreds of fans on the roof of the airport cheering us on. And then on the bus back to St James' Park through Woolsington, Kenton Bank Foot, Blakelaw, Cowgate and Fenham, there were literally thousands of fans lining the route and cheering us to the hilt; and that was before we even got back inside the ground.

“It was incredible and I can imagine it was just like that when the teams from the 1950s brought the FA Cup home from London - the only difference being theirs was a short bus ride from the station up Grainger Street to Gallowgate.”

What Newcastle supporters, and the city, would give for such a euphoric end to a season now.

Ujpest 2

Newcastle United 3

(Newcastle won 6-2 on aggregate)

Goals: Bene (31, 1-0); Gorocs (44, 2-0); Moncur (46, 2-1); Arentoft (50, 2-2); Foggon (74, 2-3)

Attendance: 37,000

Referee: Joseph Heymann (Switzerland)

UJPEST: Antal Szentmihalyi; Benno Kaposzta, Erno Solymosi, Istvan Bankuti, Erno Nosko, Ede Dunai, Laszlo Fazekas, Janos Gorocs, Ferenc Bene, Antal Dunai, Sandor Zambo.

Coach: Lajos Baroti.

NEWCASTLE: Willie McFaul; David Craig, Frank Clark, Tommy Gibb, Ollie Burton, Bobby Moncur, Jim Scott (Alan Foggon 73), Preben Arentoft, Pop Robson, Wyn Davies, Jackie Sinclair.

Coach: Joe Harvey.

Highlights from Ujpest v Newcastle’s second leg can be seen here: