Irving Nattrass was once described by his manager at Newcastle United, Joe Harvey, as his “very own Paul Madeley, a Rolls-Royce of a footballer”.
Joe went on to say that he couldn’t pay the then young defender a greater compliment than comparing him to Don Revie’s versatile maestro.
Irving, a grammar schoolboy, made a slow start after signing for Newcastle and at one point considered an alternative career as a mechanic.
Everything changed though after he made his first team debut in 1971.
He became the natural successor to the erstwhile David Craig at right-back and just like his mate from Durham, Alan Kennedy, who was vying for Frankie Clark’s position at left-back, he turned out to be an excellent protege.
Irving Nattrass (pictured bottom left) had a fine footballing brain and soon his own versatility saw him slotting into various positions and systems.
Arguably Supermac’s finest ever goal for Newcastle against Leicester at St James’ Park, was a result of Irving Nattrass carrying the ball from the edge of his own 18 yard box and releasing it to Macdonald, who unleashed a 45 yard thunderbolt past the Foxes keeper Mark Wallington.
Irving was in Gordon Lee’s 1976 League Cup Final team that narrowly lost to Manchester City and his future looked as bright as a button.
Unfortunately, he would fall to the same injury curse that had earlier blighted his mentor David Craig’s career.
When Gordon Lee left mid-season to join Everton, Irving was one of a few local players alongside Alan Kennedy and Paul Cannell at Newcastle, who hastily organised an ill-fated meeting with the press calling for the board to appoint Lee’s assistant Richard Dinnis as our next manager.
Player power won the day and despite finishing fifth at the end of that 1976/77 season, that was swiftly followed by disaster. Dinnis soon sacked and replaced by Bill McGarry as Newcastle hurtled towards an inevitable relegation in the following 1977/78 campaign.
The team was almost unrecognisable from two years earlier at Wembley ,as McGarry started to put down his own marker for the Second Division by bringing in his own players.
Kennedy had left for Bob Paisley’s rampant Liverpool for a British record £350,000 for a full-back, Cannell went back to Washington Diplomats after a previous successful loan period and David Craig finally retired.
Injuries were now considerably taking their toll on Nattrass, and a year later when Middlesbrough came in with a whopping £375,000 offer for his services, Newcastle were never likely to refuse. He scored 16 goals in 238 League appearances for Newcastle United.
Irving Nattrass is definitely one of the most cultured defenders I have ever seen play in our famous stripes and if he had stayed injury free, I have no doubt he would have gained full international recognition.
Irving and his wife started what became a chain of women’s clothing stores in 1978 and ran them together after he retired from the game. Now aged 69 he lives in North Tyneside.
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