One of those football teaser questions was thrown at me over the weekend; could I name all six of the Newcastle United strikers to wear the legendary number 9 shirt in the Premier League era?
I’d imagine most Toon fans worth their salt could reel off messrs Cole, Ferdinand, Shearer, Martins, Carroll and Cisse pretty quickly, but it got me thinking about how I’d rank them.
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No surprises on who is first..
Bringing up the rear has to be the freakishly speedy Obafemi Martins. I didn’t ever really go mad for him; he gave us a few memorable moments, most spectacular of which surely has to be that absolute raker during a brilliant victory at White Hart Lane.
Considering the rather illustrious company in which he finds himself on this list, however, he just didn’t have enough of an impact over a long enough period to take anything other than 6th place. Great backflips like.
The other Geordie number 9, aside from the obvious, is up next.
The division in the fanbase on Andy Carroll still fascinates me; some yearn for him to come back home and finish what he started in that shirt so promisingly, and others still spit that ‘Judas’ can rot in Kevin Nolan’s basement for the rest of his days as far as they’re concerned.
We’ll most likely never really know what went down on that fateful deadline day in January 2011, but either way, it’s pretty difficult to assess just how happy the marriage could have been.
Undoubtedly gifted and a much better footballer than people give him credit for – I hate the lazy ‘big man’ commentary around him – he did seem to wear the shirt without too much anxiety and could potentially have gone on to great things in black and white.
We never really had long enough with him for him to be spoken about with any of the reverence afforded to some of the icons on this list, but who knows – a reconciliation could still be on the cards at some point.
Toon fans won’t forget their introduction to Papiss Demba Cisse any time soon. The reception our brand new number 9 got when he made his entrance against Villa in February 2012 still gives me goosebumps, and to then smash in the winner at the Gallowgate end was just plain special.
His subsequent outrageous run of eye-catching strikes drew admiring glances from football fans everywhere, and I personally still watch THAT mind-bending hit against Chelsea about once a week. What was so exciting about Cisse during that period was that he could seemingly do it all, effortlessly: skillful, precision chips, perfectly angled headers, stunning half volleys and instinctive poacher’s conversions.
Everything he touched turned to gold…and then Demba Ba threw his toys out of the pram after the magnificent 5th place finish during the summer of 2012, and Pardew unceremoniously shunted our sparkling, in-form number 9 out wide.
The goals and the touch dried up, and he never really recovered that season. Cisse is a through-the-middle striker all day long, and asking him to operate wide of a forward 3 was the first poor call of a catastrophic campaign all round.
Ba predictably sacked us off in the January anyway, and we were left with a confidence-shorn shell of the white hot goal machine of the previous season. Since then, it’s been a rather bi-polar picture from wor Papiss; when he’s not fit and short on confidence, he couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo, but he’s saved us from almost certain relegation on two occasions now.
For me, it’s probably time for him to move on, but whoever does entice him away from St James Park will be getting a natural finisher and a proven goalscorer.
He’s given us some incredible moments – remember his reaction after the last-gasp winner against Anzhi? – and for that, I’ll always have a soft spot for that Geordie boy from Senegal.
He gets the ball, he scores a goal, Andy, Andy Cole.
I’m sure wiser folks than I would argue that he should be one spot higher on this list, but I’ll be honest – I adore Les Ferdinand so unconditionally that personal bias has very much gotten in the way of objective fact here.
My memories of Cole are just goals, goals and more goals. Unstoppable confidence and certain knowledge that when he had the merest of glimpses of goal, it was pretty much flying in.
A slight criticism of his approach – both by us and Man United fans – has always been his selfishness in front of goal; personally I don’t mind this. Ruthlessness and singlemindedness is a trait I like to see in my strikers, and his unswerving desire to net at every opportunity certainly didn’t harm his stats.
The numbers speak for themselves: 41 goals in a season is just ridiculous irrespective of league or era, and sitting behind Sir Alan of Shearer on the all time Premier League goal chart is not to be sniffed at.
His goals transport Toon fans back to a heady period where we stormed in from the old First Division and basically pulled the Premier League’s pants down, and it was bloody brilliant. He was an integral part of something special, and his departure to the open arms of Fergie still hurts, all these years later.
The crowds demanding an explanation from Keegan outside SJP on that miserable January day tell you all you need to know about the esteem the fans held him in. It was devastating.
Aged 11, that was my first taste of the heartbreak that comes with your favourite player and prized asset jumping ship; there were so many tears before bedtime that night. It’s interesting to note that, 20 years later, it seems our blueprint sadly hasn’t evolved much.
SIR LES. Where to begin?
Rarely does a top player who heads off to pastures new inspire such continued affection amongst the fan base. Especially a player who spent just two short seasons banging in the goals to the delight of his adoring audience.
41 goals in 68 appearances is pretty ferocious, and a glorious debut goal to cap off a flawless all round performance doesn’t hurt, either. He really did light up St James’s from the word go; a power house with composure, strength and a deadly eye for goal with either head or feet – what’s not to love?
His partnership with Shearer during the following season will most likely never be seen again. Utterly lethal. The only regret is that his spell with us was so short, but the love-in remains a two-way street to this day.
It’s apparent from his enduring interest in, and comments on the club, that he genuinely appreciates his hero status amongst the Geordie faithful, and he’s one of football’s good guys. Call me sentimental, but I’d take him over Cole any day, who unfortunately just always came off as a bit of a prick.
No surprises here. There’s absolutely nothing I can say about Alan Shearer that hasn’t already been said, so I won’t try.
You don’t need me to tell you how good he was, or remind you of the more spectacular strikes (Volley past Schmeichel, though?! Unreal).
Is he even more special because he’s one of us? Of course he is. He’s one to tell the grandkids about.
Nothing can or will ever tarnish his deity-level status on Tyneside. The man is a legend, in a hyperbolic world where that term is tossed around and attached to players who are nothing of the sort.
Our number 9. Hero.