Is The Grass Ever Greener When Players Leave Newcastle United?
Newcastle United used to be a selling club: the likes of Peter Beardsley, Paul Gascoigne and Chris Waddle spring to mind as supremely talented Geordies who most Newcastle fans themselves can say in all truth and in retrospect, moved on in order to further their careers. This was an immense fact of frustration for Newcastle fans as they were not getting to reap the rewards for the talent that the club and indeed the city had produced.
A solution came in the form of Kevin Keegan who revitalised Newcastle, bringing a stop to the exodus of talent and brought Newcastle all so close to the Premiership title in the process. This past season there have been hideously clear examples of players who have asked to leave Newcastle only for them to have poorer seasons elsewhere, such as Jose Enrique at Liverpool who finished 8th and comically ended up in goal upon his return to St.James’, Joey Barton at QPR who barely survived relegation and ended the season is sadly familiar fashion: a disgrace, and of course the most widely publicised failure of £35million Andy Carroll who has struggled to perform at Liverpool.
As well as these however, throughout the last decade in the Premiership there have been other examples of talented players who left Newcastle for so-called ‘bigger clubs’ and to apparently ‘progress’ their career, all of which I would argue have one thing in common: they have not found the grass greener.
Craig Bellamy – He was and still is a marvellous footballer but has one major flaw, his mouth. In truth Bellamy never really wanted to leave Newcastle and was forced out by Graeme Souness. A player full of pace and energy and the ideal complement to Alan Shearer upfront during Bobby Robson’s successful reign, Bellamy moved to Blackburn in January 2005 where he performed admirably but finished largely in mid-table before securing what looked like a big step forward moving to Liverpool. However, he was regarded as a failure here and subsequently signed for West Ham with his tail between his legs and ego bruised, to contest for more mid-table mediocrity as well as being ravaged by injuries. A re-uniting with Mark Hughes followed at Man.City for the well travelled Bellamy, however Hughes’ successor Roberto Mancini, the current Man.City boss, did not see eye-to-eye with Bellamy and let him go on a free to Liverpool in the summer of 2011,as his career has hopelessly fizzled out. In the twilight of his career now, Bellamy has never lived up to his performances in the Black and White which won him the PFA Young Player of the Year award in 2002.
Jermaine Jenas -Another young talent who excelled under Bobby Robson, unlike Bellamy however, forced his way out of Newcastle with the infamous comment that living in Newcastle was like, “living in a goldfish bowl”. Spurs was Jenas’ next destination in 2005, where he never quite lived up to his obvious potential demonstrated at Newcastle. A box-to-box midfielder who scored regularly for Newcastle in the Premiership, since then it is hard to recall hearing of Jenas too much, and he ended up plying his trade at Aston Villa last season where he was embroiled in a relegation battle: indicative of his fall from grace since his time at St.James’ Park.
Nobby Solano – While some Newcastle fans may be surprised to see Nobby on this list it is true that under Bobby Robson, Nobby forced his way to Aston Villa in January 2004, unhappy with the playing time he was getting at St.James’. Things didn’t work out for Nobby at Villa Park however and just a year and a half later, Nobby came back to Newcastle to remain a firm fans’ favourite, realising his initial mistake.
Olivier Bernard – A young, vibrant full back who flourished under Bobby Robson, demonstrating admirable attributes both in defence and as an attacking quantity. After Robson’s departure, unreasonable wage demands and a disliking of Graeme Souness led to Bernard moving on to Southampton in January 2005. Here, Bernard experienced relegation and was then signed by Rangers. Only 9 appearances later however, Bernard parted ways with the Glasgow club and in 2006 Bernard arrived back at Newcastle to try and resurrect his career. By now however Bernard was a shadow of the player he had been and struggling for fitness and form he didn’t make an appearance for Newcastle in his second spell. At the age of just 28 Bernard was forced to retire from football as a result of a chronic hip problem. Still living in Newcastle, Bernard himself confesses that he should never have left in the first place and it is unfortunate the way his career has transpired after a promising start.
Kieron Dyer – another player to play his greatest football at St.James’. A career ravaged by injuries and unfulfilled potential, Dyer seemed to be fed up with life on Tyneside and requested a move in the summer of 2007 to West Ham. Since then, Dyer has barely played, making an astonishingly meagre 31 premiership appearances in five full seasons since his departure. Without question Dyer has never lived up to his potential or performed anywhere near to what he did at Newcastle.
Jonathan Woodgate – An international class centre-half who joined for £9millon in January 2003, Woodgate was a skilful and commanding defender who shocked all United fans with his move to Real Madrid for £13million in the summer of 2004, just a year and a half after signing for the Magpies. The bright lights of the Bernabéu had caught Woodgate’s eye, however persistent injuries and a horrific debut in which he scored an own goal and was sent off, illustrated that all was not well. After just 9 appearances in three years over in Spain, Woodgate returned to England well and truly back down to earth with neighbouring Middlesbrough, from which his career has never recovered. He is currently the fourth choice centre-half at Stoke City, showing the depth of his demise.
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