Coloccini Replacement Lined Up…From The Bench
As a person, it’s probably fair to say I’m a ‘glass half full’ kind of guy. Be this at home, work or with Newcastle United. I’ve struggled for years trying to find excuses and silver linings for players who my fellow fans have, rightly or wrongly, taken issue with (of which there have been many).
The prime example is Shola Ameobi, a player who all too rarely has shown flashes of the promise that caught Sir Bobby’s eye. My main defence of Shola has been the fact he has been at the heart of some of the biggest moments we’ve had during his time at the club, for example he was instrumental in the 5-1 thrashing of the Mackems, he set up Shearer’s record breaking goal against Portsmouth with a nonchalant back-heel, it was his cushioned header that created Shearer’s greatest ever goal against Everton, and he has an impeccable penalty taking record (I know I really am stretching at times with Shola).
Attempted defences for Mr Ameobi aside, it’s one of our more recent acquisitions that has motivated me to write this, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. I was delighted to see Mapou get a start in Coloccini’s absence against Hull. I’ve heard a fair amount of criticism of him at times in my seat in the Gallowgate and from friends in the pub, and just today Montpellier chairman Louis Nicollin has commented on Yanga-Mbiwa’s indifferent start in a Newcastle shirt.
I’ll be the first to admit that Mapou has had some rather poor incidents in a black and white shirt so far, the dithering league cup performance against lowly Morecambe and the inexplicably conceded penalty against Chelsea to name a couple. However, I would argue that Mapou has more class on the ball than any of our defenders, bar a certain curly haired Argentinian, and reads the game better than most of our defensive options too. Not to mention the fact Yanga-Mbiwa was the heart of a championship winning defence in France and has a few full France caps under his belt at the still relatively young age of 24! In fact the only criticisms I’d lay at him are that he is heavy handed in the challenges he makes at times (Samir Nasri would probably agree) and that he doesn’t always look as convincing in the air as he should.
His detractors would probably answer back that his mistakes have cost us points and he has found himself behind former scapegoat Mike Williamson for most of the season. These are accurate statements but it’s from here I lead into my plea for Mapou, not just to the fans (who will read this) but also to the powers that be at the club (who almost certainly won’t read this).
It’s approaching 5 years since the disastrous relegation season in 2008/09, and if you do a bit of googling there was a strong theme in terms of who in our back line was to blame for the soft goals we conceded that year. Was it Habib Beye? No he was still held in high regard from his swashbuckling performances under King Kev. Maybe Steven Taylor? No for all his flaws Taylor gave his all and bled black and white. Perhaps young Sebastien Bassong? Of course not, Bassong was a revelation at the back, the scars of his departure were still fresh on his first return to St. James’ with Spurs 2 years later. According to the media and many of the fans there was only one defender who was clearly to blame. An overpaid flop reportedly raking in anywhere between £50,000 and £80,000 a week, who (to quote one thread from a forum website) the fans had less than affectionately dubbed ‘sideshow Bob’ or less eloquently ‘that curly haired t**t’. That man…. Fabricio Coloccini.
Now hindsight is a wonderful thing, and many of you won’t want to admit that you too were quick to point the finger at Fabricio and his magnificent mane, but the fact is poor Colo took an unbelievable amount of stick for his performances that season. Performances that remind me of those of a certain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
I don’t think there would be too many people that would disagree that Coloccini is probably the best centre-back that Newcastle have had in the Premier League, and I would agree that he had a bit of a shaky start to life in English football. He made rash challenges and didn’t look at all convincing in the air.
Fast forward to the end of the championship season of 2009/10 and Colo was a cult hero, a colossus at the back with probably my favourite player song of all time. Now there is no guarantee that Yanga-Mbiwa will blossom the way Colo did but I think the club and the fans should give him the opportunity. He’s played a grand total of 31 games for Newcastle since his arrival in January 2013, 7 of those from the bench and many more out of his preferred position, never really getting a run in the side.
Compared with 38 appearances in Colo’s first ill-fated season. Mapou needs games and I hope Pardew gives him the chance for the remainder of the season. There have been plenty of top players who have taken time to settle into life in the Premier League. For all the flaws with the current regime at Newcastle they have at least minimised the number of absolute failures in the transfer market; Boumsong, Faye and Owen compared to Colo, Tiote and Ba. There’s no reason to say Yanga-Mbiwa can’t come good if given the chance.
With Coloccini’s future a constant source of speculation, rumours of a desire to return to San Lorenzo persist; we might already have his replacement sat on our bench. Maybe it’s time to take a chance with Mapou and perhaps be a bit forgiving of his adjustment to the Premier League.
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