Top 10 Best Ever Newcastle Players
I see comments moaning about negative articles but in all honesty, I can’t see where anyone would be able to find a positive story at the moment. It’s grim in Newcastle.
We’ve got a dog on the Tyne. He’s off his leash, muzzle free and tearing apart everything good about our club.
In an effort to try and lift the mood, I have compiled a list of my ten favourite Newcastle players that have performed during my near double decade of support so far.
Let me know in the comments section what you think of my choices and who would make yours, it’ll be interesting to see the opinions of fans that have supported the Toon for double the length of time I have. So, in no particular order…
I began properly supporting Newcastle the year Shearer joined, I had the pleasure of watching a year of Sir Les (with Big Al). I hadn’t experienced the pleasure/pain of the rollercoaster of the ‘So Close’ season.
However, my Mum bought me the ‘So Close’ VHS and it became one of my most watched videos. I must have watched it every month for a year. Every time willing a different outcome. Les Ferdinand was a beast that season. A man that should have stayed many more seasons and scored many more in the black and white stripes. He and Shearer were the greatest goal scoring partnership I ever witnessed as a fan.
Same circumstances as Les. The pair were signed at the start of that triumphant/traumatic season. The Gallic genius was a pleasure to watch. Lethal with both feet, a tricky dribbler and an adept crosser of the ball. His sun set too soon on Tyneside. He and Keith Gillespie should have whipping in the crosses for Big Al and Sir Les for many more years.
Pedro’s legend is waning now that he is an academy coach for a team that produces no young talent pushing for a first team place. Whether this is down to him or not is another issue.
This man had class. A rich man’s Matt Le Tissier; talent in abundance and magic in both feet. Alright, he looked a bit like a Beatle gone wrong, but he really was something special. A player I didn’t experience the first time around. But boy was he something when he returned. The four years of his second stint produced some breathtaking moments and cemented a place in my heart.
Imagine if the first time around we had kept him, Gazza and Waddle and then discovered the talent of Shearer before Southampton had smuggled him away. If we had turned that incredible contingent of Geordies into an earlier version of the class of ’92, the history books may have been very different.
This man bailed us out of more situations than I care to remember. The fact he stuck around for so long when he could’ve easily played Champions League football year in year out was a testament to his character and his love for the club. When he went to Man City I was happy he managed to win something and I’ll never forget the heart wrenching moment on Match of the Day when he wept over the tragic loss of Gary Speed.
I was Newcastle mascot once when I was 10. The day stands out as one of the best of my entire life. We lost 2-0 to West Ham at Upton Park and Ruud Gullit lived up to his first name as he barely spared me a glance. However, Alan Shearer, Shay Given, Laurent Charvet and Nobby Solano were hugely accommodating. I even took penalties with Big Al against Given. One of which I scored (and I refute the evidence that Shay let it in). I worshipped Given growing up and even named my pet goldfish after him. We’ve been blessed with good ‘keepers throughout my years of support but this guy was the best.
This chap would make most Newcastle fans’ top ten list. The likeable Peruvian was a true footballing wizard. I’m fairly sure we signed him from Hogwarts FC. There’s nothing like a returning hero either and I couldn’t have been happier when Solano came back to the Toon after his switch to Villa. There’s not enough of that these days. The state we’re in we should be looking to bring back Demba Ba or Andy Carroll. But no one comes back to Newcastle any more.
His winner against Leeds in a 4-3 fightback, having been 3-1 down, will always stick in the memory. A fine set-piece taker and a footballing intelligence beyond many of his counterparts. When playing football on the courts at school I would call myself NolBillto Solano or Craig Billamy. And that is the best compliment I can pay him. Not that I ever did either of them justice.
If I was pushed to pick my all time favourite Toon players, this guy would be in it. An integral part of the Kevin Keegan regime. The cheeky cockney playmaker lost his way under Ruud Gullit. He was even stripped of his club number and forced to wear the number 37 shirt. Sir Bobby Robson reinvigorated him and he went on to become a true legend. He gave a decade of his career to the Toon and will always be revered in the North East.
This Welshman could have been a future Toon boss if things had ended up differently. I will never forget the moment I heard the tragic news. I was browsing Facebook and saw a status from some girl saying ‘Who is Gary Speed?’ My heart sank. I knew what this meant even before I checked it out. Speedo was a battling midfielder. Having his and Shearer’s aerial presence made us a dangerous side. An unglamorous player but one that I always rated highly. A true loss to the football community.
This will be met by derision by a majority of fans. Everyone remembers that Champions League game when Dyer stuck out a flimsy heel to try and stop the ball passing him on his post. Then there was the fight with Bowyer and the injury list longer than Mike Ashley’s buffet table. But wow could he play. Being a kid and teenager when Dyer was at the club it was very easy to like the guy. His jinking runs, classy finishing and explosive pace made him lethal when fully fit. A lot of time was spent injured but every time he returned I felt positive that he could change a game. He left under a cloud having never really reached his full potential but I will always appreciate the joy he gave me growing up.
Before he signed for us Nolan was one of my favourite non-Newcastle players. I don’t know why really. Something about him appealed to me. Nowhere near as talented as any of the other players in this list but in more recent years he gave me some degree of hope.
A boisterous centre midfielder who seemed to just will the ball into the net half the time. He smashed in loads to help guide us to promotion and then scored vital goals to give us a credible first season back. I was truly shocked at the news he was leaving and I didn’t believe it until the moment I first saw him in a West Ham shirt. Nolan is the only lasting hero that I have loved post Bobby Robson.
Did you think I’d left him out? No chance! Easily my all time favourite player. An absolute machine of a centre forward. I’ve rewatched the ‘Shearer Legend’ and ‘Testimonial’ DVDs several times and I will never lose appreciation for what this guy gave us. He made me believe that we could win something. He gave me pride in the shirt. He made me smile more often than any other person on the planet.
I will never forget the feeling of walking into school after the 5 goals against Sheffield Wednesday. Jumping around my room in a hotel in Dublin after hearing Shearer had scored goal number 201 against Pompey. The bullets against Chelsea and Everton. His hand on my shoulder as I led the team out in that game against West Ham. This list could go on and on. Sir Les and he should have continued banging in goals together for at least two more seasons. More powerful than any defender, a shot that could destroy a tank and a fairly decent knack for penalties.
Record Newcastle scorer, record Premier League scorer, golden boot winner at Euro ’96. Who cares that he won nothing with Newcastle? What’s a few trophies over millions of hearts? In these dark days I can’t see myself holding anyone in as high a regard as I did, and do, Shearer. I thought for a golden, glimmering moment that Andy Carroll could be my man but he walked away when the money came in. Something Shearer refused to do. Number nine on the shirt, number one in our hearts!
You can probably tell I’m a fan of my attacking players by the make-up of this list. Woodgate got close to this list, as would have Colo, but for his occasional grumbles about going home and poor recent form. Players like Laurent Robert, Obafemi Martins, Craig Bellamy, Alan Smith and Demba Ba all made me extremely happy at times in my support but have been kept out by the proper legends.
If I had to pick one from the current squad it would be Hatem Ben Arfa. I absolutely love HBA and just wish Alan Pardew would keel over and let someone with half decent tactics get the most of the mercurial talent. He is the only current player that would get anywhere near this list and chances are he won’t be here come mid-August. Opinion on him is divided but just type ‘Ben Arfa’s best goals’ into Youtube and you’ll all remember just what a hero this guy can be. Let’s hope this crushing Ashley influence is over in the next few years and we can go back to attracting players like the ones in this list and playing the football that made us all proud to support the Toon.
You can follow Billy on Twitter @billymerlin
If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]