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How do 2002 Newcastle team compare with 2015?

5 years ago

After yesterday’s article by Jane Clark, which gave what I thought was a decent critique of the Newcastle defence in the wake of Manchester City away, I went into nostalgia mode.

It happens every time we hit a grim and depressing patch (so semi-frequently then) where I and I’m sure other fans, look at seasons gone by and think of how good things were.

Moments of brilliance, games that made you delirious walking back to the bars on a Saturday afternoon, or away from the pub after spending a good 90 minutes with your mates. Genuine matches that you remember what was going on in your life because the football made things seem all that much better. Monday mornings were easier knowing you had enjoyed the weekend- a feel good spirit bouncing into work, win, lose or draw, knowing you’d enjoyed what had happened only hours before. Football does that.

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We all know that we aren’t going to win the league, Champions League qualification an unrealistic target and the Europa League as something to aim for, which we might not achieve, but we can have a right good go at. In and around this are the cups, two competitions that offer an ‘easier’ option than getting any other silverware, even if you class ‘silverware’ as a Europa League spot (I don’t, but it would be a wonderful achievement, as it was in 2012).

At Newcastle we do none of this. That’s not how we roll here. There is plenty pessimism on this site, much deserved because we have an owner running the club with an appalling attitude to football, but a great one for personal wealth. After all, if someone gives you £70m+ with a no strings attached contract to provide a service for it, you’d do the same if you had no emotional connection to the service you’re providing.

Against Manchester City we had a bad match with which to compare the service provided by the two teams. One club has a bad game in every 10, the other has a good game in every 10. The match was always going to be one sided (Jesus Navas and Wilfried Bony cost more than the whole Newcastle United squad and they were on the bench).

Breaking the squad down in no particular order, I’d like to use Jane’s article and my bout of nostalgia to compare squads, Newcastle United squads of 2015 and 2002.

Take Krul, the equal of Shay Given? I think so.

How about Cisse? Alan Shearer maybe? Give him service and he’ll score. Cisse has 10 goals and has been used sparingly.

Jack Colback for Gary Speed? Tough tackling, great engine and chips in with a few goals. You can say that about both.

Perez reads Craig Bellamy. Doesn’t score as often as the main striker, but causes problems and makes pacey, tricky runs.

Sissoko and Kieron Dyer- Not like for like, but their inclusion in the sides make a difference and cause havoc for the opposition.

The next two are merely comparisons. Take Cabella and Obertan with their limitations. And then remember Solano and Robert.

The sight of two balanced wingers in the side always pleases me and with these two, we make up a good solid seven players to make up the starting eleven. Then we come on to the defence.

Are our much maligned back four (Janmaat, Colo, Williamson and Haidara) really worse than Hughes, Dabizas, O’Brien and Elliott? The simple answer is, they are not. They are at least the equal of Calamity Defending 2002.

The difference? In 2002 we were set up for Shearer, Bellamy, Robert etc, to pull us out of the clarts. And they did. Often. And mixed it in the cups. And qualified for the Champions League. And entertained the 50k that turned up. Even if the result wasn’t always what we wanted.

And now?


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