When Fabricio Coloccini walked through the doors at St. James Park as Mike Ashley’s first big money signing, there was hope. Hope that an Argentine international defender who had also represented the likes of AC Milan and Atletico Madrid could finally steady the shaky ship that is the Newcastle United defence.
The club had a new owner, the messiah had returned and we would welcome a host of new players over the summer; could the sleeping giant of English football finally be woken?
We all know what happened next, of course not, in fact we got relegated. Falling into a deeper sleep/coma and creating a serious divide between our ever suffering fan base and the silent regime.
With all the major setbacks off the pitch, it was no surprise to see the events on the pitch suffering too, with a leaky defence being a big factor. So leaky was it that a stunning Man of the Match performance by Shay Given against Liverpool still saw him concede five goals (and hand in a transfer request straight after the final whistle). Coloccini sat at the heart of this defence, bullied by Premiership strikers who pushed their way through the generous space left by the curly-haired Argentine defender week in week out.
I was at Villa Park on that fateful day in 2009, one of the first players down the tunnel at full-time was Coloccini, no acknowledgement to the fans that still cheered their Championship-bound team. ‘Good riddance’ I thought, ‘he’ll be one of the first ones out the door’. How wrong I was.
He stayed, and thrived in England’s second tier. Which players will follow the transition this time around still remains to be seen, but as we see yet another one of our heroes in Andros Townsend sign for Pardew’s Palace after 13 appearances in black and white, it shows it’s best not to get too attached.
I was also at the Cardiff City Stadium, when Coloccini scored his first goal for Newcastle in a 1-0 away win. Most of the away section had to rub their eyes a couple of times when the name of the goal scorer appeared on the scoreboard. He was solid that day and there was a change of mood amongst the support; the man once dubbed ‘Sideshow Bob’ was gaining credibility as the stylish centre-half that we’d be longing for.
He kept up his form following promotion and his performances in that freak season where we finished fifth weren’t far off phenomenal. His peers were equally as impressed; naming him in the PFA Team of the Year for 2012, the year after he received the North-East writer’s player of the year award.
The nervous looking defender that was once bullied by strikers was now a rock in the back and our club captain. As the chant goes, most residents of Newcastle Upon-Tyne, would have let him ‘shag their wives’. So how has it ended like this?
A recent poll in the Chronicle showed 94% of fans said they wanted him gone, he’s been linked with his childhood team San Lorenzo for years, and now he is set to be on his way back to Buenos Aires.
Let’s face it, we’re an emotional club. The fans turn up in their numbers week in week out and the returns over the past few seasons have been minimal from the playing staff. Most of the passionate fan base would give up everything they own to get five minutes in front of the Gallowgate, that’s why it hurts when the likes of Sissoko attempt to sell themselves out on national television to other clubs.
It hurts even more when they’ve connected with the fans, we had it with Andy Carroll and now we’ve had it with Coloccini and to a smaller extent with Andros Townsend.
He (Coloccini) stayed and fought for the cause when others deserted, we lost our Premier League status and many looked for a new pay day away from Tyneside. Colo showed passion, and just when it looked like he had peaked, the bombshell dropped, he wanted to go back to Argentina. The request to leave the Toon (January 2013) hurt us, a man serenaded by the thousands, given a second chance by the Geordie faithful, it would never be the same.
Lack of form and numerous injuries saw him fall from grace as we’ve flirted with the idea of relegation since that famous fifth finish.
As Coloccini prepares to pack his bags and leave Tyneside, many will be glad to see the back of him. Personally, yes I believe the time is right for him to go, but you know what? Given the speed at which players come and go these days, he’s spent eight long years here, and for that I thank him.
We’ve had good times and bad, but he’s not leaving us for a rival or a bigger pay day, he’s leaving us for the club he supported as a child.
Best of luck Colo.
You can follow the author on Twitter @SYoungLopez.