How have NUFC fared at the Euros?
Plenty of international footballers have graced the St. James Park with their presence over the years, but just eleven have represented their country at the European Championships whilst on Newcastle United’s books. Only seven of those actually made it onto the field of play during the tournament – and not all were household names during their time on Tyneside.
Malcolm Macdonald famously scored all five in that qualifying win over Cyprus, but England failed to progress to the finals in Yugoslavia, and Supermac would not feature for the Three Lions again.
Kevin Keegan and Terry McDermott were constantly overlooked despite impressing in black and white, while Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne only realised their international potential at Spurs.
Instead, United fans had to wait twenty eight long years to see one of their own at the Euros, and only the most hawk-eyed of supporters would have caught a glimpse of him in Germany.
Peter Beardsley was certainly a recognisable name, starting the first two games of England’s dismal Euro 88 campaign, but Hexham’s proudest son had moved to Liverpool one season prior. Peter was not even the first Geordie to feature at the Championships, depending on where the geographical lines are drawn, preceded by the Charlton brothers (Ashington) and Norman Hunter (Gateshead) in 1968, as well as Seaton Delaval’s Ray Kennedy in the unsuccessful 1980 tournament.
The first serving United player was not a Geordie, however; he wasn’t even an Englishman. For all the sparkle that messrs Keegan, Waddle and Gascoigne brought to United throughout the eighties, that success was underpinned by the resoluteness of an Irish centre-half.
John Anderson was an ever-dependable member of Newcastle’s championship-winning back four; his reward for another solid season was a summer vacation with the Republic of Ireland. Anderson barely removed his tracksuit that summer, watching all of the Green Army’s Group B games – including the historic victory over England – from the substitutes’ bench.
Eight years later, three more Mags would be called up but not called upon by their national sides. Steve Howey and Les Ferdinand remained on the fringes of the England set-up, while Pavel Srnicek’s mixed season was summed up with the Czech Republic – a runner-up without playing a minute of football, playing second fiddle to Sparta Prague’s Petr Kouba.
Not until the turn of the millennium would a Newcastle United player make it across the white line. Fittingly, it was a sheet-metal worker’s son from Gosforth. Alan Shearer’s inspired performances at Euro 96 likely added a couple of million pounds to his transfer fee. By 2000, he was wearing the black and white stripes and the England armband. Two goals in three games – a typically powerful header past Oliver Kahn, and a thumping penalty against Romania – were not enough to prevent England from slipping out of the competition.
Shearer hung up his international boots shortly after England’s premature exit, leaving Kieron Dyer as United’s sole player at Euro 2004. At 23, Kieron’s best years were considered to be ahead of him, but a glittering career for club and country never materialised. He was given just eight meaningless minutes in Coimbra, late relief for Wayne Rooney as the Three Lions cruised to a 3-0 win over Switzerland.
By 2008, Dyer had taken up permanent residence in West Ham’s physio room, and the national team had similarly fallen to pieces under the stewardship of Steve McClaren. As a result, United’s representation at the tournament was entirely continental – and lasted all of four days.
First, diminutive midfielder Emre Belozoglu tore a hamstring after Turkey’s opening defeat. Around the same time, error-prone centre-back David Rozehnal was signing permanent terms with Lazio. He reminded the Biancazzurri of his qualities against the Turks, a late lapse in concentration costing the Czech Republic dearly in the deciding game.
The French Revolution was gathering pace at St. James Park ahead of the next Euros, and two of United’s continental contingent joined Tim Krul in Poland/Ukraine. After an impressive – occasionally breathtaking – season in black and white stripes, Hatem Ben Arfa’s temperament arguably got the better of his talent. Ineffective from the bench and isolated for large parts of the Sweden tie, a blazing post-match row with Blanc prematurely ended his summer.
Yohan Cabaye, however, looked largely at home in his first major international tournament. The playmaker followed up an assured performance against England with a fine low finish against Ukraine before striking the post minutes later. He was sorely missed during the Sweden defeat, and though he was powerless to prevent Spain from marching to yet another victory in the knockout stages, the 26-year-old acquitted himself well throughout.
Up until this week, Cabaye had progressed further in the tournament than any Newcastle United player before him. However, that accolade has since passed to a former Toon teammate.
He might be the least committed, least consistent member of the current squad, but Moussa Sissoko is already the most successful Newcastle United player to have featured at a European Championship.
It’s almost as depressing as a second-round exit to Iceland.
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