Walking over the Redheugh Bridge to the match on Wednesday night I was listening to the Total Sport phone in on Radio Newcastle – I heard Mick Lowes comparing our team that played Reading in the second game of the Championship season of 2009/10 to the team picked this time.
He said it was hard to make a case for more than two or three of the current team being in that 2009 starting eleven.
I think he’s being very unfair to our current players and looking back on 2009 with rose-tinted glasses.
For the record, that team in 2009 v Reading was:
Harper, R Taylor, S Taylor, Coloccini, Enrique, Barton, Smith, Nolan, Gutierrez, Carroll, Ameobi
In order for the comparison to be fair, you need to think back to how you felt about these players back in August 2009 – after our embarrassing relegation, the pre-season embarrassment at Leyton Orient and after Alan Shearer being dumped by Mike Ashley.
Taking the players by position, I can’t see any argument for the goalkeepers. Steve Harper has always been well thought of, and I would take 2009 Harper over the as yet unproven Sels.
At right back, Ryan Taylor was considered a journeyman player who was yet to earn his cult “over the wall” status. Anita put in good performances towards the end of last season at right back and that looks to be his best position. I would pick Anita there over my 2009 perception of Ryan Taylor.
The Jose Enrique who was relegated with us was not a player suited to English football – it’s fair to say there were doubts over whether he could cope in the second tier. There’s no doubt that he responded brilliantly and became a better player for his time in the Championship. However, back in August 2009 there were serious doubts, and you could toss a coin between him and Dummett for the left back place.
For central defenders, you can rewrite the paragraph above for Coloccini. Clark is unproven at Newcastle. The 2009 Steven Taylor was well thought of and I would partner him with 2016 Mbemba.
On the right, Joey Barton came to do well for us, but not until the following season. When we got relegated Joey Barton was partially blamed due to his stupid red card at Anfield. He was not well thought of in Summer 2009. In 2016 Matt Ritchie has been our best player and he would definitely start the game. On the left, although 2009 Gutierrez was not well thought of, the majority would pick him over Gouffran – although it was nice to see Gouffran have a good game the other night.
In central midfield we had Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden, compared to 2009’s Kevin Nolan and Alan Smith. Nolan came to be another NUFC hero and Smith was a key part of our promotion team. However, at the start of the season I doubt many would have picked Nolan, so I’d partner Smith over Shelvey.
Up front, I think everyone was excited about Andy Carroll in 2009 and he would have been the first choice up front. To the contrary, very few would have chosen Shola Ameobi to start alongside him (hat-trick hero that day though). I think most people would go with 2016 Gayle over 2009 Shola.
No disrespect at all to Chris Hughton, who is one of my favourite former NUFC managers but who would you rather have in the dugout, Hughton or Rafa?
So, my combined 2009/2016 team (from the Reading line-ups – given my pre-match opinions of the players) would have to be:
Harper, Anita, S Taylor, Mbemba, Dummett, Ritchie, Shelvey, Smith, Guttierrez, Carroll, Gayle
That’s five from 2009 and six from 2016.
Hopefully the likes of Sels, Hayden, Perez, Lascelles, Hanley and Mitrovic will benefit from playing in this league and become better players like the 2009/10 team did.
There’s still 129 points to play for. Let’s see how many we can get.