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Opinion

The (slightly controversial?) Newcastle United team of the last decade

1 week ago
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The main problem I had when putting together this Newcastle United team of the decade was: talent and pure ability, or loyalty and impact?

Much of the team was fairly easy, and when you consider just how bad a decade it has been for Newcastle, compared to the previous one, you could have forgiven me for just copy and pasting Alan Pardew’s 5th place side from the 2011-12 season.

As means of motivation, I had a listen to George Caulkin and Chris Waugh put together their side on The Athletic, needless to say I did come up with quite a few differences.

My only real grievance was with George who bizarrely put in Andy Carroll!! I thought better of you George!

In the end I decided that loyalty and impact at Newcastle was the most important prerequisite for this. Sadly, this means no place for arguably two of Newcastle’s best players in this decade, Yohan Cabaye and Fabricio Coloccini.

Cabaye, a relatively simple one, refused to play for Newcastle United, the club that pays his wages, and essentially stuck up two fingers to the travelling fans at Manchester City on that Monday night. It doesn’t matter how good Cabaye was/is at Newcastle, when you refuse to do the job you are handsomely paid for, then that’s it for me.

As for Coloccini, I think this one is a little bit more complicated. Colo was obviously a fantastic defender on his day and he didn’t feature in the PFA team of the year for 2012 out of luck. He was fantastic in that season we finished 5th. However, his attitude after that stunk and he spent the rest of his time pushing for a move away from the club.

I also generally didn’t include players who are relatively new to the club such as ASM and Fabian Schar, who maybe give it another season could force themselves into that side.

I have slated him a lot during his time at Newcastle but I’d like to give the most honorable of mentions to Ayoze Perez, who although I still think was an inconsistent whiny little so and so — popped up for Newcastle in some big games, with key goals, two of the most notable against his current club Leicester City. He would probably be in this team if the player in his position wasn’t, in my opinion, the best player to don the black and white jersey since Alan Shearer retired.

4-2-3-1

GK; Tim Krul

I don’t think there is much debate around this one. Perhaps a few people will argue that Martin Dubravka is a better goalkeeper than Tim Krul but for me, what Krul done during his whole time at Newcastle will put him down as abit of a cult hero at the club.

From his debut in Palermo, and five seasons in the Premier League following promotion, Krul was immense. If it wasn’t for injuries curtailing his time at Newcastle then I think he would still be our shot stopper today.

One of a few foreigners to come to the North East and just immediately ‘get it’.

RB; Danny Simpson

I’m sure many will disagree with me on this one but I thought Danny Simpson was brilliant at Newcastle. Sure, he didn’t offer anything going forward but defensively I always thought he was spot on. Rarely did his man at the back post get in behind him, and with his body facing goal, he frequently got us out of dodgy situations. Probably the opposite of what we have in Deandre Yedlin at the moment.

Still hugely underrated for me and it is no coincidence he was the no.1 full back when Leicester won the title.

CB; Jamaal Lascelles

I bet this is another one who a few will disagree with but you can’t argue against the positive impact he has had on the team.

This current side, built by Rafa Benitez, was set up with its foundations on hardwork, graft and respect. All epitomised by Lascelles and his actions under Steve McClaren’s relegation fodder. He would go on to captain the side that won the Championship and again play through the pain barrier to see us through two relegation battles. Has his moments for sure but still hard done by not to pick up an England cap as of yet.

CB; Paul Dummett

For a long time now he has been the most underrated player at Newcastle.

Told by Alan Pardew that he would never make it as a Premier League, he deserves a place in this list just for sticking two fingers up to the silver haired p..ck. Most commonly played at left back, many have said his best position at centre half. For the purposes of fitting in this next player he finds himself at centre half in this team.

LB; Jose Enrique

Now I love Jose Enrique. As a player he was brilliant in a Newcastle shirt. He stuck around when we got relegated and he was fantastic in that first season back in the top flight. There have been a lot of mercenaries at NUFC in recent years but for me Enrique earned his move to Liverpool and you couldn’t begrudge him.

None of us forecast that we would finish far ahead of Liverpool the following season. It is just a shame for Jose that his finest hour at SJP came in Pepe Reina’s goalie jersey at the Leazes End.

CM; Cheick Tiote

A fan favourite and an all-round popular guy off the pitch too. Tiote was immense in his first season in which he scored one of Newcastle’s greatest ever goals with that screamer to make it 4-4 at the Gallowgate End.

His partnership with Cabaye was key in taking us into Europe and he is another one in which I don’t think anyone would have begrudged him a move to a bigger team.

A tragic end to Tiote’s career of course but he will always go down as a fan favourite at SJP.

CM; Jonas Gutierrez

Alongside another player in this list, Gutierrez is my favourite player of the last decade. He epitomised everything that a Newcastle fan wants from their player. Flair, passion, pace, determination, graft, skill, hunger. An adopted Geordie and another example of a foreign import that did so well at the club because he just ‘got it’.

Mike Ashley’s greatest crime was the club’s treatment of Gutierrez and nobody ever mentions it anymore. A travesty.

RW; Matt Ritchie

I have to be honest, this was the one player that wasn’t included in the team when I first wrote this down but how can you leave him out?

Ritchie has been integral in everything good about Newcastle over the last few seasons. Alongside, Rafa and Lascelles, it is those key attributes of hard graft, determination and will to win that has kept us in the league over the past two seasons.

There are some suggestions that he may not be good enough at this level soon enough but I think that is nonsense. One of Newcastle’s best value for money signings… and that is saying something at 11 million!

CAM; Hatem Ben Arfa

Now I grew up with Solano, Robert, Shearer, Asprilla, Ginola etc. but in my life time Ben Arfa will probably go down as my favourite outfield Newcastle player. Some may laugh but no player has ever got me on the edge of my seat as much as this guy.

Sure he didn’t get enough goals, and at times he was inconsistent, but he was the reason you were excited to go along on a Saturday and that is what football, and especially supporting Newcastle United, is all about.

The pace, the flair, the unpredictability, the excitement. Ben Arfa, in a very different way to Gutierrez, was a proper Newcastle player that the fans for the most part adored.

His wonder goals are frequently mentioned but two mentions for half-time sub appearances. In the tyne-wear derby at SJP in which Newcastle found themselves 1-0 down. HBA ran Sunderland ragged for 45 minutes in which we eventually found an equaliser. Likewise, a year later on Boxing Day we battered Stoke City 5-1. HBA didn’t get on the scoresheet but he was a joy to watch for 90 minutes.

Alongside Shearer, he is the only Newcastle player in my lifetime that I would specifically pay money to go and watch.

LW; Demba Ba

Shifted out onto the left wing for the sake of this team… Ba is probably the player who has had the biggest impact on NUFC this decade. His goals in the two seasons he was here catapulted us up the table and it is just a shame that he didn’t stick around.

ST; Salomon Rondon

He may only have spent one season at NUFC but what a player he was!

I could have chosen Cisse or Remy for this spot but Rondon’s goals kept us in the Premier League last season and we are seeing this season just how good he was.

You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn

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