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Opinion

Worst Newcastle United team of the decade

10 months ago
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As this decade draws to a close, I have seen a few people share their favourite, or best, 11s of the decade but this does not really seem that relevant to Newcastle United when he have been so poor for most of it.

I figured that it would be more appropriate to put together our worst team of the decade. There is lots of competition but here are the 11 players who have been chosen.

Any player included in this worst Newcastle United team of the decade must have made five league appearances for the club during this decade.

This means that there is no place for many of our failed loan players including Stephen Ireland, Facundo Ferreyra and Islam Slimani.

Goalkeeper – Jak Alnwick

Injuries to Tim Krul and Rob Elliot during the 2014/2015 season meant that Jak Alnwick was thrown into the deep end as a substitute against Chelsea in a Premier League game which we won 2-1. He went on to play another seven times for us that season meaning that he qualifies for a space on this list.
Unfortunately, we conceded 14 Premier League goals in this time and Alnwick made a series of blunders that cost us vital points. Supposedly, Alnwick had already been told that he would be released at the end of the season. It is not hard to see why.

Right-Back Danny Simpson

We all know that he went on to win a Premier League title with Leicester but Danny Simpson takes his place at right back here.

He actually had a decent season for us as part of the 2009/2010 Championship winning side but he struggled when we got back to the Premier League with a collection of errors that Titus Bramble would be proud of.

The point of no return came after an awful performance in a 7-3 defeat at Arsenal in December 2012. In January 2013 he was replaced by Mathieu Debuchy.

Simpson seemed distracted when he was with us and certainly enjoyed the celebrity side of his profession. During his time with us he launched his own mobile app and made front pages while dating Tulisa Contostavlos.

Centre-Back – Grant Hanley

When Rafa Benitez added Grant Hanley to our 2016/2017 Championship squad he had a reputation as one of the best centre backs at that level.

Unfortunately, he did not live us to his reputation. He only made ten league appearances that season and was sold to Norwich the following summer after some poor performances.

Centre-Back – Sol Campbell

A case of the right player at the wrong time. Sol Campbell was supposedly keen to join us after leaving Arsenal in 2006 but ended up joining Portsmouth instead where he won the FA Cup.

By the time we eventually signed him in 2010, he was well past his best and had a physique more suitable for a darts player than a professional footballer. It’s a good thing that Newcastle did not have a Five Guys restaurant at that point!

After eight appearances, Campbell was released and never played professional football again.

Left-Back – Achraf Lazaar

One of three players on this list who are still on our books. Lazaar is currently on loan in the Italian second tier. His third loan spell away since joining us in August 2016.

Lazaar was signed to provide competition for Paul Dummett at left back but fell well short of the required standard and only made nine appearances that season. Only four of these were in the league and it was clear he was struggling to make the grade. He has not played for us in a league game since.

Steve Bruce signed Lazaar on loan for Sheffield Wednesday last season but clearly did not see enough to give him a second chance at Newcastle.

Centre-Midfield – Henri Saivet

In January 2016, Henri Saivet was one of four players signed in an ultimately doomed attempt to avoid relegation back to the Championship.

That season he made only made four appearances before being loaned out to St Etienne that summer, the first of three loan moves since joining us. It was clear that he was nowhere near good enough to play for us in either the Premier League or the Championship.

An injury crisis saw Saivet make one more Premier League appearance against West Ham in December 2017. This game was the one high point of his Newcastle career and he scored a free kick to help us secure a 3-2 victory. This was his last league appearance for the club.

Henri Saivet is still on our books today and is apparently earning a salary of £32,000 a week. He is not in our 25 man Premier League squad and one of the club’s priorities in January will be to try and find a club to take him off our hands.

Centre-Midfield – Jack Colback

In June 2014, Newcastle signed Jack Colback on a free transfer after he refused to sign a new contract at Sunderland. Newcastle fans were delighted to sign one of the most promising young players from our nearest rivals. Unfortunately, it is the Mackems who had the last laugh on this occasion.

Colback was highly rated when we signed him and was called up to Roy Hodgson’s England squad in August 2014. References were made by some as to him being the ‘Ginger Pirlo’ but Colback did not feature in any England squads subsequently.

After a reasonable 2014/2015 season, Colback’s form dipped dramatically and he was part of the 2015/2016 Newcastle squad that was relegated from the Premier League. Things did not get much better for Colback in the Championship and Rafa Benitez dropped him from the first team squad during the 2017/2018 pre season. Mikel Merino was signed to replace him.

Colback went on to spent 18 months on loan at Nottingham Forest but returned to Newcastle last summer after he was unable to agree terms for a permanent move. After featuring in pre-season, he failed to make Steve Bruce’s 25 man squad. He is still at the club and is supposedly on a salary of £60,000 a week. He is expected to leave this summer when his contract expires.

Attacking-Midfield – Remy Cabella

Newcastle first tried to sign Remy Cabella from Montpellier after the departure of Yohan Cabaye in January 2014 and eventually got their man the following summer.

Remy Cabella was highly rated at the time and had already been capped by the French national team. Hopes were high that he could help fill the creative void left by the departures of Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben-Arfa.

Unfortunately, he never looked suited to the Premier League and struggled to make any sort of impact. With Cabella in the side, you may as well accept that you will be playing with ten men without the ball and his attacking returns were nowhere near good enough to make up for this.

His 31 appearances, 1 goal and 2 assists were woefully short of expectations and he did not contribute enough across the board.

Cabella signed for Marseille on loan after just one season at the club and the move was made permanent in 2016.

Right-Forward – Gabriel Obertan

In 2009, Sir Alex Ferguson signed the highly rated Gabriel Obertan for Manchester United. He had a reputation as one of the best young players in France and it was considered a bit of a coup when Fergie agreed to sell him to us in August 2011.

As usual, it was clear that Fergie knew what he was doing. Obertan was quick, very quick, but had absolutely no end product. Time after time he would run down the flank and hit awful crosses that would not find their target. Occasionally, you would see glimpses of quality but nowhere near often enough. I think he would probably have been far more effective if he was a track athlete.

All things considered, Obertan probably contributed more than most of the players on this list but his net contribution over five years was well below what was expected. He was released by Rafa Benitez in May 2016.

Left-Forward – Sammy Ameobi

When Shola’s brother Sammy made his Newcastle debut against Chelsea, the Ameobis became the first brothers to play for Newcastle at the same time since the Robledos. Hopes were high that the younger Ameobi would make an impact but unfortunately this was not to be the case.

Ameobi went on to make 58 appearances but struggled to make any sort of impact. There were a couple of high points including a goal in a 2-1 win at Spurs in October 2014 but he struggled with the physicality of the Premier League and his decision making in key positions was awful.

He has gone on to play for Bolton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest where he has established himself as a capable football league player.

Centre-Forward – Emmanuel Riviere

The saddest thing about Emmanuel Riviere’s failure at Newcastle is that it meant his song to the tune of Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer never caught on. He might just be the worst striker we have ever had, let alone the last decade, and there is a lot of competition.

Signed from Monaco to replace Loic Remy in July 2014, Riviere scored one goal in 26 league games and even that bounced off his shin!

Riviere showed very little evidence that he could control a football let alone score the goals we needed to keep us in the Premier League. The one bright spot was a brace scored at Crystal Palace in the League Cup.

It felt like Steve McClaren was signing his own P45 when he played Riviere up front in his last game at home to Bournemouth and Riviere was quickly let go by incoming manager Rafa Benitez.

Manager – John Carver

You can make a case for Steve McClaren or Alan Pardew but a win percentage of 15% says it all really.

When Carver took over in January 2015, the club was in a reasonable mid-table position but we went into our last game against West Ham needing a win to stay up.

I don’t doubt Carver’s love for the club but it was clear that the job was too much for him and he seemed to crack under the pressure. The lowest point was a 3-0 defeat at Leicester where we went down to nine men. In his post-match interview, Carver accused Williamson of getting deliberately sent off and went on to proclaim that he believed himself to be the best coach in the league. Clearly he had lost the plot.

Carver must be so thankful that Jonas Gutierrez eventually saved our Premier League status with that goal against West Ham.

Honourable mention – Mike Ashley

I don’t think anything needs to be said here.

Mike Ashley’s first full decade as owner was a disaster. Let’s hope that the next decade brings a change of ownership.

You can follow Kieran on Twitter @KJR90

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