Newcastle United – Is this the one that got away?
One that got away – Jon Dahl Tomasson.
In the summer of 1997, after two successive runners up finishes in the Premier League, it was time for a few changes to be made at Newcastle United.
With Kenny Dalglish, a serial trophy winner as a manager with Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers, at the helm, and Alan Shearer having just enjoyed a prolific first season at the club, there was real optimism that 1997-98 could be the year Newcastle United finally ended their long wait for a trophy.
Dalglish wanted to put his stamp on the team that had been assembled by Kevin Keegan and that summer saw him pay transfer fees for Alessandro Pistone, Shay Given and a talented young Danish international called Jon Dahl Tomasson from Heerenveen, who had just enjoyed a brilliant season in the Dutch top flight, scoring 24 goals in 38 games.
This was enough to persuade Dalglish to sanction a move which cost the club over £2 million as he thought Tomasson was the ideal link up man between Alan Shearer and the midfield.
Unfortunately, that summer’s transfer business came at a price and a high profile player would have to be sold. The man that was eventually sacrificed was Les Ferdinand who had become a real fan favourite during his time on Tyneside.
On paper it was a good deal. Newcastle recouped the £6 million fee they had spent on Ferdinand two years earlier and had a ready-made replacement to step in and fill his shoes alongside Shearer.
However, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry and no sooner had the transfer of Ferdinand to Tottenham Hotspur been sanctioned, than Alan Shearer was collapsing to the turf in agony at Goodison Park with a very serious ankle injury that would rule him out for months.
Ferdinand couldn’t be persuaded to change his mind and a partnership between Tomasson and Shearer which had looked so promising in pre-season was now out the window, with the young Danish player now expected to lead the line in the absence of Shearer.
It was a role that he hadn’t been intended for and it was one that ultimately he couldn’t fill.
Jon Dahl Tomasson missed a sitter in the opening home game of the season, a narrow 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday, and despite flashes of his talent, he endured a desperate season in front of goal, scoring four goals in just 35 appearances and didn’t even make the bench for that season’s FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.
He was sold to Feyenoord after just one season in England and then spent the rest of his career showing Newcastle United just what might have been.
He spent the next four seasons at Feyenoord playing 151 games and scoring 69 goals, winning a league title and UEFA Cup along the way, as well as scoring four goals for Denmark in the 2002 World Cup.
That impressive form was enough to secure him a transfer to Italian giants AC Milan. He would score 35 goals in 113 games in three seasons, winning all the domestic trophies in Italy and the 2002-03 Champions League. From there he had spells at Stuttgart and Villarreal before finishing his career with an impressive final season at Feyenoord.
He would also excel at international level, playing 112 games and scoring a remarkable 51 goals.
Like so often at Newcastle United, Tomasson was the right player at the wrong time. The injury to Shearer and the transfer of Ferdinand were circumstances beyond his control, and a poor season for the team overall, with a turgid style of football implemented under Dalglish, meant he was never likely to thrive.
Yet another case of what might have been for Newcastle United.
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