The greatest Newcastle United winger combination of all time?
I often see fans debating (arguing) about who is the best ever Newcastle United winger.
Most recently I saw the comparisons between David Ginola and Laurent Robert.
That being possibly a contest of style v substance.
Nothing better than the sight of Ginola in full flight but Robert putting more goals and assists on the table…/
However, when it comes to wide players, it tends to be about balance and partnerships in a team.
So I wanted to pose and answer the question – Who are the greatest Newcastle United winger pairing of all time?
Now when I say all time, I mean my time supporting NUFC and going to games.
How can I judge Bobby Mitchell when I never saw him play?
Going back through these last four decades I have came up with four stand out Newcastle United winger options, interested to know your thoughts in the comments…
Peter Beardsley and Chris Waddle
These weren’t player who you would think of tying down solely to a wing position but back in the 80s we had the nightmare of Jack Charlton as manager.
I love Jack Charlton as a world cup winner and all round great Geordie character but when he was briefly at St James Park (1984-85), his tactics were as appealing as Steve Bruce’s.
Luckily, at the time we had the developing genius of Chris Waddle and Peter Beardsley.
Charlton had the brilliant idea of stopping the pair of them acting in free roles up front and causing mayhem wherever they wandered, to instead bringing in the talents of Tony Cunningham and George Reilly up front, with Beardsley and Waddle pushed further back as support players on the wings.
Luckily they rarely followed orders and saved us from what could have been an instant disaster after promotion, some brilliant play by the Geordie duo despite Charlton’s clueless management.
David Ginola and Keith Gillespie
Get it out to the wing and run at the full-back.
Both of these wingers were all about receiving the ball and taking on their opponent, both exciting in their own way.
Gillespie was knocking it past his man and run for his life, having the sheer pace to beat pretty much anybody.
With Ginola, he was quick, but more about sublime skill in torturing his opponent.
The pair came together to best effect in that so close 1995/96 season…
Nobby Solano and Laurent Robert
Very very different to Ginola and Gillespie.
Solano and Robert were both capable of beating their opponent but it wasn’t the biggest weapon in their armoury.
Both of them had absolutely brilliant delivery and had a superb range of passing, able to improvise.
Robert able to deliver crosses and shots from unbelievable distance at times, whilst Solano so clever in tight situations.
The pair of them were also absolutely superb on corners and free-kicks. Incredible when you look back at the options on set-pieces under Sir Bobby, when you had Alan Shearer as well.
Hatem Ben Arfa and Jonas Gutierrez
Maybe the most unconventional winger pairing of all at NUFC.
Ben Arfa the tortured genius who produced moments of brilliance.
Capable of taking on and beating the entire opposition but criticised for not tracking back enough…
On the other hand / side, Jonas Gutierrez. Never ever stopped running and tracking back, so reliant on 100% effort and never let you down.
On that left side you had a very strange scenario where Enrique and Gutierrez combined so well and yet it was the Spaniard released into danger areas by the Argentine, with Jonas always willing to cover the left-back’s determined runs forward.
So which of these four was the very best of Newcastle United winger combinations?
In reverse order I would have Jonas and HBA in fourth. Very good but not quite at the same level as the competition.
I would then have Waddle and Beardsley in third. In their other / best free roles I would potentially have had them at the very top because they were world class players but as NUFC wingers, not having quite the influence they would show for sure later.
So, drum roll… top of the pile for me are Solano and Robert, just ahead of Ginola and Gillespie.
The sheer number of goals and assists from the Peru / France combination winning the argument, plus their additional influence on set-pieces.
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