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Opinion

Top 10 Newcastle United Entertainers

2 days ago
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What are the top 10 Newcastle United Entertainers?

In a new feature on The Mag, we are featuring different NUFC Top 10s.

A bit of nostalgia, stimulate a bit of debate / argument.

Here is David Punton with his Top 10 Newcastle United Entertainers

Pavel Srnicek

I had to include Pav and why not start with a goalie.

There was something about him, even though he was a goalkeeper, he used to do that little shimmy as a forward closed him down. It got the crowd on their feet, even if it almost always looked like an unnecessary risk for a custodian to take.

Your heart was in your mouth. We all loved him for it. He was a great bloke too. Gone far too soon.

Peter Beardsley

I know Pedro has already made into other articles for top ten playmakers but how I could I leave him out? He was the ultimate entertainer. A player blessed with vision and a level of close control and technical ability that made you think he was a Brazilian who had learned his trade on the Copacabana. I was a bit young to remember his first spell at the club but the goals speak for themselves.

At 31 he came back in 1993 and despite a few reservations, not least from Sir John Hall himself, he was arguably even better. I remember a last-minute winner away at Palace, a strike against Norwich City on a bright sunny day, and of course the sheer number of defence splitting passes that teed up Andy Cole.

Beardsley is a true legend of our game, who more than held his own for England. Gary Lineker’s golden boot was all down to Pedro’s unselfishness. When he left NUFC in 1997 it was under King Kenny, and I honestly think he could have gone on for another few years in the black and white shirt.

Tino Asprilla

1996. Heavy snow. That fur coat. The legend had arrived. For youngsters who weren’t around then I can tell you now, it was the best time to be a Mag, maybe ever.

Asprilla, the controversial Colombian, came in and was actually even better than what he looked like on Football Italia on Channel 4, turning out for Parma every week.

Rubbery legs, pace, trickery, a sublime ability to finish by passing the ball into the back of the net. Tino pretty much had it all. It was like he had the football tied to his foot.

A debut at Boro after he’d had a glass of red wine with his lunch. Then there was that hat trick against Barcelona, when he shredded a European powerhouse one September night in 1997.

He was a player you wanted to see. Even when he stuck the nut on Keith Curle at Maine Road you couldn’t help but laugh, though you probably shouldn’t have.

Andy Cole

Cole may have left for Man United in a move that stunned Tyneside but his goals gave us two and a half magical years. It was the sheer volume of strikes that made Cole an entertainer. Every game, you just knew he was going to score. He took the game away from opponents with a scary number goals. Part of me still wishes that he’d never been sold.

David Ginola

Here was a player whose good looks were matched by his mercurial footballing talent. David was a fantastic winger. Great balance and skill. His ability with the ball had us all dreaming and he took us ever so close to that title in ‘96. The goal against Man Utd stands out, but for sheer brilliance, look no further than the volley against Ferernvaros in the UEFA Cup.

What he would be worth in today’s market place would probably have priced him out of NUFC. He was part of an era that defied belief compared to the current set up.

Laurent Robert

The Reunion Islander had a left peg like the heavy artillery. When he hit a shot it stayed hit.

Apart from Shearer, I am not sure I have ever seen a player strike a football harder than Robert. He was part of the Bobby Robson era and was ideal for the left side of midfield. There were so many wonderful free kicks. One of them even made them onto the silver screen in that Goal movie. He was a star and we’ll never forget, or fully forgive Graeme Souness for dispensing with his services.

If Robert had worked his magic at one of the so-called big six we’d never hear the end of it. I’d recommend his Instagram page.

Hatem Ben Arfa

I could barely believe we got him to come to Newcastle in 2010. Ben Arfa was a big star when he chose United, going AWOL in order to force the move through. The level of close control he possessed was a god given talent. The front three with him, Cisse and Ba was a fun time to watch Newcastle even though it was in the Mike Ashley era.

The standout goal came against Bolton when he simply ran the length of the pitch before finishing it off. He destroyed them that day.

A Europa League quarter final against Benfica saw him benched for the return leg and I always felt that was a huge error by Pardew. He eventually did get on that night and almost inspired a comeback, but there just wasn’t enough time.

Hatem is a player I will always remember well, as he entertained supporters with his ability – when he was in the mood.

It’s a shame he left under a cloud amid claims he was a dressing room disruptor.

Nobby Solano

The Peruvian wing king was such a good footballer.

What I loved about Solano is the opposition wind up merchants never seemed to mess with him. He was unflappable. He had great touch and vision on the right side of a midfield that had NUFC doing battle across Europe in the Champions League. Robson sold Nobby after a row over his international career.

It was a rare mistake but we did get to see him again in that second spell from 2005 to 2007. I was more happy with that announcement on the same day a certain Michael Owen joined United.

Alan Shearer

The great John Gibson wrote: “A player whose power of boot and head vanquished all before him.” So true. He’s the legend. Goals from all angles, against all opponents. He carried that football club for a good few years after turning Fergie down.

When he first signed in 1996 he was the most sought after centre forward in the world, and he opted to come home, to a sea of adulation. It was historic. What followed was an epic odyssey of sublime goalscoring. I feel proud to have witnessed a good chunk of those years because we may never see his like again.

Philippe Albert

Albert chipped Peter Schmeichel.

It was a goal of such sublime beauty it feels like it was yesterday.

He was a player who came in after catching the eye at the USA 94 World Cup. His first season he was eating up the pitch with amazing strides forward and for a centre half we were in awe. He had a knack of bringing the ball out of defence in waves that overwhelmed teams, before injury denied us for a few months.

I always felt he was never quite the same after he shaved off the moustache but his chipped effort versus Man United is written into folklore. It can never be erased. We love you Philippe.

(Previously in these featured NUFC Top 10s – You can go back and see the Top 10 Disappointments, Playmakers (Part One – 10-6) Playmakers Part Two – 5-1), Right-Backs, Centre-Backs, Goalkeepers, Goals and Strikers)

You can follow the author on Twitter @DavePunton

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