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Take 5 – My beloved Newcastle United

Howay the lads!

A very Geordie day to you all, welcome to the Toon Army appreciation post!

I’ve been a fan of the Magpies for as long as I can remember. So, this week I’m paying homage to the men from Tyneside with a selection of five guys who I have fond memories of.

Alan Shearer

Might as well start off with the heavy hitters and one of the most Geordie Geordies of them all, Alan Shearer. With an EPL record 260 goals (and club record 206 for Newcastle), the man just couldn’t stop finding the back of the net and is one of the best players in Premier League history and strikers of his generation. His prolific scoring continued at international level as well, netting 30 times for England in his 63 appearances, including winning the coveted golden boot in Euro ’96 and placing third in the Ballon d’Or in the same year. After being brought home in 1996 from Blackburn Rovers for a then record £15m by his hero and manager Kevin Keegan, Shearer quickly won his third EPL golden boot award on the trot and led Newcastle to second in the league in ‘96-97 and to back to back FA Cup Final appearances in ’98 and ’99. Retiring at the end of the ’05-06 season, Shearer’s legend and loyalty to Newcastle was well and truly cemented.

Shearer is COVID compliant. Courtesy of Newcastle United Twitter.

Shay Given

One of the best goalkeepers I’ve ever seen, the Irishman was with Newcastle from ’97-09, making over 450 appearances for the club and named twice in the EPL’s team of the season (’01-02 & ‘05-06). His cat-like reflexes saved our proverbial behinds many a time, and I believe that he is still underappreciated in the list of greatest EPL goalkeepers. With 134 appearances, Given is the second most capped player for Ireland, behind Robbie Keane, and managed to keep 52 clean sheets during his international duty. A great man for club and country.

Nolberto “Nobby” Solano

The Peruvian international played a combined 230 games for Newcastle during his two stints with the club over the period ’98-07. A sublime right-midfielder, Solano’s passing, crosses and dead-ball abilities were both precise and incredible to watch. A genuinely great guy, “Nobby” considers himself an adopted Geordie and even started his own band called “The Geordie Latinos” in which he played the trumpet. Like Given, Solano was a stalwart for his national side, amassing nearly 100 caps for his country over his 15 year international career from ’94-09. He formed part of the mainstay of our amazing midfield which featured the likes of Jermaine Jenas, Kieron Dyer, Lee Bowyer, James Milner, the late Gary Speed and our next entry…

Laurent Robert

The talented French left-winger had a penchant for brilliance which usually manifested itself in free-kick and corner situations. Robert was quick and had this amazing ability to kick from long range with astonishing power, and his pace was only surpassed by the speed of the ball after he hit it. Still, I struggle to find the words to describe his contorting backheeled volley vs Fulham in 2004. Sadly, things went downhill for the Frenchman after Sir Bobby Robson’s sacking in ‘04-05 which started the end of his time at Tyneside, consummating in a very public falling out with then manager Graeme Souness with claims that it was a very different club after Robson’s dismissal. Speaking of Sir Bobby…

Sir Bobby Robson

The manager during our last heyday and my peak interest in English football, Sir Bobby Robson is not only a legend in Newcastle, but the rest of England as well. As a child, he regularly went and watched Newcastle play at St James’ Park. As an adult, he went on to play nearly 600 games for Fulham and West Bromwich Albion and manage England (95 times), Ipswich Town (13 years), PSV Eindhoven (twice), Sporting Lisbon, FC Porto, Barcelona and lastly, Newcastle (’99-04). Tragically succumbing to lung cancer in 2009 (I can’t believe it’s been 11 years already), the memory of Sir Bobby lives on.

Not to end on a sad note, I will now include (by popular request) a little piece on fan-favourite and cult figure, Shola Ameobi. Despite his somewhat erratic form, Ameobi has a hero-like status at the club as demonstrated by this video of fans doing the “Ameobi dance” in 2012. Shola had the full range of greatness, sometimes to the point where he didn’t even know what he was doing. He was both brilliant and unpredictable in his near 400 games for the Toon spanning 14 years, with his inconsistency meaning on average he’d score once every five or six games, but he was coming on as a substitute a fair amount of the time. There was usually something special every time he was on the pitch or maybe that is just my nostalgic take on Shola. Either way, bless the man!

I’ll leave you all with a nice compilation video (because who doesn’t love compilation videos?) of the many great Premier League goals Newcastle have scored over the years. I may or may not have shed some tears looking back at how great we once were and whilst we are nowhere near that now there is always hope that we’ll get back to that level at some point.

Up the Toon!!!

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