Newcastle are by a long way the big underachievers of the Premier League era. They’ve spent a whole load of money under a succession of managers without winning a trophy. With such a high turnover of players there are bound to be as many hits as misses and this team has plenty of calibre. This is my idea of what a Fantasy XI of their players look like.
The simple rule is that the players will be judged only on their performances for their club during the Premier League years so if their best football came before the competition they will not be considered.
GK: Shay Given Given is absolutely one of the 3 best keepers in Premier League history. Given was one of Kenny Dalgish’s few transfer success stories having plucked him from Blackburn for just £1.5m in 1997. He spent the next decade excelling in the Newcastle goal behind a variety of dubious quality defences often near enough single handedly. He was unlucky not to win any trophies and probably would have done elsewhere but he didn’t move and showed fierce loyalty. When he eventually did leave to join the Man City project Newcastle dived straight out of the league. He made 354 league appearances for the club.
RB: Warren Barton Barton was the club’s right back in the side which was twice runner’s up to Manchester United in the mid 90s. Barton was a fundamentally sound defender who worked hard along his side of the field. He also offered decent assistance in attack. He was a consistent performer and gave his all.
CB: Phillipe Albert Albert was one of the last sweepers to grace the Premier League. He wasn’t quick or physical but he made up for that with impeccable positioning and sheer elegance. How many defenders could you name that are a capable of this? His devil may care style embodied the Keegan side.
CB: Fabricio Coloccini Coloccini made a slow start to life at Newcastle and looked like another expensive flop at the back. However, he gradually found his feet and blossomed in to a true leader. When he got his second chance at the top flight he grabbed it with both hands and helped to guide Newcastle to 5th place in the 2012/13 season.
LB: John Beresford Beresford was one of the few players in Keegan’s side who wasn’t in the team for his flair. Beresford was a hard working, intelligent left back who relied on nous and doing his defensive job responsibly. He often played with no defensive shield in front of him and still stood out.
RM: Nolberto Solano Solano arrived from Peru via Boca Juniors and embedded himself so deeply at Newcastle that he became an honourary Geordie. With his relentless work ethic and passion for his team he was a fan favourite. A technically accomplished player, Solano had superb delivery from the right wing including a mean set piece.
CM: Gary Speed Speed brought professionalism and will to win to an otherwise flaky Newcastle at the turn of the millennium. He notched up 213 appearances for the club, playing near enough every minute from his arrival. He was a box to box midfielder, equally comfortable tackling and intercepting as arriving late in the box to score key goals.
CM: Rob Lee Lee was a key player in Keegan’s team bringing goals and drive from central midfield. Lee clocked up 303 games for the club chipping in with 44 goals. He might even have gotten more than that but his marginal responsibility to provide some kind of defensive shield in front of the flimsy defence.
LM: Laurent Robert Robert is amongst the most high quality technicians to have graced the Premier League and has an impeccable highlight reel. What he lacked in hard work and defensive prowess he more than made up for with his cannon left foot and constant supply line of chances and long range goals. He tended to save his best for Manchester United much to the delight of the Geordie fanbase.
AM: Peter Beardsley Beardsley rejoined Newcastle at 32 and was the unquestioned brains behind the team that took the Premier League by storm with their attacking play. Beardsley had other worldly football intelligence and was a super technician. He scored a goal every 3 games in his second spell and pulled the strings in the most exciting team in the land.
ST: Alan Shearer Need an explanation? Shearer cost a world record £15m in 1996 and scored 148 goals in 303 games. Not too bad. The great shame is that Shearer didn’t win anything, and he even sacrificed his England career to pursue trophies at the Toon which were never forthcoming. First name of the team sheet.
Subs: Harper, Hughes, Taylor, Cabaye, Dyer, Asprilla, Ferdinand
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