It pains a Sunderland fan to admit that the city up the road has been home to a number of world class footballers. There’s the big man himself, elbowing his way into the higher echelons of England greats, sporting his proud, cheesy, s***-eating grin, scoring the odd goal here and there and who now graces us with his never ending wisdom on Match of the day. Ugly man/wonderful footballer Peter Beardsley, the uncontrollable and unplayable Gazza as well as the delectable dribbler come fashionista David Ginola, all wore the black and white stripes of Newcastle United, raising the bar for the high standard of entertaining players that once played for the North East club.
The erratic periods of extreme highs and lolloping lows of Newcastle can be marked by the managers in charge at the time. For example, King Kev’s first stint as manager brought the Magpie’s to the Champions League for the first time. Bobby Robson emulated such dizzying heights with the Toon, also qualifying for the competition. Contrasts are visible when comparing the low league finishes whilst in the hands of Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, Glenn Roeder and Sam Allardyce.
Whilst the majority of the managers above made signings that exemplified the club’s ambitions for the highest glories, there are many recruitments that would ultimately fail for Newcastle. Freddy Shepherd ‘supplied’ vast amounts of money that was wasted trying to live up to the high expectations placed on the club by the fans and media. These same fans were, at the time, paying high prices for season tickets and shirt sales, so it was vital to keep them happy.
Before delving into the depths of failure to explore the glutinous characters that reaped in expensive wages week in week out with seemingly no effort necessary in doing so, it’s worth noting a few players that narrowly avoided the list:
Jon Dahl Tomasson
Newcastle paid Dutch club Heerenveen £2.2million for the services of the Danish forward who went on to score 3 goals in 22.
A purchase made by the late, great Bobby Robson for £7million. Cort was plagued by injuries during his 4 year spell at Newcastle, showing his worth at a million pound for each league goal that he scored for the magpies.
A transfer that has been shrouded in controversy due to suspected dodgy dealings from then boss Graeme Souness. Newcastle paid £8million for the defender who was about as reliable as Pete Doherty showing up to his own gigs.
Signing from Auxerre in 1998 for £3.5million, complete with a World Cup winners medal, Guivarc’h was a Kenny Dalglish signing that made 4 appearances. The Frenchman did score his only goal against Liverpool though!
The Swedish striker joined from AC Milan for £3million, and scored 4 in 27. It is rumoured that Newcastle bought the wrong player, as Milan had two other players called Andersson on their books. The rumour is very likely to have been given birth on Wearside, though Sunderland won’t be laughing too hard now.
Here are my favourite worst signings for Newcastle United :
5. Marcelino Elena
Ruud Gullit signed Marcelino from Real Mallorca in 1999 for £6.7million. The centre half made just 17 appearances for Newcastle during his four years on Tyneside. This can largely be put down to injuries, though the Spaniard spent two months on the sidelines as Marcelino was blighted by a… You guessed it! Snapped finger tendon.
Bobby Robson did not hide his frustration for the player as the club hoped to cut a deal with the Marcelino’s agent to get rid. At the time, Robson told the Independent:
“This is just not good enough and enough is enough.”
“Certainly it is not what we expected when Ruud Gullit signed Marcelino from Real Mallorca. We have asked Marcelino’s agent to come across from Spain this week so we can discuss ways of sorting this all out. We are looking for constructive discussion and want to take this forward.
“What is particularly frustrating is that Marcelino has proved he is a good player when he has been out there.”
Marcelino left the North East to ply his trade in the Segunda División with Poli Ejido in 2003, though he could only hack one and a half seasons before hanging up his boots. The then 32-year-old became a scout for Everton for two years before finding his feet as a football agent.
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