Once the club most associated with a Hollywood signing or two, thanks to beloved leader Mike Ashley, Newcastle United are now operating under a more austere transfer strategy altogether. In honour of the transfer window however, here’s a list of the great, the good, and the god-damn awful that have graced – and disgraced – the hallowed turf of St James’ in my 30 years supporting the club.
John Anderson is the hardest man in Ireland, probably any island for that matter, but it’s with fair reason. You had to be hard to play football in the 80s, just look at the size of the shorts they wore. Anderson was so tough however, that he could have also been wearing leg-warmers and the best terrace banter you would have dared attempt would have been a nervous, ‘Alright John?’ as he passed to take a throw in. A free transfer from Preston in 1982, he was the tough underbelly of a side filled with the rarified talents of Keegan, Beardsley, and Waddle as Newcastle won promotion to the top flight. Legendary in the world of staring, he’s rumoured to be still glaring at former Luton captain, Steve Foster, to this day.
There are almost too many things to like about Barry Venison. When he ran out for the warm-up he would head an imaginary ball. When the team was struggling he would clench his fists and roar at the terraces for support. He also dressed like he kept white tigers in his back garden and had an illusion show just off the strip in Vegas. Signed by KK in 1992 to provide experience to the back four in the drive for promotion, Venison became the glue that held the side together. A great all-round player, not just known for dogged defending, his years at Liverpool also gave him a real quality on the ball too. In fact all he was missing was the number of a decent barber.
Special K only cost 100 grand, but as soon as that bubble perm strode in through the gates at St James’, you just knew you were in for exciting times. As a player his goals and passion helped us achieve promotion, as a manager he brought promotion once more, as well as arguably the most exciting football it’s possible to see without yielding a major trophy. Whilst unfortunately best remembered for his “I’d just love it…” outburst at Alex Ferguson, his work with the Honey Monster deserves special mention; if only because it riled the great unwashed down the road in Sunderland to such an extent that they refused to buy Sugar Puffs as long as the big man was turning out in black and white; bless them.
Epitmosied the excitement of both major Keegan eras with bags of jinking, a host of dropped shoulders, and some spectacular goals. Pedro was arguably one of the most skillful British players of his generation and he showed it in two spells for the club. Not known for his scintillating chat, he used to say the word “obviously” around 18 times per interview but it mattered not. I loved him so much that I wore my boots a half size too small – as he did – in order to get a better touch of the ball, but stopped short of smashing my front teeth out and getting a bowl haircut, obviously.
“Ned” Kelly pips the likes of Alan Shearer, and Andy Cole for this final place, purely because of the importance of his goals. Perhaps the one decent signing made by Ossie Ardilles, Kelly joined mid-1991 and saved us from – what seemed like – certain relegation with 10 goals, including the winner in our last home game of the season against Portsmouth – where someone stole my hat in the corner of the Gallowgate during the ensuing celebrations (something less well documented). He then topped that with 25 goals in our promotion season the following year. After a spell playing for Wolves, he eventually moved on to Sunderland where he struggled to find any real form. Something I’d like to think he did on purpose.
Honourable mentions: Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, David McCreery, Peter Jackson, Mickey Quinn, Mark McGhee, Robert Lee, David Ginola, Chieck Tiote, Laurent Robert, and Shay Given.
When Shearer took a bad injury in pre-season, Tomasson was left to lead the line; something he took to with all the relish of a good hard slap across the face.
Bought by Ruud Gullit for £5.8m in what was presumably part of his masterplan to ruin the club, Marcelino came from Real Mallorca with a decent reputation and a clutch of Spanish caps. However it’s not possible that any of them could have been for playing football. At a club that prides itself on buying – in the main – piss-poor defenders, Marcelino is the only centre half I’ve ever seen who couldn’t even head a ball. It eventually got to the point where he wouldn’t even try. The final insult came when he spent around three months loitering on the sidelines nursing broken fingers. Ultimately only played 20 games in two years – St James’ Park drew a collective sigh of relief.
It’s typical of Newcastle that when we buy Brazilian, we pick one that can’t play football. Jose Antunes Fumaca couldn’t pass, couldn’t dribble, was unsure when it came to heading the ball, and had a second touch that was a tackle. Joining Newcastle on loan from Crystal Palace the majority of fans thought he’d won a competition to play football in the Premier League, in reality he was simply desperate to play there; anywhere. As a result he’d been on more trials than a serial killer; which was fitting as it was absolute murder to watch him turn out in black and white.
Is it just me, or is there something about Michael Owen that leaves a nasty taste in the mouth these days? Brought in for a club record £16.8m by Graeme Souness and to the usual fanfare, it was a signing that didn’t feel right from the get-go. In fact Owen had a distinctly “I-really-wish-I-was-signing-for-Liverpool” look slapped across his chops from day one and although his early form was decent, injuries severely curtailed his time on the pitch. After a while however, it just didn’t seem like he cared anymore, with England’s “top striker” proving about as useful as the former breakfast TV host, Nick Owen, in our ultimately doomed battle against relegation.
Jean Alain Boumsong
Only Newcastle United could pay £8m for a defender which they hadn’t been interested in six months earlier (when he was available for free) then see him turn out to be, well, pretty shit actually. Thing is, Jean Alain Boumsong is something of a footballing anomaly. How else do you explain a player who could make Titus Bramble look assured and composed, who was almost certain to miss-hit every clearance, would regularly trip over his own feet or simply put in a tackle so timid that it would make Cristiano Ronaldo look like a hard nut? Even more inexplicable of course, were his subsequent transfers to Juventus, Lyon, and Panathinaikos – where, in his only true showing of consistency, he was equally gash.
Jon Dahl Tomasson
Bit of a tricky one this as the lad could actually play. However he’s made the list on pure annoyance as he went on to forge a great career at Milan after he left. Signed from Dutch side SC Heerenveen for £2.2m and with a great reputation, he was actually more of a deep-lying striker and was bought to provide the ammunition for Alan Shearer. However when Shearer took a bad injury in pre-season, Tomasson was left to lead the line; something he took to with all the relish of a good hard slap across the face. After missing a superb chance on his debut against Sheffield Wednesday, the confidence visibly drained from the young striker, and he lasted for just 33 more games before being packed off to Feyenoord.
Dishonourable mentions: Andreas Anderson, Frank Pingel, Xisco, Wayne Fereday, Des Hamilton, Diego Gavilan, Ignacio Gonzalez, Christian Bassedas, Dave Beasant, Andy Thorn, and John Robertson.
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