Today’s installment of Two Good, Two Bad will see us take a look at the players to represent Newcastle United.
Two Good, Two Bad – How does it work?
The premise of Two Good, Two Bad will see the author pick a sport and then select a subtopic such as a team, a league, player or country.
We will then select two of the best and two of the worst examples from over the course of our lifetime – epic or horrendous moments in time we remember for all the right or wrong reasons.
Today, I’m continuing the series with the best and worst players to represent Newcastle United over the course of my lifetime.
Well, this was obvious. Unfortunately for me, Alan Shearer was starting to wind down his career once I was old enough to understand what was going on. That doesn’t even for a second mean that I don’t remember him though – he was my idol as a kid.
As just about every other young lad in Newcastle aged somewhere between 20 and 30 will attest to, we all ran around the streets bellowing ‘SHHEEEAAAREEEEERRRRRRR’ as we smashed the ball towards whatever goal we had fashioned.
The man is an icon on Tyneside, and there was never ever going to be anyone else I would pick for this spot. He scored 260 Premier League goals over the course of his career. As well as that, he scored 206 goals for Newcastle, making him our record scorer.
His brilliance is immortalised outside of St James’ Park where a statue was erected in his honour. It’ll be there long after we’re all gone, as will the legend of Alan Shearer.
This one may feel like it’s come a little bit out of left field for any Geordies reading, but I absolutely adored Yohan Cabaye. His first season at Newcastle was my first as a season ticket holder and I genuinely adored him from the moment he stepped on the pitch.
His ability to pick out a pass, get forward and score goals made him easily the best midfielder we’d had since the days of Sir Bobby Robson’s Newcastle team in my honest opinion.
He provided so many memorable moments, not least the ridiculous free-kick he scored against Manchester United in that 3-0 win. Some of his goals were frankly ludicrous.
He was one of the early products of our then Chief Scout Graham Carr’s trips to France. United picked him up for just £4m from Lille, selling him on to PSG for £20m just three years later.
All-in-all, Cabaye netted 18 goals and provided 14 assists over the course of his 93 appearances in a Newcastle shirt. He lost favour with some fans when the media reported he had “gone on strike” in summer 2013 in a bid to force a move to Arsenal.
Despite that off-field trouble, Cabaye came out and played the next few months of the season in brilliant form. For his professionalism, he was rewarded with the move he wanted, but not to Arsenal, instead he joined the French champions.
His final act in a Newcastle shirt came at Upton Park, the former home of West Ham. He scored an absolutely sublime free-kick to help us on our way to victory and turned out to be his very last kick of the ball for the club.
I was gutted when he left. He provided us with some incredible memories, not least scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win at Old Trafford, our first win there in 41 years. Cabaye, at his peak, which I do believe he was at Newcastle, was a sublime footballer. What I’d give for another Yohan Cabaye at our club right now.
There’s an absolutely embarrassing number of candidates for these two positions to be totally honest, but I think I’ve nailed it with the two selections I’ve made. First up is Emmanuel Riviere.
Signed from Monaco, where he had turned a lot of heads both with his ability to find the back of the net and do a mad flip when celebrating them, he joined Newcastle in 2014.
He never managed to find the form at Newcastle he had shown at Monaco and to be honest, I’d though we’d signed another Ali Dia for a while there. His game wasn’t just bad, it was atrocious. He just couldn’t do anything right.
He was contracted to Newcastle for three years and in that time, he made 31 appearances for the club, scoring three goals and providing one assist. His first Premier League goal came in the second to last game of his first season, bagging in a 2-1 defeat at QPR as United were embroiled in a relegation battle.
What makes Riviere’s presence even weirder is that he was keeping Facundo Ferreyra out of the team. The loanee from Shakhtar Donetsk had scored goals wherever he’d been but for some reason, he just never played for Newcastle. Instead, Alan Pardew and John Carver opted to play Riviere…
Currently, Riviere plays in the Italian second division for Cosenza.
Xisco was just a weird signing. Newcastle signed him for a reported £5.7m, rising to £7m with add-ons, from Deportivo in September 2008. The team had been in need of a striker and it was hoped he would be the man to make the difference.
It must be said that this signing was one made by the group dubbed ‘The Cockney Mafia’ by the fans who were running Newcastle at the time. They were making signings without consulting manager Kevin Keegan – something which would eventually lead to his resignation.
Here’s what Keegan said about the deal in his book:
“Tony Jimenez, the executive who had been put in charge of Newcastle’s transfer business, had informed me we were spending £5.7 million on a Spanish player called Xisco whom nobody from the club had ever seen play.”
He played just 11 times for Newcastle over the course of five years (I know, I didn’t know he was there that long either) and scored one goal. Amazingly, his one goal for the club came on his debut against Hull just two weeks after he signed for the club.
After that, he fell to seventh choice striker at the club behind Michael Owen, Peter Lovenkrands, Shola Ameobi, (a very young) Andy Carroll, Mark Viduka and the then number nine Obafemi Martins.
Things weren’t great for him at the club and in his first season at the club, Newcastle were relegated. Despite that looking like a perfect opportunity for him to make a mark on the club, he said he wanted to leave and was shipped out on loan to Racing Santander.
Back in 2008, £7m was still a lot of money for a football club to invest in a player. It’s not like now wherein that’s mere pocket change, it was a substantial investment. Despite that, he was rarely used and, even when he was, he was useless.
If you’re wondering, a 33-year-old Xisco is still playing football. He represents Penarol in first tier of Uruguayan football. This season he’s made five appearances and scored once.