Rout of order

By Lee Ryder on Jan 21, 11 08:54 PM

On the morning of Chris Hughton's last act in charge of Newcastle United, a taxi driver made the valid point to me that Newcastle United lacked the required amount of players to put in enough crosses for Andy Carroll to wreak havoc in his coveted number 9 shirt.

I knew only too well where he was coming from.

He went on to bemoan the fact that in his opinion, Newcastle have not possessed a true old fashioned winger since the days of Keith Gillespie.

Again, it wasn't the worst shout in the world but in the back of my mind, I instantly thought of a player that Newcastle today offloaded - Wayne Routledge.

Hours later, Newcastle were beaten 3-1 by West Brom, Routledge was hauled off after 74 minutes and within a day of the defeat, Chris Hughton was sacked.

Now, I'm obviously not blaming Routledge for Hughton's questionable dismissal, but in the pint sized winger Newcastle actually have had an "old fashioned" style winger on their books for the last 12 months.

When Routledge arrived through the door at the club's Benton base, it was with a millstone around his neck of not being able to do the business in the Premier League.

He'd burst on to the scene at Crystal Palace, not delivered/been given a chance at Spurs, been farmed out to Fulham and Pompey for loan spells that came to nothing, flunked at Aston Villa and eventually ended up in the Championship first at Cardiff and then with QPR.

It was then that the winger who had performed so well with the Eagles in the top flight began to re-emerge somewhat and especially with QPR where he was one of the most feared wingers in the division with assists galore and goals to boot.

Last January, it didn't take him long to get into his stride in a black and white shirt and at 25 last year, you just wondered if he still had enough in the locker to be a threat on the back of a successful second champagne soaked half of the season that resulted in the Championship title coming back to Tyneside.

Six months later, and Routledge finds himself back at Loftus Road and in the Championship - seemingly unable to be step up to the plate in the big league.

This, deemed to many football fans is a "Championship player."

You can only look at that as a big shame for both the player and Newcastle United.

Like Gillespie, jet-heeled Routledge has the ability to do something that gets fans our of their seats - hitting the byline and cutting the ball across the six yard box for the likes of Andy Carroll to reap the benefits.

Yet the truth is, Newcastle's service has been so poor out wide this season they have had to re-invent Joey Barton as a right winger.

Routledge's tally of one assist and no goals in 19 games says it all.

He's not alone, Jonas Gutierrez's contributions have not fared much better with three assists and one goal in league and cup in 21 games.

In 18 PL games, Barton has six assists and two goals and interestingly the man who thrives off service Andy Carroll has weighed in with at least six or seven assists (depending on your definition of an assist) in my book to go with his 11 goals.

Routledge is the type of player who clearly needs to be encouraged but without that, he drifts out of games and disappears inside himself.

Last season after games the player seemed a lot happier and was happy to talk to media men after matches which is something rare in Wayne's world, according to one of my London counterparts a Routledge post-game interview was as likely as finding two pints for a fiver in the capital!

This season, the sight of Routledge with iPod headphones in and hood up replaced the more relaxed figure we enjoyed seeing last season.

At the start of the season he gave me an interview claiming how much he loved Newcastle and how he'd finally felt settled and loved at a club unlike any other before.

But it appears that Routledge has ended up being a bi-product of Newcastle's inconsistency with Hughton moving on and Alan Pardew making it crystal clear what the standards are for his new team.

You can't blame Pardew for wanting to make the most of his wide men, Shola Ameobi, Carroll, Kevin Nolan and perhaps in time Nile Ranger are all a threat in the air.

It's not just about aerial prowess though, all centre-forwards thrive from good service.

Alan Shearer used to speak highly of the work of Nobby Solano during his two spells on Tyneside while Kieron Dyer's early years at Newcastle were a thrill to experience when the Ipswich lad burst on to the scene and had no fear and long before the goldfish bowl consumed him.

Going back before Gillespie and Rob Lee out wide in the promotion season of 92/93 still gives me the odd tingle when old footage is played while Scott Sellars was a winger who lived his life to provide for his team-mates, ask Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley.

Unfortunately, players like Sellars, Lee and Gillespie don't grow on trees.

This makes the Routledge situation all the more frustrating, as there is a very good winger inside him, unfortunately it just isn't fighting to get out.

To rub it in, Routledge will go to QPR and do well.

But where that leaves Newcastle is with Joey Barton out wide and Jonas as ever needing to step up to the plate more so than ever.

Today I took a call from a Belgian journalist claiming Newcastle had been watching Anderlecht winger Jonathan Legear.

It turned out there was nothing in it, but if the lad can cross a ball, I'm sure there would be plenty of Geordies who would love to see him on the plane.

As for Routledge, you can only wonder what might have been.


toonagain said:

Lee, i keep adding Jonas should be played on the right, in fact he driffeted over ther a couple of times on saturday and we looked really good, his crosses were pretty spot on.

Routledge, i think, has never come back from the poor display at our first game at ManU he got a lot of stick and I think you're right when his confidence is knocked he becomes a little withdrawn and after that everyting he does wrong the fans get on his back, its bullying really and does nothing for the team. I think he should of been given more of a chance but points are important and JB has done a fine job out there. for me put Jonas on the right possibly push Enrique up to left midfield until we find a new left winger and bring in one of the younger players at left back. i think padew has sacrificed WR simply t find funds as MA once again isn't getting his cheque book out simple as that, nothing to d with RW ability really... p.s. your captcha is rubbish..

manfromutopia said:

Routledge never was,and is never going to be a Premiership footballer,good riddance I'm afraid. Laughable talking about Gillespie as a good old fashioned winger. He was absolutley pathetic with his only move being to kick it past the full back and then chase it as fast as his funny little arms and legs would carry him.A kind of poor man's Lennon.We have to go back to Ginola for true class as a winger and unfortunately in this day and age,you can't afford the luxury of his kind of player if you haven't got the protection of someone like Batty. It may be now that we have the likes of Tiote that we could reintroduce the out and out exciting winger who can 'really' cross a ball.Can't think of anyone who would fit the bill and be prepared to accept the fat shopkeeper's paltry wage plan so we'll have to persist with Jonas who is good at getting past people,and actually works quite hard tracking back when necessary but crossing a ball.......Makes you wonder what they do in training sometimes.The moon under water in Leicester Square was charging £2.25 for a pint of Ruddles last time I was in Lee,or are you talking about girlie lager ?


Lee Ryder

Lee Ryder - Proudly born and bred on Tyneside, the Chronicle's chief sports writer has followed the fortunes of the club over the last three decades as a Toon fan and football writer.

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