Kuqi has nothing to lose - but everything to gain

By Lee Ryder on Feb 11, 11 08:50 AM

When Shefki Kuqi walked off the training field in the sunshine at the club's Benton base with his team-mates purring at his supreme shooting powers and hold-up play it was hard to believe that the player had already been branded a "joke" by some and his arrival ridiculed by rival fans.

I agree that a club like Newcastle United should not find themselves scrambling to sign players on a free transfer in a window that resulted in promise after promise that Andy Carroll was staying only for the player to be sold without a reputable replacement coming in.

I agree that Kuqi is a player in the twilight of his career and very much drinking in the Last Chance Saloon when it comes to life in the Premier League - or even the Championship.

But if a man in life can be fully judged and branded a flop or anything else before he's even had a fair crack of the whip, then you have to wonder if football is going to the dogs.

Kuqi at 34 is obviously no spring chicken.

He's obviously not here as a replacement for Andy Carroll - he's a cover player in a desperate time of need.

Nobody said he was coming here to lead us to the Champions League.

Whatever happened with Andy Carroll has sweet FA to do with him.

I don't know Shefki Kuqi very well but what I can say is that those in the professional game have a much different opinion of him compared to some of the things that have been said about him in the aftermath of his arrival.

If I'd had any doubts that he was unfit, our of condition or worse, then those doubts were wiped out very quickly yesterday.

The bloke was one of the last off the training field and his build would have impressed Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime.

Sure, fans can have an opinion of him, you can watch any player on Youtube.

But unfortunately Youtube - as great a tool as it is - doesn't create videos of players holding up the ball, putting in crosses or even the dirtier jobs like holding on to the ball in the last minute to see out time and win a football match.

Of course Kuqi is grateful to be handed such a great chance at Newcastle but who wouldn't be?

Most players would crawl up the A1 through broken glass to play for this club from the lower divisions.

And it's that type of attitude that could make Kuqi a success at Newcastle.

Yes, it is about ability.

But at this club we've paid silly amounts of money for people like Albert Luque who just didn't want to play for the club and didn't want to be here.

I've witnessed Luque deciding to sub himself in reserve games after less than 15 minutes because he didn't have the hunger to play for this club.

There are a host of players who have failed to live up to their ability at Newcastle and a lot that obviously didn't understand what it was all about.

We've had Patrick Kluivert here, but aside a handful of goals, he never seemed to be able to lift himself enough to really hit the heights he enjoyed at Ajax and Barcelona.


Because the most important thing about footballers is attitude.

That's not just coming from the top end, it's at the bottom end too.

Earlier in my career I covered the fortunes of Scunthorpe United with Brian Laws in charge of the club.

He had a wealth of youngsters who had incredible skill.

One of them was a lad called Tyrone Kirk who won a national keepy up competition, his skill was incredible.

But there were players at Scunny with lesser ability who could adapt to the team's style and show they were willing to win the game for the team without getting the personal glory.

They were the players that were prepared to put their head on the line and stop a goal at the death and sweat blood for the cause.

And those were the players that won the professional contracts.

The same now goes for Newcastle United at this present stage in time and Alan Pardew knows that better than anybody.

That's why he may have opted for Kuqi ahead of an Ewerthon or Jérémie AliadiÚre.

The current crop of players did not fight their way back into the light from the Championship because they were big time charlies.

They didn't get positive results at the likes of Barnsley, Preston, Doncaster and Swansea by turning up with their own personal entourages in the old Second Division and a star with their name on for the dressing rooms.

They achieved promotion because they were a TEAM.

They have so far avoided being in the bottom three because they still are a TEAM.

They fought back from losing Andy Carroll and being 4-0 down to Arsenal because they are a TEAM.

When Newcastle were relegated the big shots quit the club because they didn't want to be here.

And they didn't want to be here from about November onwards.

Could you see the team of 2008/09 coming back from even 1-0 down?

Doubtful indeed.

So that only brings me to the conclusion that even if Kuqi plays his part in ONE game that helps Newcastle get a result, he's done his bit - I'm sure he can bring more to the table than that.

But I'm quite sure in his role as super sub or whatever Pardew decides is best for him, he will give as he said himself 110%.

I'm not saying he will come in and be a resounding success but if he comes in and helps the team in the last 14 games with a few thrills and spills along the way, then brilliant.

And he might just surprise a few people that have already pre-judged him or branded him a "joke".


Norman Smith said:

Great article Lee. Dead right!

Whumpie said:

Thanks, Lee - some balance to all the ridicule and ill-informed commentary around today.

And we've got previous: Sibierski, anyone?

toonagain said:

Lee, Good job mate!

DormAnt said:

Will chef turn out to be a smart cookie?

Alan Pardew has obviously bought this lad because of his physical size and presence, his current level of fitness and, as you say Lee, his commitment to the cause and sensible attitude.

I listened to his interview and was pleased to hear that he promised nothing other than 110% effort for the benefit of the team.

I have no doubt that if he can get into the box Joey Barton will find him with his crossing ability, and Kevin Nolan will be there or there about to pick up the second ball crumbs in this crucial area of play.

If his hold up play is as good as many seem to think it is it will be a major plus for the team as it will give others time to get forward into more attacking positions.

We could be the swansong to his career he was hoping for and it may prove to be to our mutual benefit to have him here until at least the end of the season.
I wish him nothing but good fortune while he is here, but not just for selfish reasons though.

George Anderson said:

Well said. We cannot afford to be bullied anywhere on the field and this fella will see to that up front. Great signing in the present circumstances and what a role model for youngsters tempted to abuse their bodies with drink etc and so shorten careers.


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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