Changing of the guards at SJP?

By Lee Ryder on Jun 9, 11 07:49 AM

In the aftermath of relegation two years ago there is no doubt that "player power" laid the foundations of Chris Hughton's subsequent Coca-Cola Championship triumph.

With Tyneside losing its head and silence coming from within the four walls of St James' Park, a stand needed to be made.

Just over two years ago, bemused players returned for pre-season training with many of them not knowing who would be in charge of the team, let alone if they were going to stay.

With Alan Shearer sidelined and the camp split over whether he should have remained in charge, it was down to Hughton to lead the troops.

Hughton was never in a position to shout the odds at a group of players still wounded after relegation.

And so, he used his senior players as a lever to ignite a positive start to the season.

Kevin Nolan, Alan Smith, Geremi and Steve Harper were all part of the controversial "Players Committee".

The first the Press knew of the formation of the group was at the most unlikeliest destination - Dundee United's Tannadice!

United's opening friendly of the pre-season of 2009/10 was at Shamrock Rovers with many players vocal of the situation at St James' Park.

Just as frustrated as the fans, Toon stars vented their frustrations in Ireland but it sent out the wrong signal in the eyes of some.

And with Hughton and Colin Calderwood keen to keep spirits high, the handful of local journalists who made the journey to Dundee were told that only one player would be coming out to do the talking.

This was unusual but understandable from the point of view of the players who had to keep it positive with a division of teams in the Championship baying for their blood!

Of course, the infamous Leyton Orient 6-1 hammering was to follow and gradually the Players Committe simply asked: "Who's in, who's out."

It resulted in the departure of Oba Martins, Seb Bassong, Damien Duff and Habib Beye who seemingly did not have the stomach to go to Barnsley, Scunthorpe and Doncaster.

But Nolan and Smith and Co clearly did.

Two years on, and as so often happens in football, it appears that in the eyes of Newcastle United: "No indvidual is bigger than the club."

With Nolan unable to agree a new deal with United and West Ham circling, Smith told he can go and Joey Barton knowing his future is limited at Newcastle, it is not difficult to see that the Magpies are prepared - if they have to - to go with a fresh approach and a new stamp on the team.

In reality, Smith would be relying on a major injury crisis to get back into the team.

And would Nolan's influence and 12 goals last season, automatically get him in a fully fit midifeld with Cabaye, Tiote, Ben Arfa and Gosling in the running too?

Certainly Nolan's presence at United in the past few seasons has been crucial - and who would replace him as the natural leader?

Either way, it appears that United are prepared to - if they have to - make the bold move of moving forward without the men who have laid the foundations for the current stable position of the Magpies.


Pete said:

Its a mistake letting barton an Nolan leave, that much is obvious. More worryingly upon arrival at the club Pardew insisted he wouldnt take the job if there was any chance carroll would be sold then he later comes out and says how important it is to get Joey and kevin on new contracts.... Lookwhats happened! Seems to me Pardew is the perfwct yes man fat ash and labia wanted! Cant believe a word that comes from his mouth

Robert Wilson said:

Barton - great player and just had a great season but asking for too long a contract.

Nolan - just too slow and carrying too much weight. Knackered trying to get from one end of the pitch to the other. Only going too get eevn slower if that is possible.

Smith - pretty much finished now. Gives senseless fouls away all the time to try and cover up for his lack of pace. can only slide tackle, never wins a ball whilst on his feet.

Think Ashley is doing the right thing. Last thing we want in year or two is a return to a midfield that that compares to that of Butt and Geremi and the likes a year or too back.

Stuart said:

I dont think Nolan will fit into the team as he is not an effective CM, he just doesnt have the legs for it. JB will stay this year and see out his contract but for all we have given him thats the least he can do in return.
I would also like to see Ameobi moved on, he just isnt good enough and certainly only performs sporadically at best.
I say if MA wants to bring in young fresh talent that has a hunger to succeed then that is fine with me and hopefully we can have some exciting times at SJP with this new crop we are being linked to.
If the names mentioned all turn up to be genuine buys for us then we will be certainly a lot better than we are at the minute and who knows......if we start climbing the league then MA might just reignite some love between us fans and the club and that is no bad thing.

toonagain said:

Pete i agree with you; RW and Stu I don't, its wishful thinking...

i don't understand why Nolan gets so much stick, he is under 30 in his prime and so what if he can't run like a whippet, Dyer could and what use was he -zero!! Barton isn't that quick either but Nolan has scored goals and Barton supplies them and thats what counts, they have a talent for it, not many do!!

Ok extend his contract 2-3yrs same as Barton. But if we had better players they would be playing. I wouldn't put money on this lot having replacements come kick off, look what they've managed in the past.

As for Pardwho, he doesn't know whether he is coming or going. Bottom line is they're changing it because there is too much player power.

Zach said:

Why don't we play Nolan as a ST? He doesn't have the legs but he is really good at finishing

Stuart said:

Thats what we need strikers for. Finishing. Not slow midfielders. Its possible we could be playing 5 across the middle with an advanced CAM supporting the striker, Nolan could do this but its the defensive side of the CAM he lacks, we will be counter attacked left right and centre and concede a lot of goals.

I like KN but he isnt peak condition and thats going to lead to injuries like it did this season, anyone can see he is overweight.

Mick said:

with all the rumours surrounding midfielders etc. i had a feeling we will go 4-5-1 next season. cabaye tiote in holding role with the former slightly more involved in attack, arfa attacking midfielder, gosling on the right, n'zog / gutierrez on the left. what we need now is a true centre forward / goal poacher in the mould of let say, berbatov? bring on berb who's a magpies fan and perhaps we can start to dream again !

toonagain said:

The Arsenal model has been mentioned a few times however what seems to have gone wrong there and where ManU get it right, is ManU retain their experienced players and even give them coaching roles after they stop playing.

Arsenal have failed to do this and really have not got any further forward over the last 5-6yrs.

If Newcastle do the same, they will not progress. There'll be no one to pass on the club ethic and experience. Basically the Arsenal model may work financially but thats where it stops, they're living on past glory -we haven't evne got that!

terry tibbs said:

How can anyone have a go at Nolan? Without his goals we'd have been relegation fodder & if we let him leave that will be the case next season.
Barton was probably our player of the season & Nolan our top score & captain yet we're openly talking about replacing both with an unproven French man & a kid from Everton who's spent the last year injured! Come on get a grip man!!

Chris Gray said:

Lee - I seem to have had a right mauling on the Toontastic website following my blog on here about Ashley. Sorry if I offended anyone but I think we’re all entitled to an opinion. I thought I said I was not an Ashley apologist – I think he’s made some terrible mistakes, and his communication/PR is worse than useless. But the blanket response to everything he does is so negative that I think it needs challenging. Probably not a great idea to put “Fact” after the various comments – I accept not all of them were cast-iron facts. Someone claimed that Vieira cost £3.5 million not £350,000. They were right, I was wrong. My mistake. However, it’s still not a bad bargain. My comments about Keegan and Shearer being “foisted” on Ashley were maybe a bit strong but my point was that in my view Keegan was the people’s choice (Ashley’s PR people looking for a bit of popularity) and Shearer a panic move. May not be everyone’s opinion. Didn’t think all this would get the response it did, but glad in a way it did; at least it caused a bit of controversy, which is not a bad thing from time to time. Could have done without the personal abuse, though. I still hold to the underlying argument – Ashley has not been all bad and not all his ideas are evil.

Another question (the answer to which will prove which side of this argument is right): Where will we be in two years time?

Stuart said:

and today we have confirmation from the club that a change in formation is on the cards for the season ahead, hence KN is out the door. Bye bye kev, hope you enjoy watching the ball bypassing you under Big Hoof Ball Sam.

Graham Southern Toon said:

So next seasons starting team may look like this then:
Taylor (From Swansea)
Barton (If he stays)
Ben Afra

Routledge (Seems like he is on his way back)
Spiderman (If he stays)
N'zomnia (If he comes)
Ranger (If no one wants him)

I agree Nolan is getting on, but at 28/29 he still could have a couple of good seasons left in him and the issue is suspensions and injuries will mean those on the bench playing for periods, are they up to it as yet????

kieran said:

Gutted to see Nolan sold. While it's nice to have players like ben arfa, its players like nolan that get the job done. He should have been a nailed on certainty to sign a new contract, cant help but think ashley does these things to lower our expectations

christhegeek said:

Good riddance to Nolan if he doesn't want to play for the Toon. Same with everyone else who wants away. Let them go. I can't wait for the new season to kick off. To help with the long wait, here's a great Andy Capp animation..

Lee Ryder Author Profile Pagesaid:

Thanks Chris.
I think everybody has an opinion and everybody is also entitled to one.
Some you might agree with others you won't.
Unfortunately, some people think that when you don't agree, you are awarded a licence to hurl abuse at others.
That's life.
The fact of the matter is that while the current regime have done a lot to improve NUFC (steadying the finances and freshening up the Academy system) and ensured the club didn't follow the path of a Leeds, I can still see why in the eyes of others that they have an awful lot of to do to win over large groups of fans.
As we approach the new season, I do so with caution...but apart from the first Keegan era and the Sir Bobby Robson years, has it ever been any different for the modern NUFC fan under either Mike Ashley or Freddy Shepherd?


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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