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Newcastle United: Retirement Home For Aging Footballers

nicky butt Newcastle United: Retirement Home For Aging Footballers

If there was a Premier League Hall Of Fame, you could guarantee that many of Newcastle United players from 1992 onwards would have made the list. Superstars such as Peter Beardsley, Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand and David Ginola would be certain inductees — just to name a few.

You could also argue that many of Newcastle United’s current players could be included in that list too, but that’s precisely one of the main issues of why I believe Newcastle are performing so poorly this season and why they will get relegated. They have a team of old, tired legs who used to be legends but are now seeing out the last days of their footballing careers.

To illustrate the point, consider the following Newcastle United stars, and when they were at the pinnacle of their careers:

  • Nicky Butt. One could argue that Butt’s best season was 1996-1997 when Manchester United finished top of the Premier League and won the Community Shield. Butt scored a career high five goals that season, and earned his first of 39 caps for England. Peak of his career: 1997 (12 years ago).
  • Michael Owen. During the 2001-2002 season, Owen reached his peak when he scored 38 goals for Liverpool and England including a famous hat-trick against Germany in a 5-1 win and two goals in the 2002 World Cup. In 2001, he helped Liverpool win the League Cup, UEFA Cup and the FA Cup, where the Reds seemed to be heading to a 1-0 loss against Arsenal until Owen scored two late goals to win it for the Merseyside club. Peak of his career: 2001 (eight years ago).
  • Alan Smith. In 2000-2001, Alan Smith scored 18 goals in all tournaments for Leeds United, who were one game away from qualifying for the Champions League Final. Smith was a key component of the Yorkshire club’s attack in their Champions League matches. Smith was Leeds United through and through. He was a colossal player that was all over the park, giving every ounce of energy to help Leeds win. Peak of his career: 2001 (eight years ago).
  • Mark Viduka. In his first season at Leeds United, Mark Viduka scored 22 goals during 2000-2001. Many of those goals were scored alongside Alan Smith as the two teamed up to help Leeds progress into the semi-finals of the Champions League. In the Premier League, Viduka formed an explosive partnership with Robbie Keane. The Aussie’s best form was his four goals that season against Liverpool in the 4-3 win at Elland Road. Peak of his career: 2001 (eight years ago).

This season, Nicky Butt has looked like an old man playing for Newcastle, and is definitely nowhere near his career high. At age 34, he’s five years older than Michael Owen, one year older than Mark Viduka and six years older than Alan Smith. Owen, despite retaining his raw goalscoring instincts, continues to be too injury prone. Smith plays like a ghost and looks nothing like the passionate player he was at Leeds. And Viduka is stil lacking match practice.

Another contender for the Premier League Hall of Fame is Damien Duff, the hard-nosed winger who was a star for the Republic of Ireland in the 2002 World Cup and was the leading goalscorer for Blackburn during the 2002-2003 season when he scored 11 goals. In the summer of 2003, Duff joined Chelsea for a then club record of £17 million. In 2004-2005, he scored 10 goals in 30 appearances after he moved to the right wing but things went downhill for the Irishman from there.

What Newcastle needs is a complete spring cleaning to remove the old legends and to replace them with new blood. If Newcastle is relegated in the next few weeks, many of its stars will leave or retire. It’s just a shame that they couldn’t of been sold a few years ago when they were already well past their peak.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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