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Farewell to My Beloved Newcastle United Squad

Thursday saw the sale of Newcastle United captain, top goal scorer and fan favourite Kevin Nolan to West Ham United, a move that left the Toon Army shocked and hurt once again. Although Kevin Nolan wasn’t a spectacular footballer, he was a player who had that rare instinct to be in the right place at the right time — and with two years left on his contract, as well as Newcastle’s search for a ‘top goal scorer,’ it raises questions as to why Nolan was sold considering what he brought to the team.

In any case, no Newcastle United fan can deny that Kevin Nolan will be missed, and although there were some games in the season where he was somewhat ineffective and almost anonymous, his goals helped not only to promote the club from the Championship, but secure the club’s place in the Premier League. One of the most distressing aspects of this move, for myself personally, is the fact that the squad spirit and personality that the club possessed from our time in the Championship appears to be almost dead and I truly fear that we will once again have a side full of soulless mercenaries who have no rapport with the fans.

If you’ve been a Newcastle fan for the past decade or so you will understand exactly what I mean. It’s no secret that modern football is less about passion for playing the game and more about the money involved, yet that doesn’t mean to say that the fans can’t grow an attachment to a particular squad that they feel has a good atmosphere. It’s understandable that the club needs to grow and progressively improve, yet the side that took Newcastle up from the Championship was something special and one that actually felt like a squad as opposed to a team of individuals. They may not have been the greatest players in the world, but many of the fans felt that the squad actually had a personality and their close-knit relationships showed on the pitch as the side could keep their heads up regardless of any setbacks. It was a far cry from the days of Joe Kinnear or Graeme Souness, where we may have had a talented bunch of individuals, but they couldn’t work together with the same fluidity and felt like lifeless beings who just played football for the club (obviously excluding the odd one or two).

Even players like Leon Best, who had a shaky start to his Newcastle career, was somewhat adored by many fans and despite not being a groundbreaking striker, he was always spurred on by large sections of the supporters and felt like a player, and person, the Toon Army were happy to call one of their own. However, Best is one of a number of players who have been told that they are “surplus to requirements” and it appears, like Nolan, he will be plying his trade elsewhere. Alan Smith and Nile Ranger have also been told that they can leave the club, and you’re more than likely aware of the Joey Barton situation, who himself claimed that Jose Enrique and Jonas Gutierrez could also be on their way out soon. Once again, they’re not the greatest players in the world, but I liked them, felt like they really added something to the squad and were happy to be part of a football club I love so much. The sacking of the wonderful Chris Hughton was the start of this revolution and the change appears to be gathering pace. Obviously in the case of Barton, I went on record to say that the club shouldn’t entirely cave in to his contract demands, yet I hope the issue is resolved. Jose Enrique clearly wants to leave now, which is disappointing, and Jonas Gutierrez has expressed a desire to play in Italy. Within the space of a few months, a group of players I, and many other Newcastle fans, loved so much could be completely erased from the squad.

This is the way of modern football though. Udinese of Italy is a great example of how the game has changed and is becoming more of a business rather than a game. Udinese are only a small team, yet their squad has managed to have a great season and qualify for the Champions League from Serie A. In actually fact though, the squad that got them that far won’t be competing for them in the Champions League next season, as the “big clubs” have circled them like vultures and are looking to take their players. Sanchez, Zapata, Inler, Isla and Handanovic could all leave the squad this summer and it really makes you question the credibility of “passion” in the game. Acts of loyalty can sometimes seem surprising to people these days, as they’re often portrayed that way in the media. Sampdoria, also of Italy, were relegated this season which was a shock to many considering they qualified for the Champions League the previous season. Like Udinese, their squad was dismantled by the elite squads, yet it was great to see captain Angelo Palombo (who is an Italian international and a great defensive midfielder wanted by a lot of teams) say that he loves the club and wants to stay with them in Serie B. It’s just a shame that we don’t see players acting with their heart more often.

Obviously I am aware that my attachment to many of the Newcastle players is because they were the guys who stuck with the squad when we went down. Albeit, that was probably in some part due to the fact that they were on a lot of money. Yet many up in the North East knew that they were playing with pride of the club and were proud to play in black and white.

I know it’s not a new phenomenon that football is all about money in the 21st century, but it appears to be getting a bit out of hand and every season it appears like there is less passion and loyalty from the people who play the game. That’s why I’m so sad that this squad is being broken apart, as it actually felt like they were proud to be part of Newcastle and the attributes they brought to the club really made them stand out as personalities. To me, they were one of the last bastions of footballing passion and maybe I am just a romantic for these things, but football should be all about the love for the game and not about how much profit a club can make. It’s just like Bob Dylan sang: ’Money doesn’t talk, it swears’. For all I know, the new side could be great and I may get attached to them for other reasons, but it is hard to replicate what I felt for the squad that made us proud and helped a club, and a city for that matter, bounce back from the despair of relegation. Change is never easy, but this particular one hits home a little hard considering it is happening so fast.

Follow me on Twitter @Clusks

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  1. Dhalgren

    June 19, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Love the Toon. Hate Ashley. Ownership must change. But look at the upgrades that Pardew is making to the midfield. Big Lad preferred to be a superstar in the Championship again? Fine. The Mags are going to be younger, faster, and score more goals in 2011/12. Just look at the midfield roster. Ben Arfa. Marveaux. Tiote. Lovenkrnds (moved back to the middle because, um, we didn’t have any strikers besides Best and Shola). Spiderman. And possibly Taarabt. And offensive midfield. Gotta have one if you want to get into the top half of the table.

  2. Mark

    June 19, 2011 at 6:46 am

    It’s also worth pointing out that Nolan had an existing two year contract, he could have stayed and honoured it rather than asking for more money and years. Perhaps Newcastle should have insisted on it, keeping him until he was 31 on existing wages may have been the best option. The problem is that players can kick off even if they are under contract, Barton was complaining that he hadn’t been offered a penny more, conveniently forgetting he’s already on sixty grand a week.

  3. zul

    June 19, 2011 at 3:03 am

    i’m a newcastle fans and i agree with your statement bud.

  4. Mark

    June 19, 2011 at 2:33 am

    The ills of modern football aren’t simply down to clubs, as soon as players realise they are popular with fans they put in for a pay rise. If they don’t get it they look elsewhere. Nolan is prime example, he couldn’t give two hoots about the fans beyond them being a lever for a better deal. Newcastle were sensible enough not to get into a bidding war over a limited player who is slow enough not let alone in five years time. At least Nolan has been faultless at his time at his club, unlike Barton who is trying the same trick after one good season. Newcastle’s policy is to offer players the deal they think is right and if they don’t like it they quickly move on as they have done this week – signing Ba and Marveaux on free transfers. Think back a few years, it was completely different, they would fall for a player like love sick teenager then promise him the earth, which left them paying out huge money for the likes of Owen. Alan Smith and Xisco are still benefiting from this generosity but at least it has ended. Anyone who prefers that to the current regime needs their head examining.

  5. James

    June 18, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Newcastle is looking for a much younger team. In many games last season, Newcastle lacked tempo and relied on Andy Carolls height to win games. Now Newcastle is looking for a fast, skillful team. Change is a part of every team.

  6. Guy

    June 18, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Nice article. I always enjoy reading first person accounts, especially on teams other than the usual suspects.

    Thanks. 🙂

  7. trickybrkn

    June 18, 2011 at 10:59 am

    There are two problems for Newcastle. One Ashley, two Pardew.

    Ashley… Do I really need to get into it?

    Pardew… While a great cheerleader, he is also one annoying prick. Consider the fact that not only did he cheat on his Swedish wife, he did it with one of his player’s wife. Poor Carl Fletcher. Take that John Terry. +At West Ham he took a team up and had a nice FA Cup run to the final. – That same team was fighting with one another and hated each other. The Bling boys where able to party at will, Players gambled in the dressing room, and it is said that Teddy Sheringham sharked upwards of £500,000 from fellow players and Pardew himself. It got so bad that Matty Etherington had to ‘loan’ money from Cockney hard men to pay off Teddy. Ethernington would end up in gamblers rehab the next season keeping him off the pitch in a relegation battle.

    I’ll be honest that I didn’t follow him much at Charlton &Southampton , but both of those clubs are on the decent now after he managed.

    He just signed Demba BA. Great scorer, but a mercenary. He striked to get out of Hoffenheim, refused to sign autographs for fans that paid £100 a seat at a season close dinner, and whose knee is a time bomb.

    Newcastle has too much football history to have Alan Pardew and Ashley running it. They deserve better. You deserve better.

    but thank you for Nolan… If we keep Parker, we’ll have a top midfield for the PL, let alone the Championship.

  8. Kiley

    June 18, 2011 at 10:18 am

    If you’re a Newcastle United fan don’t forget Mike Ashley is still the owner. He can mess up the squad just as easily as he can put a decent one together.

  9. Robert

    June 18, 2011 at 8:25 am

    “Once again, they’re not the greatest players in the world, but I liked them”

    In order to build a winning squad, sometimes you have to sell off likeable players. Newcastle were simply getting value for Nolan (who was overpriced due to his inflated goal total) while they could.

  10. David

    June 18, 2011 at 6:14 am

    Well written statement, I have to agree with you on that one. Although I understand that teams change rather quickly esp after promotion (Think about about how the team changed after Newcastle’s promotion under Keegan!). I feel the squad may harbour back to the days of soulless pre ma donna’s if there is no progress this season. Hopefully the plan is not only to buy every frenchman in the world but also bring through (and keep this time!) some local talent which should keep the heart of the club. From the look of the recent investment in the academy and the encouraging signs of the likes of Shane Fergerson coming through, this is all part of the plan! (would be nice to know what exactly the plan is!). With the likes of locally born scouts such as (Chatty man) Graham Carr being in charge of who would be right or wrong for the club from a geordie perspective thats further encouragement. But yeah watching Ashley Smash his way through the squad with a hammer is just stupid and thoughtless! aka Loyalty + Team spirit = Naf all! Which is a worry.

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