Sunday, November 29, 2020

Newcastle United 2011/12 – Where are the critic defying stars now?

Back in summer 2011, Newcastle United prepared for their first full season with Alan Pardew at the helm. With stalwarts such as Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton shipped out, replaced by a bunch of unproven lads from the French league, expectation was far from high going into the season.

A brief overview of the 2011/12 season

The season started in absolutely magnificent style for Newcastle as Alan Pardew’s men went unbeaten for the first 11 games of the season. Their first defeat of the campaign didn’t come until November when they fell 3-1 to Manchester City at the Etihad – a ground United typically don’t enjoy their visits to.

In the early months of the season, the fans took to their new arrivals. The likes of Demba Ba, a Senegalese striker signed on a free in the pre-season, and Yohan Cabaye, a midfield maestro from Lille, really captured the hearts of the fans, playing some very attractive football.

Perhaps the man who had the biggest impact though was Papiss Cisse, a January signing from Freiburg.

Also from Senegal, Cisse linked up with Ba to create one of the best strike partnerships I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch in my 20 years as a Newcastle fan. Cisse scored 13 goals in 14 games that season, including a goal of the century contender at Chelsea.

Newcastle created some wonderful memories that season – it was my first as a season ticket holder, and I loved it. The 3-0 win against Manchester United is without a doubt one of my all time favourite football memories. In the end, Newcastle would finish fifth in this season, and it felt like we’d won the bloody league…

So, the players – most of them are either in the twilight years of their career now – some have even retired. Let’s go through them, starting with the keeper.

The Newcastle Squad

Tim Krul – Norwich City

Back in 2011/12, Timmy Krul stood in the nets for United in his first full season as the first choice keeper having been at St James’ Park since 2006. He played every game that season and did a very fine job indeed, putting in numerous match winning performances.

Nowadays, he plays for Norwich City in the Premier League. He’s had a tough time of it in the last few years, struggling with injuries and the likes. Now though, he seems to have found a new home in Norwich, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Just a couple of weeks ago, he was the hero of the day for City in a penalty shootout against Spurs.

Danny Simpson – Huddersfield Town

Danny Simpson made his mark in the Newcastle team this season with some dogged performances down the right. He endeared himself to the fans mainly through his exceptional talent for clearing the ball off the line – it happened far more often than you’d think.

Currently, he plays for Huddersfield Town in the Championship. His time since leaving United has been damn successful – he was a big part of the incredible Leicester City team that miraculously won the league in 2015/16.

Fabricio Coloccini – San Lorenzo

The skipper! Fabricio Coloccini was our fearless leader in the 11/12 season having been at the club for four years already by that point. He was part of the team that were relegated to the Championship for the first time, and he was a vital part of the team that got Newcastle back into the Premier League.

Without Colo, I don’t think it’s an overreaction to say that Newcastle would have been a lot further down the table in 11/12. These days, Coloccini plays his football for Argentinian team San Lorenzo – his boyhood club. At 38-years-old, he’s no spring chicken, but he’s still a mainstay of that San Lorenzo side.

Mike Williamson – Retired/Gateshead Manager

Mike Williamson is one of the few Newcastle players who hasn’t gone too far away from Newcastle – in fact, he’s less than a mile away from the city. Currently, he is the manager of Newcastle’s closest neighbour, Gateshead FC, having played for the club for a few years.

Steven Taylor – Wellington Phoenix

Steven Taylor spent the first 14 years of his career playing for his boyhood Newcastle United. He left in 2016 to go to the MLS where he signed for Portland Timbers – his time there didn’t go too well and he came back to England with Peterborough, where he would make 44 appearances.

After that, he headed off to the other side of the world. Currently, a 34-year-old Stevie Taylor plays his football for A-League team Wellington Phoenix. He’s played 20 times this season, and even bagged himself a goal!

James Perch – Scunthorpe United

James Perch was an enigma of a footballer! He wasn’t exactly the most popular player on the roster in the early days of his time at Newcastle, but he won the fans round. With his energetic performances and ability so slot in just about anywhere on the field to help the team, he ended up becoming something of a cult hero.

These days, the man affectionately dubbed “Perchinio” plays for Scunthorpe United in League Two. He’s 34-years-old now and has had himself a pretty stellar career in the EFL since leaving United in 2013.

Davide Santon – Roma

The suave Italian Davide Santon settled into life on Tyneside pretty quickly when he arrived from Inter Milan in 2011. Off the field, he quickly found himself a Geordie lass and started a family – on the field, he stepped into the shoes of the Spaniard, Jose Enrique at left back, and did a fine job indeed.

Linking up with Jonas Gutierrez down that wing was phenomenal for him. Santon wasn’t the strongest defensively, so the work rate of Jonas helped him a lot. At the same time, Jonas’ quality in the final third was sometimes lacking, and Santon’s overlapping runs really helped out Jonas.

Nowadays, Santon is back Italy playing for AS Roma. After leaving United in 2015, Santon returned to Inter Milan for three years before moving on to Roma. When fit, Santon does play for Roma – he’s made 20 appearances this season in all competitions, although he mainly plays at right-back these days, which suits his stronger right foot.

Ryan Taylor – Without a club

Ryan Taylor’s free-kick ability earned him the nickname ‘Over The Wall’, following his wonder-goal against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in the second game of the season. Currently, Taylor doesn’t have a club and has been unattached since July 2019. His last club was Fleetwood Town, the team managed by former Magpie Joey Barton.

Cheick Tiote

Cheick Tiote played for Newcastle for seven fantastic years, providing us with some of the most incredible memories. The goal he scored against Arsenal to pull it back to 4-4 in 10/11 is, to this day, one of the greatest memories of my entire life. He put his heart and soul into every game he played for Newcastle, making this very emotional to write.

He left the club in 2017 to go to Beijing Enterprises, who would be his last club. Six months into his time in China, Cheicky sadly passed away. He suffered a cardiac arrest in training, resulting in his untimely death – at the time, his wife was expecting a brand new baby any time, making it even more gut-wrenching.

Cheicky was the human embodiment of everything we, as Newcastle fans, expect from our players and for that, he was adored. He left a hole in our midfield we’ve never quite been able to fill when he left, and I doubt we will ever find a player quite like Cheicky again.

Cheick, thank you for everything. Rest easy, buddy.

Yohan Cabaye – Saint Etienne

Yohan Cabaye presents perhaps one of the best pieces of business Newcastle United have ever done. He signed for Newcastle from Lille for £4m, scored a plethora of incredible goals, absolutely dominated football matches and left for PSG for £20m four years later.

In many ways, Cabaye summed up the 11/12 Newcastle team. His quality on the ball was brilliant – he really made the team tick in that midfield area. After leaving for PSG, Cabaye did come back to the Premier League for a while, spending three years with Crystal Palace.

He then moved on to the UAE to represent Al-Nasr for a year before heading back to France last summer to join up with Saint Etienne. Interestingly, Cabaye’s best friend Mathieu Debuchy, who also played for United for a few years, plays for Saint Etienne too.

Jonas Gutierrez – Club Atletico Banfield

Jonas Gutierrez is a hero in the eyes of Newcastle fans. While playing for the club, he contracted testicular cancer, beat it, came back and then scored a vital goal to keep the club in the Premier League. The 11/12 season though, was before all of that.

Gutierrez was a much loved member of the United team well before he contracted cancer, for his sheer tenacity and work rate. Despite his output never quite being at the levels you would want from your left winger, he was always key to the build up and the transition from defence to attack.

Currently, he plays for Club Atletico Banfield in the first tier of Argentinian football. At 36-years-old, his involvement has begun to decrease and he has played just 140 minutes of football all season long.

Sylvain Marveaux – FC Lorient

Sylvain Marveaux to this day remains one of the my biggest ‘What if’s’ when it comes to Newcastle. His left foot was an absolute wand – he had so much potential, but just couldn’t quite stay free of injury and as a result, his time on Tyneside fizzled out with little more than a whimper.

At 33, he currently plays for Ligue 2 side FC Lorient. This season, he has made a total of 20 appearances, scoring four goals.

Hatem Ben Arfa – Real Vallodolid

Hatem Ben Arfa was perhaps one of the most individually gifted footballers ever to pull on the black and white shirt. Now that’s he’s gone and has been for a while, we tend to focus on the good stuff i.e the incredible goals against Bolton and Blackburn, but tend to gloss over the issues he had.

His attitude during his time at the club wasn’t always where it needed to be, but in that 11/12 season, coming back from that horrific leg break, he was damn near untouchable. Playing mostly from the right, his dazzling runs and moments of sheer quality made for prime viewing, and we all absolutely loved it.

These days, Ben Arfa plays for Real Vallodolid in Spain’s La Liga. Since signing for them in January, Ben Arfa has played just twice, coming off the bench against Villarreal and Bilbao – playing the final 12 minutes in both games.

Shola Ameobi – Retired

Shola Ameobi played for Newcastle for nearly his entire career. In the 11/12 season, he was little more than a squad player, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t contribute. His most notable goals in that season were his goal in the 3-0 over Manchester United as well as last minute equaliser in the Tyne-Wear derby.

These days, he’s retired from football but still works at the club. Shola is currently the loan co-ordinator at Newcastle, and does the odd bit of punditry work on Sky Sports.

Papiss Cisse – Alanyaspor

Papiss Cisse’s 2011/12 season was frankly ludicrous. He arrived in Janaury from Freiburg for a fee in the region of £9m – an amount of money that looked an absolute bargain after his first six months in a United shirt. As mentioned earlier, Cisse scored 13 goals in 14 games in his first year for Newcastle.

Some of those goals were so important to the season too. His spectacular brace at Stamford Bridge was absolutely incredible and made a real difference to Newcastle finishing above Chelsea in the standings.

These days, Cisse plays for Turkush Super Lig side Alanyaspor and is still finding the back of the net on a regular basis. At 34-years-old, Cisse has bagged 17 goals in 28 appearances this season – a very healthy return indeed.

Demba Ba – Istanbul Basaksehir

Demba Ba was the free transfer of dreams really wasn’t he? At the beginning of the year it was his goals that had Newcastle fighting for their place in the bleeding TOP FOUR. He finished as Newcastle’s top scorer in 11/12, netting 16 goals in total.

These days, Ba also plays his football in Turkey alongside his old pal Cisse, but for Istanbul Basaksehir. His team currently sit second in the league and he has nabbed a decent 12 goals in 32 appearances.

That’s all for the Newcastle United squad and, if you’re at all like me, you’ll be quite shocked at how few of those boys have retired. Most are still plugging away, but their careers are starting to wind down now.

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