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Much loved Newcastle players (part one)

In recent decades, Newcastle fans have witnessed some very talented players play in the black and white shirt. Some of those players have been goal-getters, great leaders, a brick wall in the defence and a man of the fans to name a few. In this article we celebrate the times when these players wore the shirt and achieved success as we look at, in no particular order, much-loved Newcastle players of the 21st century.

Alan Shearer

It was an obvious decision to include the legendary local lad, Alan Shearer in this list. Shearer holds the club record for the amount of goals for Newcastle, scoring 206 times, and treating the fans to consistent and whole-hearted performances.

Shearer loved scoring especially against the noisy neighbours on Wearside, Sunderland where his final competitive goal came against. Many football fans hold the opinion that his best Newcastle goal came against Everton where a long ball was launched up the field before Shola Ameobi headed the ball down for Shearer to hit first time on the volley from about twenty-five yards out and went into the top corner of the goal at the Gallowgate End - the Magpies went on to win the match 2-1.

Shearer retired from international football in 2000 which arguably made way for him to beat the previous goalscoring record set by Jackie Milburn. It was Alan's intention to retire in 2005 but, having not beaten the record, he penned a one-year extension to the delight of all at St. James' Park.

Laurent Robert

Robert was a maestro of the free-kicks and long range efforts. Signed in the summer of 2001, during his three-and-a-half years at the club, he simply wowed the Newcastle fans as every time he stepped up to take a free-kick, there was a strong sense of anticipation that the crowd could be treated to a contender for goal of the season.

In December 2003, in a home game against Tottenham, Robert opened the scoring with a volley from 22-yards out that looped into the top right corner of the goal. Later in the second half, he scored yet another contender for goal of the season when he received the ball on the halfway line, dribbled a few yards and made the most of not being closed down by letting fly from long range and, just like the first goal, went straight into the top corner.

Robert's departure was a sad one for the Newcastle fans as it was going to be some years before the club had a specialist set piece taker. Dismissed under the troubled times whilst Graeme Souness was in charge, the Scottish manager brought in Albert Luque as replacement in the left midfield role - I'll leave you to make your own conclusions on that one.

Nolberto Solano

The right midfield magician is the only Peruvian international to play for Newcastle. After two spells at the club, he won over the hearts of many Newcastle fans and scored thirty-seven Premier League goals along the way.

Solano, from the right, always provided quality service for Alan Shearer to score many goals per season. As well as being a regular goal-scorer from midfield, he assisted many more. Nobby, as he was affectionately known as by the Newcastle faithful, scored the only two goals in the game at home to Everton in the 2005/06 season, the latter of which was a contender for goal of the month as he struck the ball with the outside of his foot from just outside the box.

In the January transfer window of 2010, Nobby was linked to returning to St. James' Park for a third time but unfortunately the move didn't prevail. Despite this, Solano will always be a legend and held dear by the Newcastle fans.

Gary Speed

Speed was a key member of the Newcastle squad under the management of Sir Bobby Robson. His prowess in the air and getting a good head to the ball always posed a problem for the opposition as he scored plenty of goals from midfield and became a much loved player wherever he went.

One of Speed's best moments for Newcastle was when he netted the winning goal in the UEFA Cup Quarter-Final tie against PSV Eindhoven. After the leg away from home finished level at one goal a-piece, the second leg at home finished 2-1 with Speed scoring the winner, sending Newcastle to the Semi-Final of the competition where the Magpies were knocked out by a Marseille side with the great Didier Drogba on their side.

Speed, very sadly, lost his life in November 2011 whilst he was the manager of the Welsh national side. Fitting tributes were made by the fans of all the clubs he left a mark at. There was a minute's applause during the 11th minute (Speed's shirt number) during the home match against Swansea a few weeks later and the Welsh hymn 'Bread of Heaven' was sung before the game.

Craig Bellamy

Newcastle signed Craig Bellamy in 2001 as a young and exciting striker from Coventry. Bellamy became something of an instant hit on Tyneside when he scored Newcastle equalising goal at home in the Tyne/Wear derby early on in his first season. He consistently made defences struggle with his quick pace and he was no stranger in front of goal as well.

One unfortunate and unwanted attribute that Bellamy possessed was that he was prone to injuries. Crucially, in his first season, Bellamy missed the remainder of the back end of the season with Newcastle top of the table only to then lose the title to Arsenal. Sir Alex Ferguson later stated that he believed that Newcastle would have won the title had Bellamy remained fit, leaving Newcastle fans to think of what might have been.

Nikos Dabizas

Nikos 'still believes Bergkamp didn't meant it' Dabizas was a centre back for the club who makes my list, not because of his defending abilities but for his attacking ability. You could say that he's like the David Luiz of the previous generation of players.

Notably, Dabizas was victim to one of the many wonderful picturesque goals scored by Dennis Bergkamp. Bergkamp, with his back to goal and Dabizas closely marking him, received the ball at his feet where his first touch took the ball past Dabizas to his right hand side whilst the Dutch striker went around the Greek defender to his left hand side and side-footed a shot into the bottom corner past Shay Given. It was arguably a game that Arsenal won which left them an open path to take the title out of the one hand Newcastle grasped it in.

One the bright side of Dabizas' time at Newcastle, he scored the only goal of the game in the Tyne/Wear derby away from home in the 2001/02 season. The goal prompting such passionate celebrations and leading fans to confirm the Greek's 'Geordieness'.

Shay Given

The Irish international goalkeeper was a much-loved figure on Tyneside despite having a loan spell on Wearside which ended in relegation for Sunderland. Bought by Kenny Dalglish from Blackburn in 1997, the then young goalkeeper waited patiently to make his breakthrough in the team when he faced competition for his place against Shaka Hislop and Pavel Srnicek.

When Given made his big breakthrough, around the turn of the century, he made sublime saves which then confined Steve Harper to second choice. In and around the year of 2005, Given was faced in front of him a back line featuring Stephen Carr, Titus Bramble, Andy O'Brien (whom I once saw at Burton-in-Kendal services on the M6 motorway) and a Celestine Babayaro who was well beyond his prime. For me, personally, we survived relegation because of the many times Given got us out of jail and yet, we remained competing to be in the top half of the table.

Given was saddened to leave Newcastle as he was sold to Man City in January 2009, Newcastle were later relegated that season. However, I remember a Newcastle match the following season that was on live TV where Given was a pundit (Sheffield United away I think), notably, Given consistently referred to Newcastle as 'us' and 'we'. He will always be a Geordie.

Steven Taylor

Steven Taylor was a product of the youth academy at Newcastle and he made the step up to the first team under Sir Bobby Robson. The first match I went to watch at St. James' Park was against Fulham at home in April 2002 (I was six years old), in the matchday programme, Sir Bobby Robson talks about the upcoming youth academy members and tips Steven Taylor to become someone special.

There is no doubt that the centre back was full of passion for Newcastle. Every time he scored, he made sure he enjoyed every moment as he celebrated. His twelve Premier League goals for the club makes him Newcastle's highest scoring defender in the Premier League as he's currently placed joint 21st along with Ruel Fox and Kevin Nolan.

Unfortunately though, for Taylor, his final season for Newcastle did not end well. Poor performances in a very leaky defence contributed to Newcastle's relegation in 2016. In the match against Southampton away, with Newcastle 2-0 down at half time, he was subbed off and never played for the Toon again and didn't contribute to Newcastle's bright spark of the season in the unbeaten run of the final six games that started after the Southampton match until the end of the season but wasn't enough to keep the team up against relegation.

Fabricio Coloccini

It was a difficult debut season on Tyneside for Coloccini. A season that ended in relegation in 2009 seemed to cause a revolution with the Argentine international as he committed himself to stay at Newcastle and help the team achieve an immediate return back to the Premier League and he always faced the fear instead of fleeing at the first sight of trouble.

Coloccini became, in my view, one of the greatest captains that Newcastle have had after Kevin Nolan's departure in summer 2011. Whilst the team performed poorly during a losing streak under the management of John 'the best coach in the league' Carver, Coloccini wrote an open letter to the fans in a bid to get the fans to not stray from being the team's twelfth man in a bid to avoid the dreaded drop.

Coloccini left the club in twenty-sixteen but not without saying goodbye in another emotion-filled letter to the fans.

Tim Krul

It was on 2nd November 2006 when an 18-year old partly injured Tim Krul put on the gloves for the first time as a Newcastle player in a UEFA Cup group stage match in Italy against

Palermo. Newcastle won 1-0 with Krul making save after crucial save including great reaction saves.

After a loan spell with Falkirk following his debut, Krul had to wait until the opening day of the 2009/10 season before playing for Newcastle again: coming on for a concussed Steve Harper at half-time away at West Brom. In case you were wondering, Harper received the concussion after being kicked in the head by Shola Ameobi.

Krul became the regular choice goalkeeper in summer 2011 until picking up an ACL injury in October 2015 which ruled him out for the remainder of the season which saw the Toon Army get relegated. With Karl Darlow currently first choice in goal, Krul is out on loan in his native Holland at AZ Alkmaar.

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