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Much Loved Newcastle Players (Part 2/2)

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.

Jonas Gutierrez

Gutierrez had an eventful time during his seven years at Newcastle and it sadly wasn't all sunshine and roses. Jonas signed in summer 2008 from Real Mallorca and looked a bright spark in a season that ended in relegation. However he decided to stay and he played a key role in Newcastle achieving promotion back to the Premier League in 2010.

After a few more years of consistently being the first name on the team sheet, Gutierrez was sadly diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2013 but won his battle and made his return to Newcastle in March 2015, coming off the bench at home to Manchester United.

Gutierrez finished his Newcastle career in bitter-sweet fashion at the end of the 2014/15 season. With Newcastle going into the final day of the season without achieving safety beforehand, Newcastle won the all-important match against West Ham 2-0, Jonas assisted the first and scored the second. With his contract set to expire that summer, he was dismissed in a sickening way: being told by then temporary manager John Carver that his contract was not going to be renewed in a shared phone-call with teammate Ryan Taylor.

Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor was bought from Wigan in January 2009. I can't help but feel that this was done just so he could stop scoring against us considering he scored a considerable percentage of his Wigan goals against us.

The main qualities that Taylor possessed was his set-piece taking and the wide range of positions he was able to play. Taylor played a key part in Newcastle's successful fifth-placed finish in 2011/12 while predominantly playing in left back.

However, Taylor was no stranger to injuries. Whilst playing against Atromitos in the Europa League Play-off Round 2nd Leg in August 2012, a serious knee injury would rule him out for the long term and several setbacks during his recovery meant that the next time he played for the Toon Army would be in October 2014 - a 2-0 win away at manchester City in the League Cup.

Kevin Nolan

Throughout his career, Nolan has always possessed a great sense of leadership and that certainly showed during his two-and-a-half years at the club. Unable to stop the club avoiding relegation in 2009, Nolan was a key figure in the Newcastle squad and dressing room in their push for promotion the following season.

With the central midfielder forming good partnerships with his teammates, Nolan became captain of the side in the 2009/10 season. During that season and the following season, Nolan became rather prolific in front of goal and people consistently found him on the right side of the scoring charts.

It was a very sad occasion when Nolan left the club to go to West Ham, in summer 2011, who had just been relegated to the Championship and was reunited with Sam Allardyce who knew him during his days with Bolton. Just like what he did at Newcastle, he took West ham back to the Premier League at the first opportunity.

Andy Carroll

A product of the youth academy and, just like Tim Krul, Carroll made his Newcastle debut against Palermo in the UEFA Cup in November 2006 thus making him, still today, the youngest Newcastle to play in Europe. Fast forward a few years later and Carroll grabbed himself some important goals in Newcastle fight against relegation.

As expected, Carroll was able to express himself and show his quality during the 2009/10 Championship season. He finished the season as the club's top scorer as the club returned to the Premier League and was duly rewarded with the legendary no.9 shirt which was previously worn by Obafemi Martins who left in 2009.

After an excellent first half to the season under Chris Hughton and the early days of Alan Pardew being in charge, interest in Carroll was rife during the January transfer window. Carroll sadly departed on deadline day to Liverpool for what would have been an English football record fee of £35million had it not been for Fernando Torres' £50million move to Chelsea that same day.

Yohan Cabaye

Opinion is understandably very much divided on Cabaye. I don't condone, in any way, that he refused to play at the start of the 2013/14 season but, let's not forget, he was a quality player and we would have struggled had it not been for his contribution for that season before his departure in January 2014.

Focusing on the positive though, Cabaye was a master at passing and scored some excellent goals in the Newcastle shirt - free kicks against Manchester United and Reading as well as a long-range effort against Liverpool is why he makes it for me on this list.

Hatem Ben Arfa

Understandably it took Ben Arfa a considerable amount of time after his arrival to steal the hearts of Newcastle fans. An initial loan move in summer 2010 was made permanent the following January. His first start gave off a great first impression as he scored the only goal of the game in spectacular fashion against Everton at Goodison Park. However, a couple of weeks later, he picked up a broken leg after a horror tackle from Man City's Nigel de Jong meant that he would have to wait nearly a year before his next appearance.

Ben Arfa's best moments at Newcastle was when he played in a front trio alongside Demba Ba and the ever-scoring Papiss Cisse soon after the Cisse's move to the club.

Like him or not, let's remember that Hatem wowed the fans a number of times as he was no stranger to world-class strikes. Excellent strikes against Bolton, Aston Villa and Blackburn to name a few.

Papiss Cisse

Cisse, I admit, was inconsistent during his time at the club as his goalscoring prowess was missed during the 2013/14 and 2015/16 seasons but, on the occasions when he was in form, he was a delight to watch. After a £10million move from Freiburg, Cisse scored an excellent strike on his debut which turned out to be the winner in a home match against Aston Villa.

In his early days in a Newcastle shirt, he, not only couldn't stop scoring, but scored excellent goals along the way. His second goal against Swansea away is one I particularly admire as he chipped goalkeeper Michel Vorm without even being far off his line. What can't be forgotten is his two goals away at Chelsea, the second goal of which won the BBC Goal of the Season and has been replayed many times since as his strike appeared to defy the laws of physics as he beat Petr Cech at his far post to secure a long awaited Newcastle win at Stamford Bridge.

After that season, Cisse just never seemed to be the player he was but he did continue to score some very important goals. Last minute winners against Stoke, Fulham was a massive helping hand in the team avoiding relegation in 2013. In March that year, he headed home Sylvain Marveaux's cross against Anzhi Makachkala to send Newcastle through to the Europa League Quarter-finals with the last touch of the tie. His ten goals in the 2014/15 season proved crucial as well as the team avoided relegation on the final day of the season.

Jamaal Lascelles

Signed in 2014, Lascelles, along with goalkeeper Karl Darlow, was sent back on loan to Nottingham Forest after signing for the club. Whilst still being a youngster, it has been a pleasure to witness the centre-back continuing to grow and mould into a great player and leader.

Lascelles was a key member of the squad in Newcastle final six games and was given the captaincy by Rafa Benitez at the age of 22. I believe Lascelles has been a great leader this season in the Championship, a quality leader is essential in getting out of that division. The best thing is that his performances have been consistent and so hasn't been weighed down by taking on the important duty of being captain.

With a return to the Premier League now confirmed, it'll be very interesting to see how Lascelles adapts to the step-up of being back in the Premier League. Assuming he will remain as captain next season and with new faces arriving into the dressing room during the summer being a likelihood, it'll also be interesting to see how the whole team adapts around Lascelles' and Benitez's leadership as the Magpies will look to stay in the Premier League.

Matt Ritchie

Despite not being at the club for long, Ritchie makes this list with his superbly consistent performances this season. The exciting winger was willing to take a step back down the Championship, which he had won with Bournemouth in 2015.

Ritchie's high work rates and tirelessness has been a great feature of his play. Whilst defending, he tracks back and sees the ball out. Going forward, he makes things happen by creating several chances and he's also bagged himself 16 goals this season with one game remaining. That many goals being scored from midfield is the mark of an excellent player and I'm really looking forward to seeing his contribution to the team in the Premier League.

I simply have no negatives to say about Ritchie and, best of all, he "has a magic hat" as the chants at St. James' Park have been saying since his arrival in summer 2016.

Dwight Gayle

Gayle signed for Newcastle on the same day as Matt Ritchie and, just like Ritchie, he has given the Newcastle faithful plenty of reasons to be joyful when he is in the side. Gayle, who became the new no.9 at the club after Papiss Cisse's departure, scored his 20th goal of the season in January away at Brentford. However, later in the same match, he sustained a hamstring injury which has twice-since re-occurred, keeping him on the sidelines for most of the second half of the campaign.

A turning point for the better in Newcastle's season was the great comeback at home to Norwich in September in a match that finished as a 4-3 win for the Toon. In that game, Gayle scored a hat-trick. His hat-trick goal being the all-important winner which then saw the club go on a winning streak which came to end in late November.

As long as Gayle remains fit, his Premier League experience, which had whilst playing for Crystal Palace, could be highly valuable for the team.

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