Free agent Loris Karius joined the club on a short term deal earlier this week as goalkeeping cover following an injury to Karl Darlow so we're going to have a look at some other players that have joined us as free agents and how their time here went.
After joining in August 2000, Olivier Bernard could not make his first team debut until the second leg of our Intertoto Cup tie against Lokeren eleven months later due to registration issues stopping him playing competitive first team games for us and spent the 2000/01 season on loan at Darlington. When he finally got his chance for us, he formed a strong left wing partnership with fellow Frenchman Laurent Robert and played his part as we enjoyed three successive top five finishes under Bobby Robson but he fell out with new manager Graeme Souness during the 2004/05 season and was sold to Southampton for just £400,000 in January 2005. He did return as a free agent again in September 2006 but didn't make a single first team appearance and was released at the end of the season.
Having had a successful first spell with his boyhood club under Kevin Keegan, Robbie Elliott returned from Bolton Wanderers on a Bosman transfer in July 2001, four years after leaving us to join the North-West outfit. He didn't play as often under Bobby Robson but netted when we came from 3-1 down to win 4-3 away to Leeds United in December 2001 and made more appearances in his final two years before leaving the club again at the end of the 2005/06 season.
A clause in Lee Bowyer's West Ham United contract meant that he could leave the East Londoners for free if they were to be relegated, which happened in May 2003 and we took advantage of it to bring the midfielder to St James' Park. Bowyer scored eleven goals in ninety-eight appearances but was sent off four times, including one for a scrap with Magpies teammate Kieron Dyer in a 3-0 loss at home to Aston Villa in April 2005 and returned to West Ham in June 2006.
Following Patrick Kluivert's release from Barcelona in 2004, the Dutchman signed a one year deal with us. He scored thirteen goals in thirty-seven games in all competitions, including winners against Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in our run to the FA Cup semi-finals but was released after one season on Tyneside, having only started fourteen league games for us.
Craig Moore only made thirty-one first team appearances after joining in July 2005 following his release from Borussia Mönchengladbach. His debut didn't come until an FA Cup quarter-final defeat at Chelsea in March 2006 and his failed clearance led to Lee Bowyer's own goal in a 3-1 loss at Charlton Athletic on his Premier League debut four days later. The Australian centre-back played a lot more games in the 2006/07 season but was released at the end of the season.
Antoine Sibierski became a fan favourite during his one season at the club after joining in August 2006 following his release from Manchester City. The midfielder netted eight goals in all competitions, including a winner against Portsmouth which ended a nine game winless run in the league and superb individual goal in a 3-1 win away to Zulte Waregem in the UEFA Cup. Unfortunately, we didn't match his wish for a new two year deal, instead only offered a one year deal and the Frenchman left and joined Wigan Athletic in June 2007.
Mark Viduka became Sam Allardyce's first signing in June 2007 after rejecting a new deal from Middlesbrough. His first season saw him net just seven goals and he failed to score in his second season as we were relegated in a season that saw him only play twelve competitive games. The Australian striker left upon expiry of his contract and retired after failing to find another club.
Geremi was our second free signing in the summer of 2007 after leaving Chelsea and was made captain by new manager Sam Allardyce but lost the armband to Michael Owen when Kevin Keegan came back as manager in January. The Cameroonian midfielder made just fifty-four competitive appearances in his two and a half years on Tyneside, with just over half of them coming in his first season as his game time decreased as time went on. He made seven appearances in the Championship following our relegation in 2009 and put in probably the worst individual performance by a Magpies player that season as we lost 2-1 at newly-promoted Scunthorpe United in October 2009 in what proved to be his last game before joining Turkish outfit MKE Ankaragücü three months later.
Caçapa became the 1,000th different player to play in a competitive match for us after making a late substitute appearance in a 0-0 draw at home to Aston Villa two weeks after joining us in August 2007 following his departure from Lyon. He scored his first goal in a 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur two months later but his time at the club will be mainly remembered for a horrific display two weeks later, which saw him subbed off after eighteen minutes as we trailed 3-1 at home to Portsmouth and went on to lose 4-1. Six weeks later, he was named man of the match as we beat Fulham 1-0 as he returned to the side after an injury but when his contract expired in 2009, it was no surprise that we didn't take up the option to extent it by another year and the Brazilian centre-back left following relegation, having made just twenty-nine competitive appearances for us.
Fabrice Pancrate went on trial with us following his release from Paris Saint-Germain in 2009 and was signed in November on a deal until the end of the season. He scored a superb goal in a 2-0 win over Watford in only his second senior appearance and set up goals for Ryan Taylor in home wins against Coventry City and Preston North End in February. Following our promotion back to the Premier League, the Frenchman left at the end of the season.
Dan Gosling joined in July 2010 following our promotion after failing to agree a new deal with Everton. He arrived with an anterior cruciate ligament injury and only played once in his first season at the club. His only goal came in a 3-1 loss at Manchester City in November 2011 and after only thirty-six competitive appearances, the midfielder joined Eddie Howe's Bournemouth upon expiry of his contract with us in May 2014.
Sol Campbell also joined us as a free agent in July 2010 but it's safe to say he was past his best by the time he came to us. His only season on Tyneside will be mainly remembered for his displays in defeats away to West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City and the former England centre-back was released at the end of the season after making only eight first team appearances before retiring a year later.
The timing of Andy Carroll's British record £35,000,000 move to Liverpool in January 2011 meant that we could only look at free agents to replace him and Shefki Kuqi was brought in until the end of the season, having just been released by Swansea City. He only made six appearances, all of which were off the bench and left when his contract expired after failing to score.
Like Lee Bowyer in 2003, Demba Ba had a clause in his West Ham United contract that allowed him to leave for free if they were relegated and it happened again in 2011. Once again, we took advantage of it and for me, he is our best striker of the Mike Ashley era, having netted twenty-nine goals in fifty-eight games, including hat-tricks against Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City during our superb 2011/12 season. Sadly, he had a £7,000,000 release clause and Chelsea activated it to sign the Senegalese striker in January 2013.
Despite reportedly failing a medical with Liverpool, Sylvain Marveaux joined on a Bosman transfer from Stade Rennes in June 2011. He only made six appearances in his first season but did better in his second season, which included goals against Maritimo and Arsenal. The 2013/14 season saw him make only four starts before being loaned out to Guingamp for the 2014/15 season and being released in May 2016 after not making another senior competitive appearance after March 2014.
French midfielder Romain Amalfitano was our first signing following our qualification for the Europa League in 2012 after his contract at Stade Reims expired but his five first team appearances all came in that competition and the French midfielder was booked in a 0-0 draw away to Maritimo in his only start. He returned to his home country in September 2013 when he joined Dijon on loan and would sign permanently for them the following summer.
In February 2014, Killingworth born Jack Colback shushed the Gallowgate End after scoring rivals Sunderland's final goal as they 3-0 at St James' Park for a second consecutive season and completed their first league double over us in fourty-seven years. Four months later, he joined us after rejecting a new deal from the Wearsiders and had a decent first season with us, even winning an England call-up in August 2014, only for injury to stop him playing. His form went backwards under Steve McClaren the following season and he continued to struggle even in the Championship under Rafael Benítez. He was transfer listed by the Spaniard following promotion but having had two separate loan spells at Nottingham Forest, he didn't leave us until June 2020.
Following Swansea City's relegation from the Premier League in 2018, Ki Sung-yueng left the South Wales outfit as his contract expired and joined us two days after missing his native South Korea's 2-0 win over Germany in their final World Cup group game through injury as both exited the tournament at the first hurdle. After coming on for the injured Jonjo Shelvey, he set up Ayoze Pérez's header from a free kick as we beat Watford 1-0 for our first win of the season and was superb up until he had to go to the Asia Cup mid-season. After returning, he couldn't recapture his form from before the tournament as he fell behind Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden in the pecking order and only made four competitive appearances under Steve Bruce before his contract was terminated in January 2020 with 19 year old Matty Longstaff having also jumped ahead of him in the pecking order.
You could argue that academy graduate Andy Carroll's return to the club in August 2019 was a PR stunt to help ease the discontent following Rafael Benítez's departure earlier that summer, especially with the Gateshead born striker having been plagued by injuries since his £35,000,000 move to Liverpool in January 2011 and having failed to score a league goal in his final season at West Ham United the previous season. His first season back on Tyneside saw him get five assists but no goals although he did sign a one year extension and scored his first Magpies goal in 3,661 days in a 2-1 home defeat against Leicester City in our first game of 2021, it proved to be the only goal of his second spell and he was released at the end of the season, having not been the same player as he was in his first spell.
Eleven months after Carroll's return, goalkeeper Mark Gillespie also made a return to his boyhood club, twelve years after his release from the academy. He played for Carlisle United, Walsall and Motherwell during his time away from the North-East of England and signed a three year deal to replace the outgoing Rob Elliot as back-up keeper in July 2020. He kept clean sheets in his two first team appearances as we beat Blackburn Rovers and Morecambe in the Carabao Cup but made an error for Tristan Abrahams' opening goal for Newport County in the next round although following Jonjo Shelvey's late equaliser, he saved from Ryan Taylor as we won the shoot-out 5-4. He hasn't made a competitive first team appearance since then and will likely be leaving in the next year with his contract set to expire next summer.
Jeff Hendrick also joined as a free agent in the summer of 2020 after rejecting a new deal from Burnley. He got an assist and goal in a 2-0 win at West Ham United on his debut but has been a disappointing signing and has only made one league start since his red card in a 3-2 win over Southampton in February 2021, the midfielder should consider himself lucky that most of his games in a Magpies shirt have been played behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Irishman scored the final goal of the Mike Ashley era in a 2-1 loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers five days before our takeover but had a disappointing loan spell at Championship side Queens Park Rangers in the second half of last season but hopefully he'll do better on loan at Reading this season and will get a permanent move away in the next year.
The final player in this article, Ryan Fraser became our third free signing in the summer of 2020, joining on the same day as former Bournemouth teammate Callum Wilson. His first season was a disappointing one as the winger struggled with injuries and only played eighteen league games but his time at the club was turned around when he was reunited with former his Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, who replaced Steve Bruce in the dugout following our takeover. The Scotsman's fitness levels have improved so much since then and he netted his first two league goals for us in home wins over Everton and Brighton & Hove Albion last season.