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Our Maestro!

A lot has been made of the recent England selection by manager Gareth Southgate, primarily the inclusion of only five midfielders and a whopping TWELVE defenders for the upcoming fixtures. Although I can understand the questions raised, particularly when you look at the talent in midfield overlooked- step forward James Maddison- there is one defender who simply had to be selected, our very own Kieran Trippier.

We knew he was good. We knew he had character. You don’t start for Diego Simeone unless you have some substance and some proper resilience in your make up. 68 games in a two-and-a-half-year spell is impressive, especially when you factor in the different league, language and the demands that Simeone is notorious for putting on his players. While British players in Spain are a rarity, they tend to head to the white side of the Spanish capital to join los blancos- think McManaman, Owen, Beckham and Woodgate. Trippier’s desire to challenge himself was evident in joining a coach such as Simeone and buying into the team ethic, becoming an Athleti man. A league title in Spain in 2021 was the culmination of his time abroad and I am sure made his decision that much easier when approached by the Toon in January this year.

Departure lounge Madrid, Arrivals Newcastle. What a day. KT signed for Newcastle United on the 7th of January 2022 on a two-and-a-half-year contract for a fee of £12 million plus add-ons. A deal that looked incredibly savvy back then, let alone an absolute bargain now. Despite his commendable and hard-working character being well known in this country, Kieran was welcomed back to England by sections of the sports media to the tune of ‘mercenary’ and ‘only doing it for the money’. In fairness, the new financial muscle of Newcastle would have played a part in his decision, with more desirable wages being available to a 31-year-old now than in the previous regime.

9 months later, what we have seen on and off the pitch from Trippier has been the complete opposite of mercenary behaviour. The way he has conducted himself in every aspect makes such claims now perhaps more ludicrous than insulting. With club captain Jamal Lascelles struggling for a starting centre half berth, our star right back has undeniably shone with the armband. Although, if truth be told, Kieran has been conducting himself as a captain since that bleak performance against Cambridge back in January. Leading by example, communicating and guiding, almost walking his teammates through games at times. It is imperative for successful teams in all sports to have a core group of leadership figures, an example being the ‘senior seven’ during the fruitful period the All Blacks enjoyed from 2009-2015. In the case of NUFC, Kieran is helping other players shine and show their best form. Good leaders help and inspire others to lead. It isn’t just his tenacity, vocal ability and front up approach that has impressed me though. In an era where players surround and berate the referee at every given opportunity, Trippier seems to have taken inspiration from McCaw and co, always speaking to the referee with respect, calmness and most importantly- doing his utmost to make sure his teammates do the same. Holding back an affronted and adrenaline fuelled Joelinton a few times a game may be a thankless task on the pitch- but believe us Kieran- we do thank you for it!

On to his ability as a right back and as a footballer in general. During a phone call a few months ago to my Reds supporting brother, I half-jokingly suggested that KT was an overall better player than Trent Alexander-Arnold. I’ve had my suspicions about TAA defensively for a couple of years now, and any excuse to wind my brother up needs to be grasped with both hands. Despite the Toon not winning in the league for six games now (no need to panic!) we have largely been solid defensively, only conceding more than one goal twice- against the two most dominant domestic sides of the last 4 years no less. Trippier is an excellent and versatile defender, no more so than when on England duty, when considered as a left back and undoubtedly doing the business. He is an excellent tackler, firm yet fair, reads the game well and is no shrinking violet. If the ball is there to be won, he will back himself against anyone in the world, and we have not had a RB of his quality in an awful long time- perhaps ever. The composure he shows on gameday is that of a man who is not taking the occasion lightly, but perhaps someone who has been and done it in pressure cookers and cauldrons in the bast, seen it all and has the experience to prove it.

With the ball at his feet he is simply exquisite. Despite an underwhelming performance by recent high standards from Eddie’s lads against Bournemouth last week, I thought KT showcased his passing arsenal to great effect. His crossing is superb, he can play one touch, disguising passes all day long and often picking the only pass that was on- yet nobody else saw it. He strikes me as a David Beckham playing slightly further back. He has a similar technique, invention and confidence to try a pass, the unexpected, the audacious and often the sublime. Trippier has scored three goals for Newcastle so far, all from free kicks. All three beautiful goals, (second was deflected but we love beating Villa hey!). The goal against Everton was a fabulous strike, displaying an analysis of the keeper and awareness in the game to spot a gap and the sniper like accuracy to pinpoint it. Glorious. The FK against City was another beast entirely. Equally accurate and they all count the same, but he whipped this one into the top corner with such pace and breath-taking technique, almost as a challenge to Ederson- have a piece of that, mate. A truly wonderful strike of the ball, an elegant whip of his right boot and the ball rocketed into the top corner. The best part? It wont be the last one we see either.

What a player we have on our hands here. I fully believe he possesses the attitude and professionalism to be another James Milner, however at 32 years old, we have to fully appreciate the player, and more importantly, the personality and the man we have at our club now. Man City’s first big signing was an unbothered and inconsistent Robinho. Ours has been an undoubted success, a leader, a personality, a maestro.

Trippier has shown us a lot since that day in January. Despite picking up an injury in February and missing a significant chunk of games, our bite sized Beckham has revolutionised both our back line and our attack. There is more than enough evidence to present to prove that he has elevated himself once more into one of the top RB’s in the league. Upon reflection, I have reached my decision in the KT vs TAA comparison.

And I tell you what, sorry bro, but I am not joking now!



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