By Samidh Bhattacharyya
Newcastle are back in Europe after a five year absence. In my latest fan blog, I will compare the best Newcastle team from that UEFA Cup campaign back in 2007 with the current NUFC side.
As the summer transfer window has just opened, there will be new names coming through the door. However, even without any new signings (and that is unlikely, I know), I want to see how the two teams measure up.
Please note that I am not a football pundit and the ratings are based on my personal views of our players.
|Position||Player & Rating (2007)||Player & Rating (2012)|
|Goalkeeper||Shay Given: Possibly the greatest Newcastle player after Shearer of that decade. Given single-handedly kept Newcastle from losing or drawing many matches. Full of class, he was also possibly at his best during 2005-2007 and played a huge part in any success that Newcastle enjoyed. Score- 10||Tim Krul: A great talent but not quite at Given’s standards yet. Add to that the lack of exposure at international level unlike Given and I think he still has a long way to go before he can truly fill Given’s boots. Score- 7.5|
|Right-Back||Stephen Carr: Never really flourished at Newcastle like he would have wanted to. He was a good right back but not good enough for Europe. Score- 5||Danny Simpson: Young and definitely better than Carr. Crossing is still his problem. However, the bigger question right now is whether he will stay. Score- 6.5|
|Central Defender||Steven Taylor: Young, energetic and a solid defender above all. Had the potential to play for England if he stayed fit. Score- 6||Steven Taylor: He is not old enough to lose his qualities from 2007 but has more experience and his partnership with Colo was the backbone of the “meanest defence in the premiership” at the beginning of last season. Score- 7|
|Central Defender||Titus Bramble: The name is enough! Score- 3||Fabricio Coloccini: One of the most consistent defenders in the league last season, he has all the makings of a top defender in all of Europe too. He has to be in top form again and that will be the challenge with the demanding fixtures next season. However, I believe he will again be a stalwart for us. Score- 9|
|Left-Back||Celestine Babayaro: Performed decently for the short time he was with Newcastle, and had the experience of already playing and winning silverware for Chelsea. Score- 8||Davide Santon: Another superb talent who has already played in the UEFA Champions’ League. Also formed a good partnership with our wingers towards the end of last season but still has some way to go before he can really be considered a top quality left back. Score- 7.5|
|Left Midfielder||Damien Duff: Never really fired as a Newcastle player. Had great pace but could not utilize it either going forward or the other way round. Score-6.5||Jonas Gutierrez: Perhaps the most hard working player in the current squad, he is not as quick as Duff but more than makes up for it with his tireless efforts. He will play a very important part if Newcastle are to keep the goals conceded count down in Europe. Score-8|
|Holding Midfielder||Nicky Butt: Was much more impressive alongside superstar teammates. Although not a disastrous signing by NUFC, certainly was one of the less impressive. Score: 7||Cheik Tiote: Definitely one of the best in the league at the moment. Extra bonus, his experience in both the Europa League and Champions’ League from his time at FC Twente. However, if Newcastle progress in most of the tournaments, there is a chance he might suspended himself for a couple of matches. Score-8|
|Central Midfielder||Scott Parker: Was one of the top performers in the squad and along with Given was one of the reasons for stopping the opposition from scoring many more goals against us. Score- 8.5||Yohan Cabaye: Extremely consistent as a deep lying playmaker, he has already played in Europe and will bring in that much needed experience in the squad. However, he is known to lose his temper and with the extra stress of frequent matches, has to be careful. Score- 8.5|
|Right Midfielder||Nobby Solano: Total quality. One of the best crossers of the ball of his time. Lacked pace, but made up for it with his consistent defensive performances and supplies to the striker(s). Score- 8||Hatem Ben Arfa: A prodigious talent who lacks consistency. However, towards the end of last season he did put in hard working performances along with some unbelievable solo goals. Has Limited European exposure and still a long way to go to become a really top-quality player. Score- 7|
|Deep Forward||Antoine Sibierski: Came to Newcastle when he was past his best already. Hence, not a surprise that he hardly had any impact for Newcastle. Score- 6||Demba Ba: Notwithstanding the lack of goals, he has been really effective in his new role post Cisse’s arrival and has grown more competent in the role as well, getting close to scoring against both Chelsea and Man City. Can form a formidable partnership with his international teammate if he stays. Score- 8|
|Centre Forward||Obafemi Martins: Chipped in with impressive performances from time to time, but failed really to do justice to the number 9 shirt. Score- 7.5||Papiss Cisse: Already considered a legend for his performances last season, but has been impressive also with his movements along with his scoring prowess. However, may have a different partner which may affect his performance, especially since he is still learning English. Score- 8.5|
So, on paper at least, it seems like we have a stronger team this time than we had five years ago. However, there will be changes, with Demba Ba possibly leaving and a new striker coming in or not coming in.
Having said that, the current squad does give us reasons to be hopeful and for now, I look forward to writing about more Newcastle successes over the coming season.
Author: Samidh Bhattacharyya is a 25-year old Newcastle fan living in Winter Park, Florida. He has been a supporter of the Magpies since 1998. His favourite memory is Alan Shearer’s goal against Man United in a 4-3 win. In the same game, Shearer and Keane got into an altercation which resulted in Keane being given his marching orders.