Team XI of the Century: Andy Carroll leads Newcastle line
As the last century came to an end Newcastle United fans were able to toast teams that combined brilliant individuals like Alan Shearer and Peter Beardsley with stout and dependable mainstays such as Steve Watson and Rob Lee. Their squad of this century demonstrates that they’ve not often been able to rely on anything like the same consistency in their post-millennial ranks.
Despite being regarded as one of the league’s finest stoppers for most of his career Shay Given stuck it out at a St James’ Park pulling itself apart with internal struggles more often than not for 12 years and deserves his place between the posts.
Stephen Carr’s reliable presence at right full-back is most indicative of the fact that no one player has nailed down the position this century. On the other side of the defence the opposite is true with Robbie Elliott, Olivier Bernard and Ryan Taylor all having worn Magpie polyester with aplomb.
However Jose Enrique gets in ahead of the lot for having the strength of character to stick with the club in the Championship and become a much better player as part of the team that gained an instant return to the Premier League.
Jonathan Woodgate was such a hit at Newcastle following his move from Leeds that Real Madrid snapped him up poste-haste, but not before he’d quelled the threat of a coming-to-the-boil Didier Drogba with authority in the 2004 UEFA Cup semi-final first leg. Fabricio Coloccini’s tough tackling presence completes the back four.
Scott Parker, Emre Belozoglu and Jermaine Jenas were all reasonable centre-mids whose careers were stilted by the Glenn Roeder/Joe Kinnear wilderness years and the more up-to-date pairing of Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote are preferred.
The Toon’s glory season of 2011/12 – when they narrowly missed out on the Champions League places – was founded upon the fulcrum that Tiote’s fearsome work-rate and tackling provided for Cabaye’s lovely range of passing and dead-eyed shooting.
Up front a brace of hometown heroes form an attacking duo that would give most back fours sleepless nights, with Shearer and Carroll packing more aeriel threat than a squadron of Spitfires.
The kind of centre-forwards that will have fans of a certain vintage getting misty-eyed require a steady diet of deliciously whipped in centres upon which to feast, therefore expert crossers Laurent Robert and Nobby Solano are booked in for berths on the flanks.
Solano was as whole-hearted as his French counterpart was sulky, but both men were master free-kick takers and their inclusion alongside Shearer would guarantee a shiver down any goalkeeper’s spine at dead balls.
Despite their inclusion for earlier endeavours, three of the Newcastle team of the century are in the squad that finished the 2012/13 season so stutteringly and Alan Pardew’s men can be backed for relegation at 12/1.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date