There have been quite a few stand out performers and stand out performances this term. Some were almost anticipated, others almost definitely weren’t. A few players have come in when the chips were down and done an excellent job. Others either came back from injury or suffered injury and made way for squad players to shine. Then there was the little matter of the African Cup of Nations riving a few players away to play for the respective countries, whilst depriving us of their services. It all adds up to most players getting games to show their worth and to be fair, I can’t think of anyone that has let either themselves, nor Newcastle down. In fact, this season has showed one of the most ‘United’ fronts we’ve had the pleasure to witness, even after the amazing efforts put in through very recent seasons to get us back into the position we find ourselves. Whilst the team effort has been monumental and it’s an ethic that has permeated throughout this campaign, deserving of all the credit in the world, I’m still going ask you: Who is Newcastle’s individual ‘Player of the Season’?
Here’s a little resume to help you along, starting with case for the defence:
Goalkeeper: Tim Krul
Tim Krul is just about to finish his first full season as Newcastle No.1. This Lad has come through the ranks for a few years now, starting with a superb debut v Palermo way back when. Since then he has not only improved, he’s gone from strength to strength. I can’t count how many points he’s won us, Alan Pardew reckons it’s about 12, it could be more. Then there’s the confidence he helps build from the back, right through the defence and forward to through midfield and attack.
He is Newcastle’s only ‘ever present’ this term with 38 out of 38 starts, he’s kept ‘old faithful’ Steve Harper out of the picture (a top ‘keeper in his own right) and kept an amazing 15 clean sheets, second only to Joe Hart.
If there is one thing he could brush up on it would be his clearances, but that’s a minor quibble to be fair, as he’s still young. As I wrote, it’s his first full season as full time ‘keeper! With Timmy between the sticks, I’m finding it very difficult to care who came before him and when you think of some of our recent ‘keepers, that speaks volumes!
Right Back: Danny Simpson
Danny has improved no end this season and has put in some stellar performances. I remember not so long ago when he was getting a few fans on his back. I think it’s safe to say that he’s put a lid on that and showed a hell of a lot of resolve to push through it and come out the other side with a bucket full of respect. He’s always in the higher echelons of the OPTA form guides and some of his last ditch defending has been awe inspiring, his clearances off the line must be nearing double figures.
Centre Back: Mike Williamson
‘Iron Mike’ has come in for all manner of criticism throughout the season since coming back into the team to cover for the injured Steven Taylor. He did a sterling job last season coupled with Coloccini and in the early days of his comeback from injury looked a little ‘off the pace’. But he’s kept his head down, got stuck right in and reignited his form.
Again, a key part in the second half of this season’s great run of wins and clean sheets. A no nonsense defender who truly knows how to be a cog in the engine of defence. Defence is about a team effort, all being willing to put their body on the line for the good of the team. He does not shirk from his responsibilities and always gives 100%. Mike is a solid Premier league centre back now and deserves credit for helping us into Europe with some great shifts against some top teams.
Centre Back: Fabricio Coloccini (Captain)
When we were all gearing up for the start of this season there was the little matter of who was to be made Captain of our great club. To me it seemed an obvious choice, while others said “does he speak good enough English?” “Isn’t he a bit quiet”? So on and so forth. I just knew that it would be the making of this guy! He hasn’t let me, you, his team mates, his employers nor this great club down. His drive, calmness, steady and even attitude seems to have inspired his team mates from day one.
I can’t speak more highly of Captain Colo than to rank him up there with one of our all time greats Bobby Moncur. His ability to bring the ball out of defence, put his foot on the ball, look for the pass, take his time, get forward, whilst always looking relaxed is a joy to behold. He never appears ruffled, even in the tightest spots and always looks for a useful ball. It’s like he is on the same wavelength as all of his team, not just his defensive partners. He’s equally comfortable blocking, passing, attacking, tackling or finding space anywhere on the pitch.
Colo must be one of the most skilful centre backs in the league, if not Europe. A fact not lost of those that choose the ‘Premier League team of the season’. I like to think he was comfortably voted into that team for his epic displays this term, and when I think back to the games I’ve seen, he has always been a stand out performer, win, lose or draw. His rallying of the troops is worthy of any and all plaudits coming his way.
To think he hung around when he could’ve been off a couple of years ago and fought to get this club back where it belongs actually gives me a lump in the throat. Alan Pardew knew what he was doing giving this guy the arm band and it’s paid off… Big time!
Centre Back: Steven Taylor
Steven was part of our great unbeaten defence until a bad injury in the Chelsea game at SJP. He was playing better than ever and I’m sure he’ll be champing at the bit to get back into the team next season.
Injured for much of this term, this is more an honourable mention than a ‘real’ shout for player of the season.
Get well soon Steven!
The Utility Players
Left Back / Right back / Wing Back: Davide Santon
Since Davide was signed from Inter he has spent some time sat on the bench, no doubt taking instructions, making notes and generally learning his Premier League football chops. He got a few early minutes and a couple of starts, but it was plain to see that he’d need a little time to adapt to his new home/team/way of life. But in recent times he’s started to play on a regular basis. I’m still unsure if he’s more suited to RB/LB or midfield. Saying that, he has begun to look a very assured and composed player. Maybe next season will be a better time to assess how good the lad is, but he’s definitely going in the right direction.
Some fans question why he’s sat on the bench with a ‘utility’ player in the left back slot. I think he’s being eased into this league and team really well by Alan Pardew by not putting too much pressure on him too soon and letting him find his place and get up to pace. He looks a very good player though and I look forward to seeing him play some European football next season whilst growing into his Premier League duties.
He looks great on the ball, can assist, block, tackle and has an eye for a pass. He defends his post and seems to be buying into the team ethic we have here.
Left Back / Right back / Winger: Ryan Taylor
This guy has took it all on the chin, kept plugging away regardless and has done a great job when asked. He’s played in numerous positions without the slightest moan or back chat. He was instrumental in the unbeaten first 11 game run ‘filling in’ at Left Back, not bad for a ‘utility’ player if you ask me. He ain’t the quickest, he ain’t the most skilful, but he’s got a wand of a right foot, ask Sunderland or Everton! His versatility and set pieces are an asset and his contract has been renewed as a reward for his effort. The guys attitude is all TEAM!
Defender / Defensive Midfielder: James “Perchinho” Perch
An inauspicious start to life in the Premier League last season with 5 yellows in 5 games, bench warmer this time round, off the scale sometimes, then a couple of injuries later the lad is called up to ‘do a job’ and over the course of a few games he’s rammed humble pie down many a gizzard!
The “Perchinho” moniker is part fun, but it’s also properly meant too.
James has just shown what can be achieved with self-belief, an unswerving desire to be better and the work of his manager and coaches instilling those qualities and getting the best out of a player. He’s versatile all over the pitch and is another great utility player. Smooth, calm and collected on the ball, knows when to get stuck in and is not afraid to put his body in the way. His rise from the ashes is remarkable to say the least and probably deserves a gong of his own for having the nerve to carry on in spite of some of the derision he’s faced. Great work James!
15 clean sheets tells it’s own story and whoever’s come in, for whatever reason has more than acquitted themselves. Some have rebuilt their careers over the course of this season and riven new respect out of Geordies everywhere. Of course there has been the odd mistake that has lead to us drawing or losing a game, but the Lads have persevered got back on the horse and done us proud!
Well done and thank you!
“Fortiter Defendit Triumphans” – Triumphing by brave defence!