Much of the credit for this has gone to the club’s current chief scout, Graham Carr, who was brought into the club in February 2010 by previous manager and Carr’s former Tottenham colleague, Chris Hughton. Of the players included below, Carr was involved in all but three of them (James Perch, Demba Ba and Gabriel Obertan).
I have listed eight of the signings made since the club was promoted below. Of course, there have been more but I have left out more peripheral members of the squad such as temporary loanees like Stephen Ireland and Sheffki Kuqi, bairns for the future such as Mehdi Abeid, those who haven’t been able to make much of an impact one way or the other through injury such as Sylvain Marveaux and so on. All of the players listed below have made at least ten first team competitive appearences; here’s a brief résumé of their Toon histories so far.
Capable of playing in any position across the back, and also in a defensive midfield position, Perch was the first real signing on our promotion back to the Premiership. Signed as an all round utilty player in July, 2010 by Chris Hughton, James’ career at Newcastle did get off to something of an inauspicious start. He broke a Premiership record by picking up five yellow cards in his first five appearences, then scored an own goal in his sixth to hand Stoke City victory!
However, Perch really came to the fore this season, due partly to the long injury absences of players such as Steven Taylor and Mike Williamson, and also with Cheick Tiote’s absence for the African Cup of Nations, with the player filling in right across the back, and also in the holding midfield position. This has led to Perch making 24 appearences this season, turning in a series of excellent, consistent performances such as this one in a 2-0 victory over Liverpool, which have completely turned around his reputation, and have made him something of a cult hero with fans, who now refer to him as “Perchinho.”
Originally came on to the club’s radar in 2008 after then manager, Kevin Keegan, sent then coach, Chris Hughton, on a scouting mission to the Netherlands where Tiote was on loan at Roda JC. When Hughton subsequently became manager, he bought him from Schteve McClaren’s FC Twente for a fee thought to be around £3.5 million when he wasn’t even getting a regular place in the team. There was lots of talk at the time about him being an “undiscovered talent” when he started playing for Newcastle, though he had just impressed in front hundreds of millions for the Ivory Coast national side in the 2010 World Cup. There, he played alongside one of the world’s greatest midfielders, Yaya Touré, without looking out of place at all.
A midfield enforcer, our Mr.T pitys the fools who are rash enough to compete with him for a 50-50 ball. He settled in more or less immediately, covering our back four with great aplomb. His greatest hobby is collecting yellow cards, though of course, this is often the lot of the defensive midfielder. Scored one of the most memorable goals in the club’s recent history against Arsenal. With the Magpies 4-0 down at half time, the team staged a magnificent comeback in the second half, with Tiote capping things off with a most spectacular left footed volley to level the game in the final minutes. One of my favourite games of his (amongst many) was this season’s 3-0 victory over Manchester United, where he “attended” to Wayne Rooney et al, and made the Premiership champions look about as threatening as a pink teddy bear.
“It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it” could be his catchphrase. A very valuable member of the squad overall.
Hatem Ben Arfa
Originally signed for around £2 million on loan from Marseilles by Chris Hughton, with an option to buy for a further £5 million if he made over 25 appearences. Unfortunately though, his leg was snapped in two places in a vicious scissor tackle by Manchester City hatchetman, Nigel de Jong, in his fourth appearence for the club. This kept him out for all the rest of his loan season, though he still had time to show us a little of what he was capable of with this spectacular goal against Everton. Subsequently, he was then signed permanently by his successor, Alan Pardew, and was finally on the road to fitness when he was injured once again in a US pre season friendly against Sporting Kansas.
Widely fêted as a child prodigy from the days he attended the French Football Federation’s centre of excellence at Clairefontaine, It is beyond doubt that Ben Arfa is the most talented dribbler of all our recent recruits, with an abilty to terrorise and unlock defences with his amazing level of skill on the ball. We probably would never have had a chance of getting him had it not been for a rather rash temperament which led to problems at his previous clubs, Lyon and Marseilles which gave the talented player a reputation for being “unmanageble”. Indeed, he even refused to attend training to force Marseilles’ hand in letting him move to Newcastle United after problems with manager, Didier Deschamps.
Originally deployed as a centre forward in his early days at Lyon under then manager, Gérard Houllier, he was subsequently moved on to the left wing under his successor, Alain Perrin. After initially being played on the left when he came to Tyneside, Hughton then made the inspired move of shifting the left footer on to the right wing, as he had with Joey Barton before him. Though with his incredible talent he can be a threat from practically anywhere, this opened up the pitch for Ben Arfa, enabling him to put in a wider variety of passes. Sadly though, it only lasted for something like five minutes before he was cynically taken out of the game, and the whole season by the abovementioned hatchetman, De Jong, and it wouldn’t be until much later, under Pardew, that we would all realise how devastating he could be on this side of the pitch. Scored Newcastle United’s goal of the millenium so far in a 2-1 FA Cup defeat of Blackburn Rovers.
The news of his signing was broken somewhat unconventially by Joey Barton on his Twitta page, where his was referred to as “younger,” “cheaper” and “better” by our former midfield maestro. Both are excellent though Cabaye does indeed have two or three years on the shy, retiring Barton.
As I wrote above, Cabaye is very complete and versatile as a midfielder. A defensive player who can tackle when he has to, a hardworker who can cover as many miles as anyone, a technically gifted playmaker with an excellent range of passing, a good set piece taker who can also knock in the odd goal from open play too. Put all of this, and more, together and we have an excellent, world class “box to box” midfielder in Cabaye. In Newcastle United terms, a Gallic Rob Lee for the present.
After some great performances for West Ham in the latter half of the 2010-11 season (where he scored 7 goals in 13 games), backed up by a very good record for Hoffenheim 1899 in Germany’s Bundesliga (where he scored 40 goals in 103 games), and finally, as an international striker for Senegal (5 in 12 games), it would have seemed what Americans might refer to as a “no brainer” to sign this 26 year old hitman on a free transfer. However, medicals at previous clubs (VfB Stuttgart and Stoke City) revealed that the striker has a “big questionmark” hanging over his knee, and an unexploded “ticking timebomb” lodged somewhere within. This led the aforementioned teams to turn him down in what would obviously be something of a risky move. However, Newcastle United were willing to take that risk, and so far, haven’t looked back.
After a fairly indifferent start for the club, at least goalwise with Ba not scoring in his first five run outs (though he was either subbed off early or subbed on late in those games), a flood of goals then came, starting with a hat-trick against Blackburn in late September. Ba then went on to score 16 goals in his next 17 appearences, including another hat-trick against the club that turned him down, Stoke City. However, after his Senagalese compatriot, Papiss Cisse (more on him below), was brought into the side in January, and 80s manager, Alan Pardew, was then reborn as Alan Pardiola, rejigging the team into a 4-3-3 with Cisse as center forward, with Ba moving over to the left side of a front three, Ba’s goals have dried up in his new role, with the forward failing to find the net in the last thirteen games. He was still played a crucial part in the team with his other skills though, with Cisse taking most of the goalscoring duties in a remarkable festival of goals which have been reminiscent of Ba’s own purple patch.
Just as Cabaye is a very “complete” midfielder, so Ba is a very “complete” forward too. Good at playing “off the shoulder,” good at finishing with both feet, fairly big, strong and good in the air, capable of winning the ball for himself if necessary, holding up the ball and playing on his own up at the front, all of which make for a very potent combination.
Hailed as something of a young prodigy when he joined Manchester United from Bordeaux in 2009, the lightning fast winger never quite got the chance to show what he was made of there. So, in 9 August, 2011, he was moved on to Newcastle.
Though he hasn’t quite made the earth move at St James’ Park yet either, nonetheless he was a very important part of our excellent start to the 2011-12 campaign, making the right wing position his own when Pardew wasn’t yet convinced about Ben Arfa’s capability on the flanks. He pleased the Silver Supremo with his willingness to cover defensively with Danny Simpson when the Magpies were on the back foot. However, the flying squid has found himself increasingly on the sidelines since the rise and rise of Benny on the right.
A thoroughbred “Italian Stallion,” Davide Santon is a highly cultured, two sided wing back style player signed from the mighty Internazionale. Santon had previously earned praise from no lesser lights than legendary Milan and Italy manager, Marcelo Lippi, who described the young player as “A predestined that reminds of a young Paolo Maldini.” He also earned high praise from his former Inter manager, Jose Mourinho as well as Cristiano Ronaldo after he played against him when still at Manchester United. Despite all this, Santon’s form dipped somewhat at Inter for various reasons, and combined with some some top competition for his place there, he was loaned to Serie A side, Cesena, subsequently moving to Newcastle United on August 30, 2011.
As suggested above with his “wing back” description, Santon can be a very modern, offensive full back who is extremely good on the ball for a defender – A player who could also ply his trade as a winger. Indeed, you will often see him right up the pitch for much of a game, working alongside, and often overlapping with our wingers such as Jonas Gutierrez.
After finding his feet in his first few games, Santon has really started coming into his own in recent games, and looks to be a superb aquisition for the club in attack as much as in defence.
Papiss Demba Cissé
When I first started following this player, it looked like he was something of an afterthought in Newcastle United’s plans in the Summer 2011 transfer window, with the Magpies making a late “take it or leave it” offer of around £7 million. When I did some in depth research on him, I simply couldn’t beleive that the club were faffing around and chasing the likes of Modibo Maiga when this goal machine was available!
In my first piece about him for this ‘blog in September 2011, I wrote:
“Since I’ve started watching out for him, he seems to have the kind of pace, strength, heading abilty and excellent ball control that makes £35 million for Andy Carroll look like quite alot really when I think about it.
It has been reported that Newcastle will have another go at Sochaux for Modibo Maiga when the January transfer window comes around. True or not, perhaps this is the player the club should really be going for?
Well, thankfully, the club have obviously been following my blogs, as they subsequently managed to sign him (for a fee in the region of £7.5 – 9million depending on stuff) AND Pardiola took my advice to try a 4-3-3 with Ben Arfa on his right hand side too (though I give the credit for the right hand side idea to Chris Hughton – see my Ben Arfa entry)
Besides having excellent finishing ability (if you look into his eyes very closely, you may notice they have cross hairs built into them), like Ba above, his movement and positioning has also being simply outstanding so far, and despite his relatively few appareances at the time of writing, he has easily done enough to make himself a very strong contender in this poll.
But who do you think has been the best signing out of those listed above? Let us know in the comments section, and / or vote in the poll below.