Some might wonder how Sissoko managed to book his place with one of the more fancied teams after some of last season’s performnances, some might praise Elliot for some good performances standing in for the injured Tim Krul despite everything. However, players like that will not be the focus of this piece. I’m sure that pretty much all of you will know what they have been up to, along with high profile ex-players taking part such as James Milner (England) and Yohan Cabaye (France). Instead, I will look mostly at the “where are they now” players who will be there who used to ply their trade on Tyneside. Of these, the majority of the players (three out of four) will be playing for the two Irish sides in the competition, and another will be managing the Northern Ireland team.
Without further ado, here is the list.
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Moussa Sissoko (France),
Rob Elliot (Republic of Ireland).
Michael O’Neill (Northern Ireland Manager): A midfielder who made 48 appearences, scoring 15 goals the Magpies between August 1987 and August 1989, O’Neill has achieved a great feat in doing something even the great George Best couldn’t manage, getting Norn Iron’s green and white army to the European Championships for the first time ever. After a very good first season at St James’, sadly his second one was ruined by injury, and he eventually moved on to Dundee.
Shane Ferguson (Northern Ireland): The baby-faced left back and winger spent years as an on loan player, with around 18 months at Birmingham City. He was then loaned to Rangers for around three months in a very suspect deal (along with four other mostly injured players), even though he had a knee ligament injury and only ever played two matches. After that fiasco, which ended in playoff final disappointment with the ‘Gers, a new season saw him packed off for another loan, this time with South London charmers, Millwall. Initially, this was only there for three months from the beginning of September, 2015. His loan was eventually extended by another month before he was called back to Newcastle. However this was soon followed by Ferguson eventually signing a full deal with Millwall for an undisclosed fee on 26th January, 2016. His ‘journeyman’ status may continue however, as it was only for 18 months.
Shay Given (Republic of Ireland): A legend and a top keeper in his day, Given just seems to go on and on. Despite competition from the likes of Darren Randolph, Keiren Westwood and current Newcastle keeper, Rob Elliot, the 40 year old still holds the Number One Jersey with Martin O’Neill’s ROI squad. All of this has been despite the fact he has been largely sidelined by his current club, Aston Villa, for the last four seasons. However, you might have noticed that Given did make five appeararences for Stoke City last season, three in the Premier League and two in the League Cup. He currently has the second highest amount of caps ever for the Republic with 134, nine behind another Irish Peter Pan, Robbie Keane, who will be joining Given for the Championships from his current side, LA Galaxy. If it wasn’t for his two year retirement from International football in 2012 (he had a change of heart in 2014), Given might well have been the highest.
Aaron Hughes (Northern Ireland): Another drinker from the fountain of eternal youth on the other side of the Irish Sea. Yes, the ever dependable 36 year old utility defender is still at it as well. After leaving Tyneside, two successful seasons at Villa were followed by six and a half at Fulham before a free six month transfer to Queens Park Rangers. After another short contract (1 year) at Brighton, Hughes is now playing his club football at Melbourne City. He currently has exactly 100 caps for his national side.
Tamás Kádár (Hungary): Early promise went unfulfilled for this defender at Newcastle. He was eventually loaned to Huddersfield Town, got injured, then signed for Roda in the Dutch Eredivisie, where he didn’t quite make it as a real first team regular. He then returned to Hungary with more success and is now an integral part of the back four at Polish side, Lech Poznań.