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Players That Left Newcastle United Prove The Grass Isn’t Always Greener

When Chris Hughton lead Newcastle United back to the promised land at the first time of asking, morale was high on Tyneside. They had a team that played with passion, for each other, and most important, with confidence. After an up and down start to the 2010/11 season, Hughton was ruthlessly sacked by Mike Ashley, claiming they were looking for a new manager with ‘more Premier League experience’. In came Alan Pardew. A poll completed at the time suggested that only 5% of Geordies were happy with the appointment, and cries of ‘Sack the Board’ rang round the St James Park terraces once again.

This feeling was heavily intensified on the last day of a dismal January transfer window when local ‘hero’ Andy Carroll was sold to Liverpool on deadline day for £35 million, a record transfer for a British player. With no time left to sign a replacement, Toon fans were resigned to the fact that they were going to have to do without til the end of the season. Newcastle lumbered on, with the exception of a fantastic 4-4 draw against Arsenal, to finish 12th in the EPL, a satisfactory achievement for a newly promoted team.

Entering the Summer transfer window, Newcastle fans were openly optimistic about their teams chances. With the promise that all £35 million of the Andy Carroll money to be reinvested, many were expecting an extensive recruitment drive. And so was the case, with Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye, Gabriel Obertan, Sylvain Marveaux and Dan Gosling all coming through the door. However, it was the outgoings that Newcastle were most associated with.

Inspirational captain Kevin Nolan was sold to West Ham  for a fee in the region of £4 million, as the club failed to agree a contract with the midfielder. Following Nolan out the door were two other players who had done so well for Newcastle that season. Jose Enrique also stalled on a contract, with Liverpool coming in and taking the Spaniard for £6 million. The most obvious sale was that of Joey Barton. Constantly at war with the board, Barton was put up for sale, and joined QPR on a free transfer.

This was the spine of Newcastle’s team gone, with Enrique claiming on Twitter that he felt he would never achieve anything at Newcastle if the club kept going in the same direction. Now, with 7 games to go in the Premier League season, it seems all of these players jumped ship too soon. Carroll and Enrique have not had great starts to their Liverpool careers. While Enrique has been consistent as ever, Carroll has struggled for form and games. The duo returned to St James Park on 1 April with Newcastle 8 points clear of the Reds. Whatever they were expecting they certainly didn’t get it. After a spectacular dive, Carroll failed to score and was ultimately substituted midway through the second half. With a ‘special ovation’ from the Newcastle fans, Carroll stormed down the tunnel, allegedly launching a foul-mouthed tirade at his boss, Kenny Dalglish. The afternoon wasn’t much better for Enrique either. Terrorised by Hatem Ben Arfa all game, Enrique ended the game in goal after Pepe Reina was sent off for an all too public show of his affections for James Perch. A small comfort for Enrique could be that he is the only goalkeeper to never concede in the Premier League.

The midfield duo of Barton and Nolan haven’t fared much better. Barton is struggling to retain a first team place for relegation threatened QPR, while Kevin Nolan’s West Ham are looking increasingly unlikely to get an automatic promotion place. All 4 left Newcastle in different circumstances. Yet Newcastle sit in 6th place in the league on 53 points, 11 points ahead of 8th place Liverpool. Newcastle have shown this season that, although their 4 ‘best players’ of the previous campaign left, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

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