We’ve had some players (Perch, O’Brien) who become cult heroes in spite of – or maybe because of – their shortcomings, and others (Tomasson, Thauvin) who are regarded as flops, but were probably just good players here at the wrong time.  But there’s a further category – players who did well for us but whose qualities tend to get overlooked.  YOUSEF HATEM makes the case for five of them…

 Scott Sellars

 In 1993-94, Cole and Beardsley would have scored far fewer goals were it not for Sellars, despite which he never seems to attract as much credit as either Rob Lee and Lee Clark.  The following season (1994-95), the season began to unravel after Sellars got injured in November, not when Cole was sold in January.  Cole had already been on a poor run.  By the time Sellars had recovered, Ginola and Gillespie had been bought and were on fire.Sellars’ final game was the 1-1 draw with Spurs in the 1995-96 season, a game in which his replacement, Ginola, scored a cracker.  But he shouldn’t have been sold.  For all their talent, Ginola was mercurial and unreliable, and Gillespie was only 20.  Either of them could have easily suffered a major dip in form, or serious injury.  It was Keegan’s luck that it didn’t happen.  And, barely 18 months after Sellars left,our attacking options were so depleted that Dalglish turned to Rush and Barnes – both of whom were significantly older, and had significantly less to offer, than Sellars, who was a fans’ favourite at Bolton.  He is now the head of the academy at Wolves, a club that plays the right way and has ambition.  It speaks a lot for Sellars’ football intelligence, and the reality is that we could have got a lot more out of Sellars, both as a player and a coach.

Stephen Glass

 Glass’ dodgy knee – the clue is in the name – meant that he was only ever going to be a squad player.  In three seasons, from 1998 to 2001, he managed only 42 appearances.   Because these were lean years, it tends to result in players from around the turn of the millennium not being fondly remembered.  However, it is unfair to list Glass alongside – pour a stiff drink now –Guivarc’h, Serrant, Maric and Marcelino.  When fit and available, Glass had asweet left foot and was direct.  He could generally be relied upon to deliver a decent cross, and had goals in him too.  There was a fleeting period in 2000 during which Glass epitomised a new optimism, which coincided with the extension of the stadium. His 25 yard screamer against Derby, which proved to be the winner on that balmy August evening when the lads played in front of 52,000 for the first time, suggested better times ahead.  The club did eventually reach those sunlit uplands under Sir Bobby, but Glass’ injury record meant that he had been moved on.  Nonetheless, his return of goals and assists on the occasions when he did feature was respectable.  Unlike many who have followed, some of whom are still on the books, Glass had an end product.

Antoine Sibierski

 Sibierski had absolutely no pace.  In fact, he could barely walk.  But he wasn’t unfit by any stretch.  We’ve had our fair share of players (Harewood…) who were completely out of shape, and others (Shelvey…) who are blowing out of their arse after half an hour.  Sibby was neither – he was simply slow, and couldn’t do anything about it.  However, he made up for that by possessing a decent football brain, intelligent movement, aerial strength, and a tendency to pop up with important goals – particularly in the UEFA Cup, where he was the stand-out performer in a half-decent European campaign under Roeder.  He endeared himself to the fans not only by his honest and capable performances, but also by proudly proclaiming himself a Toon fan upon his departure from the club.  Sibby was from Lille –the Newcastle of France in terms of its location, industrial heritage, politics and people – and I will always feel a personal affinity with anyone who chooses to support Newcastle for reasons other than geographical accident.  Not least for that reason, Sibby has cult status among some fans, but his solid displays– which stood out in a distinctly mediocre side – is still overlooked too often, despite that cult status.

Leon Best

 When Almiron finally scored against Palace in December 2019, after 26 games (and 40 shots), the goal was welcomed like the second coming of Christ.  Maybe because it was the Saturday before Christmas and turbo-charged one of the biggest boozing nights of the year.  More likely, we are just desperate for Almiron to prove to Ashley that it is worth getting the chequebook out occasionally.  He could probably bottle up his fart and it would be a best selling fragrance at Fenwicks, despite having done little for us.  The polar opposite to our profligate Paraguayan is Leon Best.  Despite Best scoring a hat-trick on his full debut (a 5-0 win over West Ham), the BBC still gave its man-of-the-match award that night to Joey Barton.  Best’s further contributions in that season included scoring a goal and winning a penalty in the four-goal comeback against Arsenal, and a winner away at Birmingham.  The following season, Best scored only four (and was edged out by Ba and Cisse), but all four goals were vital – both goals in a 2-1 win over Fulham, the equaliser in a draw at Villa, and the only goal against QPR.  Unfortunately for him, as a £1.5m bargain-basement buy from Coventry, Best fitted with Ashley’s vision for NUFC, not ours.  That was not Best’s fault.  His Toon record was good enough for us to turn a tidy profit on him (he was sold to Blackburn for £3m), and he made a worthwhile contribution to one of the more upwardly mobile phases of our recent history.

Daryl Murphy 

Murphy helped Sunderland to get relegated, and us to get promoted.  That would be good enough on its own.  He also played his part in one of the most joyous goals in our modern history – the equaliser at Brighton in the Championship in 2017.  The Sky cameras turned up, ready to see the latest chapter in the Albion fairy-tale and for our lads to fluff their lines on the box as usual, and for 80 minutes we played along with the script.  Until Big Daryl came along, and deliberately (aye) guided Atsu’s inch-perfect (aye) ball with his big toe, sending the ball straight on to Mo Diame’s heel, which expertly (aye) directed it straight over the keeper’s head and into the net.  Cue general delirium in the away end, and the Toon roaring back to the Premier League. The 2016/17 Championship was a lot tighter than our previous promotion campaign, and the team certainly needed an injection of something in January 2017.  It turned out that what we needed was Murphy – strong as an ox, able to hold the ball up, capable of easing the pressure on Gayleby popping up with important goals, and by all accounts a top man to have around the place.  Rafa wanted to keep Murphy, but – to his credit – he didn’t want to play the Carroll role of being the final sub thrown on in desperation.  That role instead fell to Mitro, a total waste of money whose cult following stemmed purely from starting fights with opposing players as if they’d pushed in front of him at the Bigg Market taxi rank.  Mitro’s on fire?  He’s just a shit Daryl Murphy.

TBC

YOUSEF HATEM

Do you have any additions to make to this list? Just clag them in the comment boxes below and let’s have your reasons if you like.