The first real leader I can remember Newcastle United having was Brian Kilcline. ‘Killer’ was at the game on Saturday against Cambridge, a key component in the Newcastle side that stayed up in 1992 he was happy to throw himself into tackles, put his body on the line, stand up for younger players. There was an edge to Brian he led by example, the hair and tassled beard only adding to the look of a man who opposition strikers would fear. He was a tower of a man who led the side through a difficult period and out the other side towards promotion. Keegan took him for that reason, shore up the defence, get someone in with experience and make sure the young squad had a leader to protect them. Newcastle United in their current format do not have a single player like this, Jamal Lascelles was a voice in 2016, that appears to have been lost now. Matt Ritchie shouts a lot but I’m not sure anyone is listening to him.

Killer was slowly fazed out over the next twelve months and replaced as skipper by new arrival Barry Venison. This was a man who had captained Sunderland at the 1985 League Cup final and had played for Liverpool for six seasons prior to his arrival. Venison could be an organiser, a mature head that exuded calm as Newcastle made its case to move through the league. His role was either at right back or as a right sided defender, he showed he still had the ability by being capped twice by England under Venables.

He was a leader of the group through his experience and his quality as a player. He was also keen to harass officials when necessary, make sure they heard our point of view on an incident (see a Robert Lee disallowed goal against Brentford) something which the current team are not really cynical enough to do.

The next regular holder of the armband for me was Peter Beardsley. Pedro did not have the voice, but he had the respect of everyone in the dressing room, he led through talent and effort. Rarely did you see Beardsley lose the ball and give up on it, he was back at the opposition as soon as possible. Possibly one of the greatest players to wear black and white in the modern era. Not many players have the gravitas that other players will respect them just for their talent, but Peter did. However, we lost some of that cynical edge. Peter wasn’t one for hammering referees and trying to force the hand of officials. Similar to when Robert Lee got the armband, it seemed to be for effort and endeavour. However, it is worth pointing out that between 1995 and 1999 the team still had other characters that showed that leadership. David Batty was a Killer style leader but a good solid footballer who came with league winning experience from Leeds in 1992.

Following Pedro and Rob Lee was the Lion of Gosforth, Alan Shearer. He put pressure on officials, I think Jussi Jaaskelainen was the only keeper to get penalised over the six second rule. Neil Lennon’s face showed that he also got away with decisions. He was a totem for the club and led more by example in their performance than anything else. Michael Dawson kicking the ball out to give it back in the wrong spot, Shearer had a word, it went back where it should. Roy Keane didn’t make him back down, when backs were against the wall he still scored goals.

Most recently we have had Fabricio Coloccini and Jamal Lascelles. Neither were vocal on the pitch and neither appeared to be what we could call leaders. Colo was error prone, but on his day was great as a defender. However, he got too comfy and following Pardew was just not challenged on his place, his position and ultimately as we stumbled towards relegation he provided little evidence that it hurt him. Lascelles was hurt by that one but since 2019 has not seemed to be the same character. Not sure it hurts him anymore, though maybe that was down to the general atmosphere around the squad.

So who is our Roy Keane, or our Gerrard? Who is the leader who drives us on to future success? I always liked Tony Adams as a captain, not against us but his leadership and protection of the group of players he led mattered. Also, despite a number of personal issues, he led them through respect and they protected him.

We need a leader now. We need a voice, be that in midfield or defence and the focus should now be on making sure that is someone who leads us on the field. I don’t care if they are popular in the dressing room, but they need to be respected. I don’t care if they wind up referees and are cynical, Spurs have looked better with Hojberg, Fernandinho made a career out of it at Man City. We want winners, who won’t accept the mediocrity that seems to be the status quo, who will demand better from their colleagues, support them and stand up for them and tell them when they need to switch on. Do we have that? On current evidence, no. Jonjo Shelvey doesn’t have that, Ritchie has a voice but do they care when he gets angry? Dubravka has started making errors, Lascelles has dropped his levels of performance. Callum Wilson could be one, but I don’t really like strikers as a captain.

To stay up this season we need a leader like Killer, but like Keegan we might need to buy one.

Stephen Ord – @smord84