Newcastle United have had their fair share of flops in the transfer market down the years.
From the glory days right up to the present day, every manager – no matter how good – has their fair share of mistakes and mis-steps. But some are more significant than others in the grand scheme of things.
Here, Regional Publishing Editor Mark Douglas runs down the biggest mistakes in the club’s recruitment history.
23. Remy Cabella
Newcastle’s summer transfer window of 2014 looked like a smart one at the time but in retrospect it failed at every turn and laid the foundations for the ruinous relegation that was to follow. Cabella was extensively scouted and arrived to lift United’s attack to the next level but he was too lightweight, unsuited to the Premier League and not trusted by successive managers. An expensive, failed gamble.
Newcastle United’s Remy Cabella
(Image: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire)
22. Siem de Jong
It’s that 2013 window again. De Jong’s arrival sparked excitement as Newcastle nabbed a Dutch international who had turned heads at Ajax. But there was a reason others had turned the chance to sign him down – and the injury record that ruined his time at Newcastle had preyed on the minds of others. The fitness issues were the main reason he failed but when he played, he was not up to it.
Siem De Jong
(Image: Getty Images Europe)
21. Silvio Maric
Sometimes things just don’t work out. A £5million signing from Dinamo Zagreb, he had the ability and credentials but just was never able to cut the mustard at St James’ Park.
Newcastle United recent nostalgia
20. Missing out on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Mike Ashley took a private jet to see Aubameyang as Graham Carr tried to sell him the striker, who was excelling in Ligue 1 at the time. But he wouldn’t go to the price Saint-Etienne wanted and Aubameyang waited until the following season to go to Borussia Dortmund.
19. Not selling Fabricio Coloccini in 2015
Newcastle’s captain had done his bit for the cause by 2015 and both parties were ready to go their separate ways. But when United couldn’t find a centre-back at their price range, they opted to hand him a new contract and retain him as captain. It was a huge mistake as Crystal Palace waited to sign him , with Coloccini enduring an injury-hit season and the dressing room being unsettled by his retention.
18. Claudio Cacapa
Amazingly, this Sam Allardyce signing was Newcastle’s 1,000th player. He played for Brazil but looked like he’d never played at all when he turned out in black and white. He was immobile and simply not up to it.
Claudio Cacapa of Newcastle United in action
(Image: 2007 Getty Images)
17. Signing Sol Campbell
This signing was a more significant one than people realise. Chris Hughton was warned against it but insisted and the board backed him – only for Campbell to arrive out of shape. He was well past his best but commanded a huge wage and it was the end of big name signings in the Ashley era – with Hughton paying with his job mid-way through the season.
16. Wayne Fereday
The winger admitted recently that he could have legitimately been branded the club’s worst ever player – and he admits he suffered a crisis of confidence after fans turned on him. He arrived with the tag of one of the fastest players in the league but too often he failed to take the ball with him. The £400,000 move was the “worst move he ever made”.
Mick Wadsworth thought he might have unearthed a gem in Fumaca but he was one of the worst midfielders ever to play in black and white. The Brazilian made just six appearances for Newcastle and should never have been anywhere near the club.
14. Stephane Guivarc’h
Named by the Daily Mail as the worst striker in the Premier League era – they’d clearly not seen Manu Riviere play – the forward was a World Cup winner when he arrived but played only four times before Ruud Gullit isolated him and he was quickly sold to Rangers.
Stephane Guivarc’h in action during his time with Newcastle United in 1998
(Image: Shaun Botterill /Allsport)
13. Selling James Milner
Newcastle never knew what they had in Milner, who nearly left a year after signing – only for Glenn Roeder to pull the plug on a move to Aston Villa. Milner returned but did leave eventually as Derek Llambias sold him over Kevin Keegan’s head. Given what he’s gone on to achieve, his story at Newcastle is one of unfulfilled promise and an under-appreciated talent.
12. Dave Beasant, Andy Thorn and John Robertson
Flush with money from selling Paul Gascoigne, United signed this trio and John Hendrie to refresh their squad. All three were very poor signings but Beasant, who arrived as a record fee for a ‘keeper, was particularly poor. What a waste.
August 1988: Newcastle United’s latest signings (left to right) John Robertson, Andy Thorn, Dave Beasant and John Hendrie pose for a photo-call at St James Park
11. Loic Remy and the London airport
Newcastle struggled to sign a striker for years in the period Graham Carr was in charge of recruitment but he’ll always insist that he found more than enough targets who would have succeeded at St James’ Park. The biggest regret is that the powers-that-be let Remy out of their grasp when he was ready to sign in 2013 – flying him into London rather than Newcastle and giving QPR the chance to pounce.
United did eventually sign him on loan but his success meant bigger clubs came sniffing. Had they signed him when they were supposed to, they’d have solved their goalscoring woes and landed a big asset.
Loic Remy is unveiled to the Newcastle United supporters in 2013
10. Forcing Frank Brennan out
A giant of a great Newcastle team, Brennan should have been assured of a United future. But he chose to open a sportswear shop to rival the club’s owner Stan Seymour and that led to him being frozen out and ending up in non-league. “The Rock of Tyneside” should never have been allowed to go out like that.
9. Selling Paul Gascoigne
The departure of Gazza, hot on the heels of Chris Waddle and Peter Beardsley, confirmed Newcastle as a selling club as they allowed three superb talents to slip out of their grasp. The fee was a big one at the time, but Gascoigne has always insisted he didn’t want to leave but felt his hand was forced by the club shipping their top talent out. A crying shame.
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8. Des Hamilton
Kenny Dalglish was left one heck of a legacy by Kevin Keegan but a team near the summit of English football was reshaped into something very different by the ex-Liverpool manager. The £1.5million paid to Bradford for a midfielder who was nowhere near the calibre of Keegan’s Entertainers was an ominous start. £2million but less than 20 starts for United.
16 Jul 1997: Des Hamilton of Newcastle United in action during their pre-season friendly against Derry at Lansdowne Road in Dublin, Ireland. Mandatory Credit: Ben Radford /Allsport
7. Les Ferdinand’s departure
Newcastle thought £6million for an ageing Ferdinand was too good to turn down but it turned out to be a terrible misjudgement. Alan Shearer injured his ankle as he was in negotiations but it was too late to pull the plug and Ferdinand left. The striker himself has admitted he left “too soon”, and Ferdinand should never have been sold .
6. Refusing George Eastham’s transfer request
A sorry period in Newcastle’s history. Their attitude to star man Eastham – refusing him a transfer request after a fall-out over club accommodation – meant a man with over 100 appearances for United ended up taking the club to court in 1963. It was a historic moment for player freedom but a dark day for the Magpies.
5. Missing out on Luca Modric
The World Cup 2018 Golden Ball winner was a rising star with Dinamo Zagreb when he arrived at a Tyneside hotel hoping to meet Kevin Keegan to talk a move to Newcastle. But Tony Jimenez – one of Ashley’s boardroom acolytes at the start of the period where it all went wrong – believed he was “too small” for English football and he went on to prove himself as of the best midfielders of the Premier League era with Spurs instead.
4. Jean Alain Boumsong
£8million and a five-a-half-year deal for the defender that Graeme Souness had chased and chased. Within days of arriving he had been embarrassed by non-league Yeading and his name is synonymous with defensive incompetence at St James’ Park . So poor.
Newcastle manager Graeme Souness surveys Jean Alain Boumsong in training on January 7, 2005
(Image: Action Images / Lee Smith)
3. Selling Malcolm Macdonald
A genuine star of the English game who was a swaggering talisman for Newcastle, he was shockingly sold after a clash of personalities with Gordon Lee. It was an incredible move at the time that only looked more foolish when ‘Supermac’ went on to score freely for Arsenal. United lived to regret it – as many predicted they would.
These days, a manager would never get away with isolating and selling such an important player.
Malcolm Macdonald scores one of his two goals against Burnley in the FA Cup semi-final 2-0 win at Hillsborough, March 30, 1974
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)
2. Michael Owen
Freddy Shepherd branded Owen his worst piece of business in charge of the club and it’s difficult to disagree. At £18million he was the club’s record signing but he simply never wanted to sign for Newcastle and recent revelations about his attitude to fans and the area say it all. His promising start in black and white illustrated that he could have been an asset if his heart was in it but – unforgivably – it simply never was.
There have probably been more expensive mistakes – although Xisco’s £50,000 a week for a five year contract that he nearly reached the end of was a pretty penny for a club that keeps an eye on the bottom line – but none have been as significant as this one.
Xisco’s signing sparked the schism with Kevin Keegan and started the process of dismantling any hope that Ashley was going to deliver a new golden era for United as the approach of the people he’d empowered was exposed. The player himself wasn’t anywhere near good enough, and only played nine times in five years.
Have we missed any? Leave your suggestions in the comments.