Leon Best and the unlikely lads.

I said UNlikely lads!
Many people, including myself, were dubious when Leon Best arrived from Coventry City. He was branded a panic buy and he faced an uphill task convincing Newcastle fans from day one that he was good enough.

Leon found himself mainly warming the bench last season in The Championship, with few opportunities coming his way for first team action. Best was continuously linked with loan moves away from St James’ Park, but admirably he rejected exit rumours and was determined to prove his worth at Newcastle

Best enjoyed a decent pre-season with the club however the Republic of Ireland international’s chances remained limited and he didn’t manage to get a Premier League start under former boss Chris Hughton. Alan Pardew must have seen something in Leon that maybe Chris didn’t.

I remember Best coming on as a substitute against Wigan at the DW Stadium, and many people around me couldn’t believe that Leon was getting the nod over Nile Ranger. That game there was a moment where Best did brilliantly to beat a couple of players, but then completely fluffed his shot. I am guilty for thinking at that point that maybe that summed the player up.

Since then Leon has wanted to prove a point, and he has done just that with some good performances in recent weeks. Best now has five Premier League goals to his name this season including an excellent header in the 2-0 victory against Birmingham at St Andrews on Tuesday evening. The goal resulted in the away fans singing the player’s name.

Leon strikes me as a confidence player, when he feels he has the faith of the manager and the fans he can turn it up a notch and put in a decent shift for the team. The player has really taken his chance since being called upon. Injury to former Magpie and Judas Andy Carroll has allowed Best his run in the team.

Newcastle have surprised many this season and you have to believe it’s driving the Southern press insane that they can’t write about Newcastle United struggling on the pitch every week. Although we aren’t safe quite yet, I don’t think we are a million miles away from ensuring our Premier League status.

Huge amounts of credit has to go to the players. The team spirit remains strong and the lads refuse to be seen as underdogs. Leon Best isn’t the only player who has had his critics though. There are a few others who have surprised people this season.

Look at Kevin Nolan for example. The club captain enjoyed an incredible season in The Championship revelling in playing in the role just behind the striker. Many said that Kev had found his level in the second tier of English football and that he’d struggle with life back in the Premier League. Well he’s managed 10 goals so far this season and has been an excellent leader. I have always been a fan of Nolan, but I know he has he critics.

Danny Simpson for me continues to improve all the time. He has made that right back position his own this season and has looked solid. I must admit that I didn’t think that Danny would cut it in this league but he has proved me wrong. In my opinion he is unlucky to have missed out on an England call up.

What about Fabricio Coloccini? Although not many Toon fans doubted his ability, many neutrals did. It certainly was not a great first season for the Argentine when he first arrived and he looked clumsy to say the very least. Luckily after relegation, Colo opted to stay with the club and we started to see the defender’s quality in The Championship. Even luckier than that we have seen him duplicate that excellent form this season back in the Premier League. Classy and composed on the ball, he’s been a winner.

Mike Williamson is another one who has at times looked very good. Although I think that Willo has been guilty of having a few forgettable games this season I think he’s looked solid most the time and has certainly benefited in playing alongside Colo.

What do you think? Have you been impressed with Leon? Who has surprised you this season?

About MarkToon

I’m Mark, I live in a little town called Rugby. I go back a long way with Toonsy, we have traveled the country together watching the lads. I eat, breath and sleep Newcastle United! Follow me on [email protected] MRStockers or add me on Facebook- Mark Stockley.

54 thoughts on “Leon Best and the unlikely lads.

  1. Who would have thought at the start of the season Barton would out like this, i mean i thought nows he’s fit he would be good but nothing to what he is now!


  2. Good read Mark.

    I agree with Dan about Barton, but I think other have done well and confounded their critics this season aswell.

    Best has done well, so has Willo, but I’m going to say Tiote, purely based on the fact that nobody expected anything from him really and he was viewed as a relatively cheap unknown. Now look at him 😉


  3. Agree. Good read Mark!

    Also gotta with Tiote. From relatively unknown to the next Essien lol. Also been very impressed with Tim Krul between the posts. Sure he’s gotten nervous a couple times, but I’m defo not worried about losing Harper to injury or retirement! And something else good to see is Joey Barton looking so strong outside of his preferred position. I guess most of all, the team itself has surprised me. Dealt with some almost catastrophic upheaval but handled it with style and grace and have come out dancin. I really think survival is all but assured.



    I think the key this season has been how the lads play for one another. Not only do they seem to not want to let each other down, but they always try to cover for one another. They bust a gut for the club and don’t point fingers.


  5. I could actually put a claim in for the majority of the starting 11. Which is the reason we are doing so well. We aren’t a 1 or 2 man team as other clubs in the league are although I think if we were missing certain combinations (ie collo and Jose or Barton and Nolan) we wouldn’t be as confident


  6. How satisfying was it to see Tiote gather the ball against brum, roll it forward a bit and hit the top corner on target?

    Fair enough it didn’t go in but it just shows that there is even more strings to this guys bow and the Arsenal strike was unlikely to be a fluke!


  7. jose’It is flattering that Liverpool are interested. I’ve also heard that Manchester United and Aston Villa have asked about me. They are both big teams and I’m not closing the door on anyone. I’m ambitious and want to play in the Champions League. I want to win things. I’m OK at Newcastle but I aspire to more.’

    dosnt sound good does it..
    is he saying the club(ashley) lacks ambition


  8. Here toonsy,

    Won’t let me save posts on forum using my phone? Doing the math but the option to save isn’t becoming available (and yes I am getting 3+1 correct. It’s obviously 5. Any ideas?


  9. hitman
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:22 AM

    He’s spot on, hitman, the club has lacked ambition since Ashley arrived.

    He’s only interesting in cost cutting and staying in the PL on a minimum spend, that way he has more chance of getting his money back.

    It’s more than obvious that he has absolutely no concern for supporters, isn’t interested in success as that would cost more than he is prepared to pay.

    It’s hardly suprising the players are finally seeing this.

    Anyone who thinks that Tiote and Enrique will be here next season are just stupid or maybe they’ve just been living on Mars for a couple of years.


  10. Yup – will be surprised if Jose is still here, first he said he wanted to ensure we stayed up before contract talks and now it’s highly likely we’re gonna stay up he wants to wait until summer
    Sounds like his agent has told him he can double his money elsewhere


  11. To be fair to the fat controller, we have a long long history of selling our best players, toon have had about 5 seasons of relative success and 25 years of crap in my lifetime


  12. cost cutting, asset stripping, trying to get his money back – yawn, it’s all becoming a bit tiresome.

    Enrique is clearly talking about HIS OWN AMITION, and last time I checked we’re not in the Champions league are we? Enrique doesn’t owe us anything, and if a club playing at the top gives him the opportunity to play at the highest level, then of course he’s going to be interested, as a professional, you would expect nothing less.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if both Tiote and Enrique leave, but i’ve said it before, I don’t think they club want to sell, but if THEY want to leave, then the deals will go through.


  13. I Love Mike
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 9:13 AM
    cost cutting, asset stripping, trying to get his money back – yawn, it’s all becoming a bit tiresome.

    I agree, it is becoming very boring, but he does keep proving me right.

    On your reasoning behind Tiote and Enrique leaving, that’s just depressing. Basically what you’re saying is we’ll never achieve anything because as soon as we get a top player they’ll want to leave to go to a club with ambition?

    There isn’t a never ending belt of top players we can keep picking up for nothing and pay them the minimum wage. Eventually we’ll run out of good players and just sit in mid table. What good does that do?

    If Ashley reinvested all of the £35m in the summer, plus what he would have given Pardew anyway (£15m?) then that would show intent and show ambition, Enrique and Tiote would look at things differently then I’m sure.


  14. On your reasoning behind Tiote and Enrique leaving, that’s just depressing. Basically what you’re saying is we’ll never achieve anything because as soon as we get a top player they’ll want to leave to go to a club with ambition?”

    Not what i’m saying at all. As I said, it’s about personal ambition. Are you not ambitious in your job? If a company with a higher turnover came in for you, who could offer you a bigger stage to show your talents, would you not be interested? Of course you would, everyone would.

    EVERY club’s ambition is to be up the top, but they’re not, and until we’re up there, if a player is ambitious and one of the big clubs come in for them, their head are going to be turned.

    It takes time and money to get up there, and I think this is the summer for me where we’ll see what Ashley’s ambitions are for the club. We DON’T have £35 million to spend, but then again, I don’t believe we need too many players. So we’ll see.

    If money isn’t spent, well, we’ll have an answer then won’t we…


  15. Stuart’s clearly of the “I want it all and I want it now” mentality. The kind of people that spunk it all on the credit card and worry about the bailiffs later.

    It’s exactly that kind of impatience that has seen us force numerous managers and countless players out of the club before they’ve had any time to show their worth.

    Sad really, but unfortunately it seems to be the way of the world these days. 🙁


  16. Fair play to Barton for having the balls to come out and question the ambition. He’s already said he wants to stay and sign a contract asap, he’s only trying to give Ashley a helping hand in the right direction.

    Enrique on the other hand will be gone in the summer, his recent comments pretty much confirm that. You don’t say you’re “ok” at Newcastle “but I aspire to more” if you’re happy!..had his head turned again it would appear.


  17. Wonder if the players are smart enough to coordinate their message to the press to keep the pressure on Ashley?

    If you pick the bones out of what JB and JE have said – it is almost a challenge to the board. The team spirit and central nucleus of the team could be coordinated and putting our board to the test.


  18. Newcastle United captain Kevin Nolan isn’t shy talking up their European chances.

    United have overcome the 34-point mark of 2008/09 with 11 games to spare, but Nolan feels the current crop of Toon troops are capable of making their current stay in the top flight one to remember.

    Nolan told the Evening Chronicle: “The team’s totally different from the one that went down.

    “Everyone went on about Chris (Hughton) going and Andy (Carroll) being sold, but we know we’re a team with a tough mentality.

    “There was no one player or man who was doing it – it was a team.

    “If we were going to do what we wanted, it was going to be a team effort.

    “It think that’s what’s shown, and the fans were fantastic again. They’re starting to see that this team wants to do the best it can for Newcastle United.

    “Hopefully, with a bit of investment, we can seriously start pushing up the table to where this city and these fans belong, which is the European places.”


  19. STARDUST do we really belive ashley will take notice of anyone this guy is a one off (i hope) goes against any advice,but who are we to second guess this money grabbing moran it seems to work for him.
    ime just hopeing this is jose way of trying to get a big fat contract 😐


  20. Ice – thats why Im suggesting that the players realise this – but if they are coordinated – more power to them.

    Would Ashley risk smashing what he has started to grow? possibly but we have a chance with this group of lads to push on early.

    Im not saying anythings a fact – just observing and hoping.


  21. It is initially depressing to hear Barton and Jose, but as Stardust says – it’s a reality check, and an inevitable by-product of success.

    Ashley (or, more likely, Owl Heed) made a huge mistake in selling Carroll – and this is exactly why. Now they have a huge uphill task – and an even bigger bill to pay – to convince the squad that they’re serious about offering CL football soon enough. They now have to spend huge in the summer – a lot more than £35m by the time they’ve upped wages – to show the Enriques and Bartons that they don’t have to move teams to play in the CL.

    Another massively naive cock-up by Ashley, and it’ll hit him right in the pocket.


  22. I think we should tottaly dig our heels in and say you signed a contract, your not going anywhere unless to a forign club in the summer for £20M. Theres no way we should sell him to one of our competitors. We should start playing hardball for a change instead of being the softest touch in football.


  23. Of course, with AP talking up our chances and performances like Tuesday, there is the very real possibility that the club will do exactly what is needed. Once we’re “settled” in the prem – and it looks like we’ve done that a lot quicker than most of us thought – it’s time to push back up to the big time and big money to go with everything else that’s huge about NUFC.

    I think that’s exactly what Ashley has always wanted, but he knows he has to do it inside sensible fiscal constraints. The plan was to implement that model ahead of the competition, and I think it’s working despite cock-ups like the Carroll thing. All that has served to do is put pressure back on Ashley to accelerate his plans.

    It makes sense for all concerned. An investment of £50m in the summer could lead to a CL spot and the club’s value going up a lot more than that.


  24. Here here, DJG. The correct answer when Judas started whining (as instructed, no doubt by his agent) for more money, was “feck off to bed, Andrew; see you in the morning at training.”


  25. these two dicks (ash,owl head) think they can change the way football works,if there that clever why didnt write buy out clauses into there contracts,makes some clubs think twice about bidding for players that have a mim price,lot of clubs in spain and italy do this as per norm


  26. Yep, ice – that would get rid of this ridiculous, agent-fuelled player-whoring we go through twice a year. Football’s never been exactly a gentlemanly thing, but right now it’s just a pile of amoral, backhanded, loyalty-free sleaze. Look at FIFA for the perfect example of how the fish stinks from the head down…


  27. I think the clearest indication of MA’s ambition will be evidenced by Barton’s decision to either sign up or not.

    Barton is no fool and would demand assurances from Owl Heed that MA is prepared to release significant funding in the summer in order to improve the team/squad.

    If Barton fails to agree a new contract then take it as read that MA has absolutely no intention of taking the club forward and expect a few more core players to leave.

    There is a consensus that the £35m from AC will be retained by the club if not enough season tickets are sold.

    It beggars belief that MA is expecting fans to sign up by the end of April. This should be extended to the end of July for fans to assess where we are and see if we have made any significant signings and who has left etc.

    Worrying times again 👿


  28. TonyGreenSupreme
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:22 PM
    I think the clearest indication of MA’s ambition will be evidenced by Barton’s decision to either sign up or not.

    Barton is no fool and would demand assurances from Owl Heed that MA<<<< sorry TGS but ashleys assurances mean nothing m8


  29. TGS you good m8? cannot say joey would belive what ashley said anyway the guy cannot lie straight in bed imo,do we have to go back on what the two dicks have said in the past “we know it”they are full of crap and we know it 🙁


  30. icedog
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    the guy cannot lie straight in bed imo….

    ice – they reckon he rocks himself to sleep at nights. 😆


  31. tbh it seems to me like the players are trying to stir the board into action and ensure that the playing squad is invested in heavily over summer. If we sign a few truly class players I can’t see Enrique wanting to leave…and I know we’ve heard it all before but the lad genuinely seems to love tyneside, and he’s no idiot- he surely knows that coming out with something like this at this point of the season wouldn’t exactly endear him to his teammates/fans would it? I reckon him, Barton, Nolan et al are trying to force Ashleys hand come summer. Wouldn’t be surprised if Pardew had summit to do with it either. As always we’ll have to wait till the summer to see.

    And Whumpie mate I disagree about Ashley cocking up by selling Judas. 35 mil is too much to turn down for anyone but the top, top clubs in the world for an unproven player. Rooney’s sale to United was one of the best things Everton have done in the last 20 years, it allowed them to establish themselves as a strong top 8 side with strength in depth. I know we’re run by a bunch of cnuts but who’s to say the same can’t happen for us?


  32. DevonMag: the amount is immaterial. Their decision to take the money made a hugely damaging statement to the other players and the world, and Barton and Jose’s words show it. £35m is a lot for a player – but it’s not much for replacing a squad if all your best players up and go.

    Not worth it. Just a really poor idea, with damage that far outweighs £35m. What Andy was actually worth has nowt to do with it.


  33. DevonMag – reckon you’re right, players want money invested in the squad
    To be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if the players were effectively haggling for a pay rise with talk of Villa being a bigger club simply because they’ve told Enriques agent that they’ll add 50% to his current wages, they know toon are cash rich at the mo and that Ashley/Pardew have said publicly that the money will be spent on fees and wages so want thier piece of the pie
    Funny, when we were promoted Nolan and co were talking of a 5 year plan to get into europe / top 7 and everyone agreed that was a sensible strategy, 6 months later we’re all talking about Europe this year or next at latest
    Ashley is hardly asset stripping, players who have been sold all handed in transfer requests


  34. Agree with TGS

    Joey signing is the true test of our ambition. Jose i think will defo leave in the summer. The best left back in the league will be playing for a champions league club and a club challenging for trophies. Joey on the other hand will not interest any of the top four. Can he get a better deal elsewhere?

    Tiote may stay one more year as he is a relatively new boy on the scene.

    It all comes down to how each of us measure success. This season staying up next season 9th or 10th Is that success.
    Winning cups is not easy


  35. I think the combined shocks of CH’s sacking and AC’s sale have undone a huge amount of the work from the past two years, which had players like Enrique convinced that we were in it for the long haul and happy to stay for the ride.
    Such a shame. Not irretrievable, mind – but I doubt if anyone is likely to sign anything until he’s spent a lot of money in the summer to prove his intentions. The five-year thing is off the table now – he’s got 2. Tops.


  36. said before i hate the fat git as much as the next (maybe more),lets not forget the hole we were in not to long ago,and have came out of now (hopefully) we fans know there is a wage cap but we dont know what that true fig is theres add-ons ect,i want the best players to stay,i want C.L. footy at the toon,our support alone says we should be there if clowns of the past and present had run the club right instead of lineing there own fat pockets,with cash comeing into the club again this year with us staying in PL and the judas cash we should be looking to spend 50mil on players,but doubt that will happen,dont want to go down the road of the scum 26milplus in debt 82% of turn-over spent on wages,we have been there,dont want it again,trouble is thats what the two gits will try to shove down our throats,

    rant over 😥


  37. CH sacking was a shock to all but things like that happen in football so players are used to people leaving at the drop of a hat
    AC going was prob a bit of a shock simply because it was all very last minute and done and dusted in an hour, would imagine that some of our senior players were more shocked as to the 35+ million fee and the fact that Liverpool were gonna pay him 80+ k a week in wages – Nolan by his own admission told Carroll to go for it
    Enrique wants a pay rise, fat Ash wont give him one, he knows Villa, Liverpool etc will give him a ton of cash and will therefore hand in a transfer request, Tiote will be same as he’s on relatively low wages – Barton will also now refuse a pay cut in his new contract


  38. Ice-hows it going mate?

    was canny gutted regarding Jose’s words this morning but having seen Barton and Nolan speak out also, the comforting thought is that they’re trying to force fat cashley’s hand into buying come the summer.

    All 3 have pointed out that we’re weak when it comes to strength in depth and we have potential should money be spent. Keep on eye on the rest of the lads, see if anyone else has a word with the press about financial backing over the next few days,


  39. ROSS ime good mate have you gotten over your trip to bro 😀
    just hope all this doesnt cause un-rest in dressing room and is players comeing together to force there hands,if jose,barton,tiote,collo ect leave we might be donald ducked imo


  40. Ice-Nightmare mate, did Manc, Leeds, York & Boro in a day. Glad I got out of Boro without being bent over or infected like 😀

    To be honest the players have clearly stuck together after the Carroll fiasco mate. I can see Jose going and maybe even Tiote having his head turned, but for me, Joey is going neewhere.

    He’s already said he wants to sign a contract ASAP and had a slight go at players who “are sitting around waiting till the end of the season”..aka Jose.


  41. Ross

    I hope that they are trying to force Ashleys hand.

    It could also be that they’re saying, we’ve tried negociations and they are not going anywhere. So lets put it out there (knowing they’ve all have great seasons) that if someone wants them, they would be open to a move now they’ve seen FCB has no ambition…

    Lets hope it doesn’t ruin the season, because their minds should be focused on winning games not, increasing contracts right now… 😕


  42. JJ-That’s the impression i get with Jose, but as i’ve just said to Ice above I dont see that with Joey’s situation, or through what he’s said to the press.

    I hope to god Tiote stays like, really is the linchpin of our midfield.

    Interesting question i saw on mad the other day-If we have to lose one, which would you prefer to keep? Jose or Tiote?


  43. Ross, its sad we even considering losing either.

    Quality players are so hard to find these days, and to intergrate them into the Prem can take a few years itself.

    In Enrique, Colo, Barton, Tiote and Ben Arfa we have five great players.
    Now we are saying “who would we rather lose next?”

    I hope thats not what this club has come down to. We should be looking to add, not replace.

    If it means we have to pay them an extra 10k extra a week, at 2mill per player over four years. Is 12,5Million pounds really that bigger sacrifice to keep FIVE quality players over a four year period… (Its peanuts). And would be covered by a higher placing in the league.


  44. JJ-That’s sensible, which means you can bet your arse Fat Mike isn’t thinking along the same lines.

    Jose’s comments say to me his head has already been turned. His agent will be in his ear much like Carroll. If you read what he’s said it’s essentially

    “i’m at Newcastle for now but the board aren’t showing any ambition and I’m far more ambitious than they appear to be”

    He goes on to mention how with Liverpool and ManU interested in him, he refuses to close any doors. I’ve been preparing myself to lose him for a while now but comments like that are starting to make it more of a reality. Think we’ll be searching for a new LB come the summer like…if we actually look for a replacement.


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