As NUFC fans we’ve been treated to some true legends wearing the number nine shirt over the years.
It almost has a mystique around it, and it comes with an expectation that strikers can either revel in or crack under.
The names of Jackie Milburn, Malcolm MacDonald and Alan Shearer will always be remembered, for being heroes of their generation at Newcastle. Right now, however, the jersey stands vacant, and there doesn’t seem, to me anyway, to be too many names out there big enough to fill the shirt.
We have had this ideal as a club, to build the team around a big number nine focal point, creating chances for him to bang away in the hope of creating another legend – but does the modern game allow for this?
Looking at the greatest teams in the world, they all have great strikers. But are they in the same mould that great strikers have been in the past? I don’t think so.
Barcelona, have the likes of Lionel Messi and David Villa – two exceptionally technically gifted, quick strikers. They attempted the big target man in Zlatan Ibrahimović, and although he scored goals, he never quite fitted in with a fluid one touch, pacey style they play.
Manchester United have Wayne Rooney, who most certainly is powerful, but I wouldn’t call him a target man as such. He has vision and pace and drops deep to create chances for team mates.
Manchester City’s new revelation, Sergio Aguero is certainly no target man, and is very much in the same mould of a Messi or Rooney.
So what exactly are we looking for when it comes to finding our new Number 9?
The closest we have come to filling the void left by Alan Shearer was Andy Carroll, who grew into the role very nicely, but I have to be honest, although extremely effective his strengths are only really effective when the entire team plays around him.
I would hate to see us bring Andy Carroll back now, because I think it would be a waste for the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye to be pumping long balls to a target man. Players like Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan were very effective in this strategy because although talented, they perhaps lacked the technical ability to play any other system.
We now have players with fantastic technical ability to keep the ball on the deck and still be extremely creative, and as such, I don’t believe we should be trying to play around a certain focal point historical Number 9 type striker, but rather play as a team, with perhaps our most creative midfielder, Ben Arfa, being the focal point of attacking moves, much like the role Messi plays for Barca.
If that is the case I can see why Alan Pardew has been targeting that quick, mobile powerful striker like to fill the Number 9 shirt.
It may not be what we, as Toon fans are accustomed to, but it could well turn out to be a positive chance in an expired mentality that has been a long time coming.
The question is, what is more important?
Having a new legend to play in the Number 9 shirt? Or having a player to fill the shirt that fits in with the team and adds to a new and exciting brand of football?
Let’s not put too much of a stigma on the Number 9 shirt. Let’s think more about the team, and who knows, our new hero could well come from somewhere else in the squad ranks.
The legendary Number 10 Toon shirt perhaps?