At the end of the 2008/09 season, Newcastle United hit rock bottom! The club had suffered some gut wrenching defeats during its 16 seasons in the Premier League – in derbies, cup finals and title deciders – but none compared to the feeling of despair suffered on 24th May 2009.
Not a single player in the Newcastle squad came through that season with any credence, in fact it would be fair to say that the performance that season from supposed ‘stars’ was as disappointing as had been seen in the Premier League era – out with a whimper.
Many of United’s expensively assembled squad left for pastures new following defeat at Villa Park, and at the time, it was widely anticipated that a certain Argentinian duo would be among those to flee the nest. United had spent £10 million only nine short months prior on Fabricio Coloccini, a ball playing centre back tasked with replacing the solid if not spectacular Abdoulaye Faye, who departed the day after the Argentine put pen to paper.
While Colo started his Newcastle career with assurance, the turmoil surrounding the club soon affected his form, and given Newcastle’s recent record in the market for centre backs (Bramble, Boumsong to name but two), it didn’t take long for ‘Colo the Clown’s’ prospects to be all but extinguished amongst the United faithful.
Colo survived the clear out of deadwood during the close season. His less than convincing performances and the uncharacteristically generous contract offered to him by Mike Ashley would have made him a dead cert for removal from the wage bill, but he was retained, likely due to a lack of interest from potential suitors willing to pay a similar premium for his services following a difficult season in England. Whether through desire or necessity, the decision to play him alongside Steven Taylor in the opening weeks of the Championship season turned out to be a masterstroke!
After some solid performances in the opening five games of the 2009/10 campaign (including four wins and a draw – and four consecutive clean sheets), the game against Cardiff away was probably the defining moment in Coloccini’s Newcastle career. After 18 minutes, Colo nodded in from close range to put Newcastle one up, which ended up being the eventual winner after a stout defensive performance kept the score at 1-0, putting Newcastle top of the league after five consecutive wins (and clean sheets).
From then on, Colo has never looked back, improving month on month, putting in solid, consistent performances week in week out for three seasons.
Probably the most impressive accolade laudable to Coloccini is his incredible consistency. With the exception of his first season in black and white, Colo has been consistent throughout his entire career as an established centre back, both in terms of his performance and attendance on the pitch. He moved to Europe – AC Milan to be precise – from Boca Juniors at the age of 17, and remained with the club throughout his early development, making only one appearance for the Italians during a five-year spell. On the face of it, this statistic appears far from impressive even for a development player, however, he spent most of this stint on loan to other clubs, spending three of the five years in Spain making 92 appearances for Alaves, Atletico Madrid and Villareal respectively.
Following those three consecutive loan spells in Spain, Colo made the switch to La Liga with Deportivo La Coruna. It was at Depor where he demonstrated his remarkable consistency, making 105 appearances in three years, including every minute of every game in his final season with the club – impressive to say the least, especially considering Steve Taylor’s record! In his four years at Newcastle, Colo has played a minimum of 34 league games a season, and in the previous two Premier League campaigns he’s missed a total of just six games.
Appearances are one thing, but coupling this with quality performances is what makes our captain stand out from any other centre half we’ve had in the past 20 years. He is now recognised not only in the North-East but nationally as a consistently top performer, certified by his appearances in Team of the Season awards for the 09/10 Championship campaign, and last season in the Premier League.
Last week’s performance against Sunderland attracted national headlines, with Pardew likening his marshalling of the backline to Bobby Moore. Over the past four years Colo has quietly and consistently gone about his business, and it’s only when he’s out of the team that you see the true impact he makes on the game.
Let’s hope we see him don the black and white for another 4 seasons!
By Martin Gibson