A look back at Newcastle United's foreign imports
PUBLISHED: 17:49 14 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:15 26 February 2013
As Newcastle United increases its French connection, Roger Tames recalls other football imports who made their mark
Its a couple of decades since former Newcastle United chairman Sir John Hall declared his dream was to see eleven Geordies playing in the famous black and white stripes.
Now, eleven Frenchman can be found in Alan Pardews first team squad. And the only Geordie accent you will hear on the pitch at St James Park belongs to Steven Taylor who was actually born in London.
The five transfer window signings from across La Manche isnt just an impulse reaction to a rapidly disintegrating season. Its a reflection on an ludicrous market place where British players are now priced out of reach. Yet this doesnt mean to say that Newcastle fans have not regularly taken the teams continental blend to their hearts. Its not just the local lads whove become local heroes.
Go back to 1952 when Chilean George Robledo scored the winning goal in the FA Cup Final with his younger brother Eduardo alongside him in the team. Being brought up in Barnsley, however, did make the Robledo boys presence on Tyneside a little more understandable.
Even Uniteds last major honour, the 1969 Fairs Cup triumph, saw an early European influence provided by Danish midfielder Benny Arentoft. Those were the days when the footballers who flooded across the border came from Scotland. Thats an accent totally absent at present.
Spin forward to the eighties, and St James Park saw the first Brazilian take the field in the Football League. Willie McFaul forked out a club record fee of 575,000 for a little known striker Mirandinha from Palmeiras, who went on to score 29 goals in 69 appearances. Though this enterprising gamble was only a limited success, it lingered far more in the memory than another United Dane, Frank Pingel, who found the net just once.
Pingels countryman Bjorn Kristensen soon earned far more cheers for manager Jim Smith who also brought in one of Uniteds most popular ever European players in Czech keeper Pavel Srnicek. The famous Pavel is a Geordie t-shirt became his most prized possession.
Under Sir Johns chairmanship Kevin Keegan started to give The Toon a real sense of foreign flair. Swiss full back Marc Hottiger was quietly dependable but the Belgian giant alongside him in defence proved one of the Premier Leagues most eye-catching players. Philippe Alberts brilliant chip over Peter Schmeichel in the 5-1 destruction of the Reds was one of the most unforgettable moments in the clubs recent history. And few foreign players embraced Tyneside life more enthusiastically than Albert.
The only goal to challenge the Belgians for its delirium factor, has to be that hat-trick header from Kevin Keegans most enigmatic signing Tino! Colombias Faustino Asprilla sent Barcelona packing on a night of wonderful Champions League football. Newcastle fans facing their last breath, and with lifes images flashing past, will still pick out the sight of Asprilla hanging in mid-air to meet Keith Gillespies cross, and then the Colombian on his knees in front of fans transported into dreamland. It was that good.
The Gallowgate faithful cherished the sight of hometown heroes like Peter Beardsley and Alan Shearer lighting up the Premier League. But they also relished the glamour added to the team by the Gallic panache of David Ginola. On and off the field, the fans so liked his style.
Of course, not every overseas player returns home a star. Jon Dahl Tomasson and World Cup winner Stephane Guivarch were two much heralded strikers who crashed and burned at St James Park. Even Sir Bobby Robson said the maddeningly inconsistent Laurent Robert was one of the most difficult players hed ever managed.
Newcastle may no longer be a hotbed of soccer in terms of producing its own talent. But as Messieurs Debuchy, Gouffran and Sissoko will soon find out, it still knows a star when it sees one.