Newcastle United: Picking an All-Time XI

Ciaran Gowan@@CiaranGowanContributor IIIJanuary 31, 2012

Newcastle United: Picking an All-Time XI

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    With almost 120 years of football history at Newcastle United, picking an all-time XI is no easy task.

    Dipping back through the years I have dug up the greatest possible starting unit Newcastle could ever have put out there, and the results are fantastic.

    A glittered history, with legend after legend making their appearance on Tyneside, Newcastle's all-time team can likely rival that of any other EPL club.

    In fact, a number of elite players have even been left off of the squad, in favour of those who I have deemed just marginally better.

    Let's take a look.

Goalkeeper: Shay Given

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    With over 350 appearances for the Magpies, Shay Given makes this list ahead of '90s goalkeeper Pavel Srnicek.

    Having left Newcastle only as recently as 2009, in favour of star-studded Man City, Given played his heart out for the Geordies and like many of the players on the list, was never truly rewarded for his great work.

    As a stand out 'keeper, in an era when Newcastle were putting out the likes of Titus Bramble and Stephen Carr in defence, Given held the back four together, making highlight after highlight and eventually establishing himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the country.

    Now continuing his stellar play for Aston Villa, Given will continue to remain prominent in the minds of Newcastle fans as the greatest goalkeeper of their history.

Left-Back: Frank Hudspeth

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    At left-back, we have Frank Hudspeth, who played his last game in black & white all of 82 years ago.

    Having appeared for Newcastle 472 times in a 19-year career, Hudspeth was renowned not only for his defensive play but for his penalty-taking as well.

    Despite the fact that he played about five of my lifetimes ago, it's hard to argue against a man who is second on the all time list of Newcastle appearances. 

Centre-Back: Bobby Moncur

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    Having played in the late '60s and early '70s, former captain Bobby Moncur was one of the greatest captains and defenders in Newcastle history.

    Playing the old-fashioned sweeper role, Moncur (along with manager Joe Harvey, who we'll get to later) led Newcastle to their last major title, the Fairs Cup (now the Europa League), scoring three goals in the two-legged final. 

Centre-Back: Philippe Albert

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    Belgian defender Philippe Albert was a fan-favourite on Tyneside, and rightly so.

    Standing at 6-3, Albert was an imposing force in the centre of defence.

    Having said that, his role on the great "entertainers" team of the '90s was more of an attacking one, as he scored eight goals for the Magpies.

    A favourite of then-manager Kevin Keegan, Albert ended his career playing for Keegan once again at Fulham, highlighting his importance to the man who is widely considered the greatest manager in Toon history. 

Right-Back: Bill McCracken

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    Another "oldie" takes the right-back spot in Bill McCracken, who was a fixture at Newcastle for 20 years between 1904 and 1924.

    McCracken is most famous across football for his single-handed adjustment of the offside rule, with the FA having to change it from having three players between the attacker and the goal to just two.

    McCracken was simply too good at the offside-trap, something he executed frequently in a 432-game career.

Left-Midfield: David Ginola

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    Smooth winger David Ginola takes his place on the left-side of the field, having established himself as one of the more exciting players in English football at Newcastle and later for Spurs.

    Ginola was another extensive part of Keegan's "entertainers" and he continues to entertain fans off-the-field to this day, with his acting career.

Midfield: Joe Harvey

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    Joe Harvey was one of the greatest captains and managers in Newcastle United history.

    As I mentioned earlier, he led the club to the 1969 Fairs Cup victory as manager, along with a couple of consecutive FA Cup victories in the early '50s.

    Harvey played the old "half-back" role, but slots into midfield here, earning his spot more for his leadership than anything else.

Midfield: Gary Speed

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    Gary Speed's untimely and sad death late last year caused fans to remember just how great a player he really was.

    Known more for his time in Leeds and Bolton, Speed was stellar and consistent in a Newcastle shirt, appearing almost 220 times.

    He was a controlling presence in midfield and was on the team in their most recent successes: trips to the FA Cup final and the Champions League in the late '90s and early '00s, respectively.

    Many consider Speed to have been the "ultimate teammate", yet another reason for his placement amongst Newcastle's finest of all time.

Right-Midfield: Nobby Solano

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    With many a midfielder to choose from, and the likes of Rob Lee and Lee Clark missing out, Nobby Solano is a controversial pick.

    What Solano possessed that very few players possess to his level in world football, though, is a place in a class of his own.

    Solano's set-pieces were somewhat of a masterclass, with almost every single one of his 45 goals in black & white being worthy of a standing ovation.

    Unsurprisingly, Solano was an unparalleled crosser of the ball as well, and all-time leading scorer Alan Shearer can certainly thank Solano for a large proportion of his 206 Newcastle goals.

Striker: Jackie Milburn

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    Despite losing his status as Newcastle's leading goalscorer back in 2006, "Wor Jackie" still retains his status as one of the two greatest strikers in Toon history.

    With a statue and a stand named after him at St. James' Park, Milburn remains to this day a talisman of Newcastle football.

    Now an English Football Hall of Famer, Milburn scored 200 goals in black and white, playing a major roll in Newcastle's three FA Cup victories in 1951, 1952 and 1955. 

Striker: Alan Shearer

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    There is no doubt about it. Alan Shearer is not only the greatest Newcastle striker of all time but likely their greatest player of all time.

    Shearer's 206 goals are enough to place him ahead of stars such as Peter Beardsley, Les Ferdinand, Andy Cole and even "Super Mac" for a spot in the XI, and the fact that he captained both his club and country doesn't hurt his campaign either.

    As the greatest scorer in Premier League history, with no current players within touching distance, Shearer will go down possibly as the greatest striker in English football history.

    If you have any doubt about his impact on Tyneside, just watch the highlights of his testimonial against Celtic and see exactly how the fans react to the retiring of this footballing legend.