Why Fabricio Coloccini Could Be Newcastle's Most Important Player Next Season
Despite missing a significant chunk of the second-half of last term, the club captain’s timely return for the final three games saw the Magpies take the points they needed to guarantee survival.
While his vital influence on proceedings came as no surprise, the alarming rate at which United shipped goals in his absence was unnerving in the extreme. Just ask Steven Taylor and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
As Coloccini recovered from a back injury sustained at the end of February, Newcastle conceded 18 goals in just eight league games and a further four in the Europa League.
But aside from landing them with the worst goal difference outside the bottom three, it was the manner in which the side capitulated in home games against the likes of Sunderland and Liverpool that caused the greatest concern.
Last October, in the hostile surroundings of a local derby on enemy territory, manager Alan Pardew likened Coloccini to England icon Bobby Moore—the legendary defender who guided his country to World Cup glory in 1966.
And those in attendance at the Stadium of Light found it hard to disagree, as the Argentine international led by example amid the vitriol and the chaos of a Tyne-Wear clash.
One of only two remaining signings from Kevin Keegan’s ill-fated second spell at St. James’ Park—the other being fellow countryman and good friend Jonas Gutierrez—Coloccini has experienced the full gamut of Newcastle’s erratic existence.
His first campaign on Tyneside in 2008-09 served as a turbulent introduction to life in English football following a manic nine months that saw four separate faces in the manager’s hot seat.
Relegation from the top-flight ultimately defined his debut season, but in the Championship, the centre-back formed part of a determined core of players that guided the club back to the Premier League with ruthless ease.
Dignity restored, the vast majority of fans welcomed a spell of mid-table consolidation, but few inside their famous old stadium predicted what was to follow.
The departure of Kevin Nolan in the summer of 2011 saw Pardew hand the captain’s armband to Coloccini, and the 31-year-old duly returned the gesture with a string of immaculate displays at the heart of the back four.
Unbeaten in their first 11 league games, Newcastle were a side reborn, and under their new skipper the club went on to finish fifth—their highest placing since the celebrated days of Sir Bobby Robson.
But once again, the Magpies’ Jekyll and Hyde tendencies emerged to leave them on the brink of disaster last term, and even Coloccini was not without his share of troubles.
January saw the defender request a move back to Argentina with San Lorenzo, citing “personal matters” as the chief reason for his shock plea. His wishes, however, fell on deaf ears, and injury soon nullified his bolt from the blue.
Today, in keeping with their volatile disposition, United are in a state of flux once more following the arrival of new director of football Joe Kinnear and the subsequent, long-term knock-on effects facing Pardew and chief scout Graham Carr.
A crumb of comfort in what has been a difficult summer for supporters so far saw Coloccini commit to the club for at least one more season, and such a pledge could prove vital to the club’s short-term future.
On the field of play, his influence over fellow defenders is plainly evident, and his unruffled, ball-playing approach brings a certain calm to a department traditionally bereft of such luxuries.
And in the dressing room, despite the lopsided make-up of a squad that houses over a dozen French-speaking players, his experience of staring uncertainty in the face will be crucial.
It was during a five-year spell on the books of AC Milan that Coloccini digested daily guidance from the likes of Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta—both masters in the art of composed resolve.
And in the choppy waters set to be navigated over the next few months, the good ship Newcastle has a far better chance of staying afloat with their captain at the helm and his understanding of the club’s impulsive propensities.
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