On Friday the first of June, the Premier League released two fairly mundane looking lists. Usually such a release would be met with little interest, however, these lists contained a comprehensive statement for every player released or retained by every team who competed in the 2011/12 Premier League season.
Players of substantial reputation were contained within - such as Manuel Almunia, Dider Drogba, Ledley King and
Vince Grella, as tightening budgets have turned clubs ruthless. Of course, Newcastle were no different, and in fact in releasing 11 players from their registered squad only Queens Park Rangers and Bolton have shed more from their respective squads. As is a common occurrence, most of the departed are made up by youngsters who failed to make the grade in ability and / or attitude – such as Tamas Kadar who has done so to great disappointment. However, there were a few notable seniors joining them who have featured extensively in the first team squad over past few seasons.
Danny Sean Guthrie
Easily the most disappointing of all the departures, this season Guthrie appeared to have finally found the perfect position to harness his natural talent for creative passing. From his arrival from Liverpool in 2008, Guthrie always looked comfortable on the ball, however a lack of athleticism for a competitive Premier League midfield battle and a drastic lack of intelligent runs in front of him (no surprise with Obafemi Martins) saw him struggle to gain consistency, and was part of the relegated team in his first season.
Like only a few other hardy souls, Guthrie opted to stay after our demotion and flourished in the Championship with crucial extra seconds on the ball. The signing of Checik Tiote and the re-emergence of Joey Barton saw Guthrie’s chances limited after our instant promotion, only managing 15 appearances after playing practically the entire season previous.
A similar theme continued for Danny after the signing of Yohan Cabaye – however, after injury, suspension and midfield departures created spaces in the midfield, Guthrie seized his opportunity and looked excellent in a deeper role, showing a superb range of positive, attacking passes. But the absence of key players was short lived, and when Guthrie was dropped to the bench to accommodate Cabaye (returning from suspension) it seemed pivotal in him deciding his future lay elsewhere. Indeed, the writing was on the wall when Alan Pardew stated in his late season radio interview ‘I’ve told Danny if he wants first team football he’ll have to look elsewhere’.
Guthrie’s decision to leave does seem slightly strange given our European involvement next season will open up a host of opportunities for him to play more regularly – not to mention an opportunity for him to play abroad. But as he looks to establish himself as a Premier League player, it’s hard to blame him for looking for a club where he’ll be a first team regular. Personally, I only hope he opts for a club which can both match his ability in league position, and play him to his strengths – Danny Murphy’s departure from Fulham creating what looks like a perfect opening for him, if it is indeed available.
All in all, Guthrie has proved a very handy squad player to have and performed with great professionalism despite occasionally being on the end of some heavy handed groans. We here, simply wish him all the best for the future.
Elder statesmen Peter Lovenkrands and Alan Smith also followed Guthrie out of the door after new deals were not offered to the pair. Being no more than squad players at the ages of 32 and 31 years old respectively, their departures were widely expected – Smith in particular having no way back here with the burden of his reputed £60k of week contract hanging heavy on the club’s wage bill.
Smith was brought in under the first, and thankfully only, splurge of the Sam Allardcye / Freddy Shepherd nightmare combo – moving from Manchester United where he had fell out of favour but retaining a generous remuneration in his shift. Smith always looking willing, as you would expect, but the horrific leg break he sustained when at his previous club had clearly taken the edge of a player who had looked very promising at an young age. Smith played an important role in the Championship winning team of 09/10 – his finest moment in Black and White shirt arguably coming in a 1-0 away to Cardiff where he threw himself in front of attack after attack. But upon promotion Smith was quickly replaced by the far superior Cheick Tiote and his involvement drastically diminished.
Overall, Smith shouldn’t be viewed in the same light as the likes of Owen and Viduka, having always tried his best, even if his best was no longer up to a sufficient standard. But the huge imbalance between wage output and playing contribution is hard to ignore, as is the fact that his 85 appearances failed to produce a single goal – and as such Smith sadly leaves having effectively been a failed signing. Nevertheless, we hope he can at least see out his playing days to greater effect at a lower level.
Peter Lovenkrands on the other hand leaves Newcastle having been a greatly effective stop-gap addition. Although his three goals in 12 in his first stint wasn’t enough to prevent relegation, his 13 goals in the following Championship season were a huge boost in our run to the title. In particular, his equaliser in the pivotal league fixture against West Brom that season, just days after his father had passed away was as a crucial an act as it was selfless – something which I for one will not forget.
The Dane struggled in his return to the Premier League, with his infamous pace having long since been diluted. However, having maintained a good level of fitness and adapting his game effectively to his striker’s role, Peter managed another seven goals, followed by three in a far less involved season afterwards. In the end, 22 goals in 75 games is far from a shabby return for a man who has predominantly been a squad player – and only impresses more when remembering he was signed (twice) on a free (once from Germany, once from nobody…). An excellent character, and a man who should always be welcome on Tyneside – if he chooses to continue his career we can only wish him the best.
A few notes on the retained…
As mentioned earlier, a retained list was also submitted to complete formalities. Although that list was far more, shall we say obvious, than the other list (“Ameobi, Foluwashola – retained”) there was a couple of interesting points. Contract offers are still active to highly rated youngsters James Tavernier and Michael Richardson, and to the-not-so-highly-rated Brad Inman, Connor Newton and Paul Dummett.
An offer to Tavernier is unsurprising, with the Yorkshire born full-back having made excellent progress over the last two seasons. However, it has come at a slight surprise (as you may have guessed) that messrs Inman, Newton and Dummett have survived the cut where so many have not. We can only presume their inclusion will see them more involved in first team activities over the next season – otherwise things are a little unclear as far as they go. We can only wait and see…
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