It is the most iconic number shirt in the North East. Passionate Geordies not just in Newcastle but worldwide hold the number nine shirt in its highest regard at St James Park. There have been very few that have been handed the iconic number and failed to impress the locals, but who is Newcastle’s all-time best number nine striker? Here goes:
5) Les Ferdinand
Ferdinand joined the Toon in 1995 for a £6 Million pound fee from Queens Park Rangers. In his first season as Newcastle’s new number nine he finished the season with a Premier League runners-up medal as the Magpies fell short of Manchester United, despite holding a 12 point advantage over them. In his two years spent in the North East, Ferdinand made 83 appearances in the Black and White stripes, and by the time he left to join his boyhood team Tottenham Hotspur he had already notched up 50 goals for the Toon.
4) Andy Cole
Cole was signed for a then club record £1.75 Million pounds during February 1993, and he was to become an instant hit with the Toon faithful. In his first twelve games as Newcastle number nine he sensationally bagged twelve goals, as well as bagging one of the two goals in a 2-0 win over Grimsby to clinch Newcastle’s promotion from Division One to the Premier League. Cole was to become the first Newcastle player to score a Premier League goal as he netted in Newcastle’s 1-1 draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United. Cole scored 41 goals in all competitions that season, beating Hughie Gallacher’s record from 70 years previous. Cole finished with a strike rate of 81%, scoring 68 goals from his 84 appearances before his shock £7 Million pound move to Old Trafford on 10th January 1995- this was a new British record.
3) Hughie Gallacher
Gallacher is still today as classed as Newcastle’s finest ever player by some. Signed for £6,500 pounds from Airdrie in December 1925, Gallacher was to become one of the most prolific Newcastle strikers to ever grace the turf at St James’s Park. During the 1926-27 season at the age of just 23, Gallacher was handed the captains armband. It was a decision that was to pay off as Newcastle won the League with Gallacher scoring the decisive goal in a 1-0 win over arch-rivals Sunderland in front of a huge crowd of 67,211. By the time Gallacher was sold to Chelsea in 1930 for a staggering fee of £25,000 pound he had played in 174 games and scored 143 goals, giving him a high strike rate of 82%.
2) Jackie Milburn
Milburn’s story in becoming Newcastle’s number nine might have won him the position of Newcastle’s top number nine striker; however he comes second this time. Growing up in the North-East as an avid Sunderland fan, Milburn wrote to Newcastle in response to their advertisement in a local paper for trials that were to be held in search for a new striker. Milburn impressed scoring six goals in one game and was signed up and handed the famous number nine shirt that had been worn by the great Gallagher before him. Milburn was simply fantastic and was instrumental as Newcastle reached three FA Cup finals in five years. In the 51’ final, Milburn bagged a brace to help Newcastle lift the trophy. In a huge 494 appearances (includes wartime football), Milburn scored a massive 239 goals.
1) Alan Shearer
It was a tough call but Newcastle’s best ever number nine striker goes to legend Alan Shearer. Signed after Euro 1996 by Kevin Keegan for £15 Million pound after he had looked all set to join Manchester United, Shearer spent ten years as Newcastle’s number nine and in return paid the Geordie faithful with a return of 206 goals in 395 appearances. There are too many great goals to mention however one that sticks in my mind was a superb volley in a Premier League match at St James Park against Everton in 2001. Shearer reportedly came close to leaving the North East on two occasions. The first time coming when Manager Ruud Gullit fell out with the striker, allegedly saying he was the most ‘overrated player he had ever seen’. The second time was when Sir Bobby Robson came calling as manager of Barcelona and offered Newcastle £20 Million for their main man, luckily for the Toon, manager Kenny Dalglish rejected the offer and the rest is history.