With Newcastle United's recent thrashing of Stoke City, European football next season is completely assured, and now seems as good a time as ever to look back at the last time Newcastle played in Europe.
Last time round, in 2007, the tournament in question was still called the UEFA Cup, not the Europa League that we have today. The Toon reached the quarter-finals that last season, with the run ending with heartbreak as usual – this time an away goals loss over two legs against AZ Alkmaar.
Not many players remain from that quarter-finalist team, so let’s take a look at where those players are now and how their careers have advanced.
Goalkeeper: Shay Given – Shay Given was arguably the Premier League’s greatest between the sticks at this point in his career, and I’m sure we all remember that only two years later he was transferred to Manchester City. Presently, Given is up to his usual stingy business, having earned seven cleansheets this season for new club Aston Villa.
Defence: Titus Bramble – The most notable thing that former laughing stock Titus Bramble has done since leaving Newcastle is find himself in trouble not once, not twice, but three times for sexual assault. Thankfully, he currently plies his trade for the mackems.
Defence: Steven Taylor – We all know where Steven Taylor is now, and he’s actually the only starter from that 2007 UEFA Cup team to currently find himself on the Newcastle United squad.
Defence: Paul Huntington – Young centre-back Paul Huntington rounded out a three-man defence against Alkmaar, but it doesn’t appear that the former academy player will reach the highs of European football again any time soon. Huntington is currently the captain of League One side Yeovil, who have only recently earned enough points to avoid relegation from the division.
Midfield: Scott Parker – It was a shame to see one-time Newcastle captain Scott Parker leave the club, but he’s gone on to have the success he deserves with Tottenham Hotspur, and has even earned himself the great honour of captaining his country.
Midfield: Damien Duff – The last time we saw Damien Duff in a Newcastle shirt, he was scoring the own goal that sealed our fate in relegating the club to the championship. You may also remember that soon after Duff vowed to help bring the club back to where it belongs, before he abruptly left. Duff has gone on to show the loyalty he promised Newcastle elsewhere, having already made over 100 appearances for Fulham.
Midfield: Nicky Butt – Former Manchester United midfielder Nicky Butt ended the UEFA Cup quarter-final in embarrassment, having been yellow-carded for kicking an opposition player in anger at the inevitable loss. Butt wasn’t a major feature in the Championship-winning season of 09-10, but as a co-captain he lifted the trophy with Alan Smith, marking the last time he was seen in English football. Butt has since gone on to have a short stint playing for South China AA, but at this point he is all but retired.
Midfield: Nobby Solano – Despite playing for multiple clubs since departing in 2007, fan favourite Nobby Solano isn’t too far away from his spiritual home, as he is now the first-team coach of Newcastle Benfield F.C., and is also listed on the official squad for Hartlepool, despite not being in manager Neale Cooper’s first-team plans.
Midfield: Kieron Dyer – Unfortunately for Kieron Dyer, his promising career really has been plagued by injuries and now at age 33 he struggles even to get into the QPR first XI. It really is a shame for a player who genuinely could have made the England side had he not been sidelined for so long.
Midfield: Antoine Sibierski – Frenchman Sibierski was already in the twilight of his career when he originally came to Tyneside, so it’s not a surprise that only two years later he retired whilst playing for Wigan. He has since gone on to a brief career as an agent.
Striker: Obafemi Martins – Super-athletic Nigerian number 9 Obafemi Martins is yet another player who left following that relegation season, and his career has payed for his lack of loyalty. Martins has failed to score in double-figures for Wolfsburg or Rubin Kazan, and that’s including the loan spell he had at Birmingham City. Major questions have also arised about Martins faking his age, as he is supposedly now only 27 years old, with a report in The Guardian claiming that he is actually 5 years older.