The biggest name to be released is that of striker-turned-midfielder Alan Smith, who co-captained the club along with Nicky Butt when they were down in the championship. Whilst Smith never hit the goalscoring form he was expected to when he was signed in 2009 (in fact, his only goal for the Toon was in his first preseason game), he was still a key part of the successful 2009-10 campaign and the club’s first season back in the Premier League in 2010-11.
It was Alan Pardew’s arrival that really spelt the end for Smith, as the LMA Manager of the Year really didn’t take a liking to the tough midfielder. Instead, Pardew went with Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye in the centre of midfield for the bulk of the season, with fellow leaver Danny Guthrie backing them up.
At the very least, Smith was offered a coaching role from the club after his release but instead he has opted to try and reignite his career elsewhere—likely back in the Championship. At 31, with a major injury in his past, I imagine it won’t be long before Smith does eventually hang up his boots, at which point I’m sure he’ll be welcomed back to Tyneside in some capacity.
Along with Smith, fellow fan favourite Peter Lovenkrands will be on his way out, after finding himself completely out of favour up front with the emergence of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse. Though a year older than Smith, it should be easier for Lovenkrands to find a role with another Premier League club if he wants to, as he’s still relatively fast for his age and has retained the goalscoring touch that has netted him 98 career goals to this point.
Lovenkrands’ final move in Newcastle to raise money for research into Alzheimer’s—the same disease he lost his father to—is perfectly reflective of the kind of person he is and how he’ll be remembered by the Geordie faithful.
The third and final senior squad member to be released is Danny Guthrie, who’ll be the most sorely missed player in terms of on-field play. Guthrie was the backup to Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote—a role that had increased importance considering Cheik Tiote’s injuries and participation in the African Cup of Nations.
The Manchester United academy product simply wants his shot at a starting job in the Premier League, and he’s not going to get that at Newcastle with two world-class midfielders ahead of him. Rumours have already begun linking him to Aston Villa, which will be looking for play-makers considering their stagnant attack last season.
Along with the three senior players, a bunch of youth team players have also been released, including once-promising starlets Ryan Donaldson and Tamas Kadar.
Outside of those released on Saturday, there are two more players who appear to be on the verge of departure—namely right-back Danny Simpson and striker Leon Best.
Contract talks have broken down between Simpson and the club, which will likely lead to the defender being put up for sale and then replaced with either Mathieu Debuchy or Erik Pieters.
As for Best, the forward is currently the fourth-choice starter for the Toon, and like Guthrie, he’ll be looking for an improved role elsewhere. A transfer would likely bring in up to £2 million in transfer fees for the club, which at the very least could contribute in bringing in a new defender for Alan Pardew.