Football Features

What happened next? The last Newcastle line-up before Mike Ashley took over

By Harry Edwards

Published: 18:15, 15 October 2021

Newcastle United’s home game against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday brings the start of a new era.

After 14 years, the club is no longer owned by Mike Ashley, with Saudi-backed Public Investment Fund taking charge following a long-drawn out saga which at point had the deal on the brink of collapse.

Newcastle fans celebrated the confirmation of the deal as wildly as they would a trophy having grown frustrated with Ashley’s ownership, with the club stagnating over the years, settling for mediocrity after a couple of relegations. Since Ashley took full charge of Newcastle in the summer of 2007, the Magpies have finished in the top half of the Premier League in just three of their 12 campaigns in the top flight, but only higher than 10th once – when they managed a fifth-placed finish in 2011/12.

Due to the takeover happening after the season has begun, and not at the start of the summer for example, the final Ashley XI and the first Public Investment Fund aren’t going to have drastic changes. But on what will undoubtedly be a day of celebration for Newcastle fans, why don’t we take a look at the last Magpies XI to line up before Ashley became sole owner in May 2007.

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The day was Sunday 13 May, 2007, the final game of the 2006/07 Premier League season and Newcastle travelled to relegated Watford looking to end their campaign on a high. But things weren’t going well for Newcastle, with Glenn Roeder sacked and Nigel Pearson in caretaker charge, which had fallen apart behind the scenes.

“It was chaos really,” Nolberto Solano recalled recently to the Chronicle.

“Glenn Roeder had just lost his job and things were a bit tetchy at the team hotel. Nigel Pearson took the team on a caretaker basis. That day Charles N’Zogbia’s behaviour was very bad!

“Charles stormed out of a meeting because he was told off for listening to music on his phone as Nigel tried to do a team talk. When he got to the ground the team sheet was announced and Charles was only on the bench.

“So he stormed out the ground too, and ended up getting a taxi all the way from Watford back to Newcastle! He didn’t play any part. All Nigel wanted was some attention during the meeting but it didn’t go well.”

On the pitch, Solano set up Kieron Dyer for Newcastle’s opener but a second-half penalty secured Watford one final point before the drop. Dyer and Solano are two names from that starting XI at Vicarage Road, but what happened to them and the other Newcastle players that took to the pitch?

Goalkeeper: Shay Given

Newcastle appearances: 463

If you were asked to name a Newcastle goalkeeper, there is a large chance the first person on your mind would be Shay Given. The Irish shot-stopper spent 12 years at Newcastle, playing over 450 times for the club, but when the Magpies made the trip to Watford his time was winding down. Given stayed at Newcastle for another 18 months following the end of the 2006/07 season before joining Manchester City in 2009. Spells at Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and, finally, Stoke followed, with Given retiring in 2017. He is now assistant manager to Wayne Rooney at Derby County,

Right-back: Nolberto Solano

Newcastle appearances: 315

This game came at the end of Nobby Solano’s second spell with Newcastle and would be his last of 315 competitive games for the club over seven seasons (interrupted by a two-year spell at Aston Villa). Solano would move to another team in claret and blue in the summer of 2007, joining West Ham United, but that was the start of a period in which the Peruvian would struggle to find a home to fit him as well as St James’ Park did. A one-year stay at West Ham was followed by brief spells at AE Larisa, Universitario, Leicester City, Hull City and Hartlepool before his retirement in 2012. Solano is currently assistant manager of the Peruvian national team.

Centre-back: Steven Taylor

Newcastle appearances: 268

Steven Taylor was as Newcastle as they came, rising through the ranks of the club before becoming a first-team regular. The 2006/07 season was near the start of that run and Taylor would stay at Newcastle until 2016, playing over 250 times for the club from the Europa League to the Championship. He will probably most be remembered by non-Newcastle fans for his red card against Aston Villa in 2005 when he pretended to be shot in order to fool the referee after he handled the ball in the area. After leaving Newcastle in 2016, Taylor made his way around the globe, representing the likes of Portland Timbers, Ipswich, Wellington Phoenix and Odisha FC. He retired in the summer.

Centre-back: Peter Ramage

Newcastle appearances: 69

Another man to come through the Newcastle academy, Peter Ramage didn’t have the same career as Taylor and would only stay at the Magpies for one year of the Mike Ashley era. Ramage would go on to represent nine different clubs between 2008 and his retirement in 2017, including QPR, Crystal Palace, Kerala Blasters, Arizona United and Phoenix Rising. Ramage stayed at Phoenix Rising after retiring, becoming assistant manager but has since returned to Newcastle to work with the U23 squad.

Left-back: Stephen Carr

Newcastle appearances: 107

Like Ramage, Stephen Carr stayed for just one season of the Ashley era, bringing a largely unhappy four-year association with the club to an end in 2008 in which he suffered a number of injuries. But Carr doesn’t regret his time in the north east.

“It didn’t work out for me there, but it was not through having no desire because I trained hard,” Carr told ChronicleLive in August.

“I just seemed to get injuries quite frequently so it was quite disappointing for me looking back.

“I’m sure Newcastle fans will say I was a pretty much a failure. Fair enough. It is what it is. When you move clubs, you never know. You take that step. Do I regret it? Not for one minute.

“I did it for the reasons that I believed in. It was just disappointing because I don’t think I showed what I was. That happens a lot in football unfortunately. It doesn’t always work out the way you want.”

After a year out of football, Carr joined Birmingham and would stay with the Blues for four years before retiring in 2013. Carr has largely opted against a future in football and instead is involved in hospitality in Spain and has his own clothing brand.

Right midfielder: Kieron Dyer

Newcastle appearances: 250

One of the attacking stars of the squad, the game against Watford would be Kieron Dyer’s last appearance for Newcastle, so it’s nice that he was able to bring up 250 with a goal. After eight years with the Magpies, Dyer moved to West Ham and spent four seasons there, though that did include a brief loan spell with boyhood club Ipswich town. Dyer then had a two-year spell at QPR before retiring following a short stint at Middlesbrough. The Englishman is now back at Ipswich working with the U23s and has been vocal in the fight against sexual abuse.

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Central midfielder: Matty Pattison

Newcastle appearances: 15

Matty Pattison came through the academy at Newcastle and didn’t spend too much time as part of the first team, with the trip to Watford his last of 15 appearances for the club. Pattison left Newcastle in November 2007 for Norwich and spent two seasons with the Canaries before returning to South Africa, the country of his birth (making two appearances for the national team). Pattison has spent the past seven years back in England, playing in non-league and is now at Dunston UTS.

Central midfielder: Nicky Butt

Newcastle appearances: 171

Nicky Butt spent six seasons on the books at Newcastle after joining from Manchester United in 2004, and the 2006/07 campaign came after a year on loan at Birmingham. Unlike some of the others from this XI, Butt spent another three years with Newcastle including one season in the Championship, before leaving in 2010. A short spell with South China brought the end of Butt’s playing career but he has now made a name for himself as a coach, spending nine years with Manchester United before leaving in the summer. He is also co-owner of Salford City.

Left midfielder: James Milner

Newcastle appearances: 136

The only player from the 11 starters and three subs still in professional football, James Milner stayed just one more year at Newcastle before rejoining Aston Villa, with whom he had previously spent a season on loan. Milner spent another two years with Villa, making a name for himself as one of the top midfielders in the Premier League and earning a move to newly-minted Manchester City in 2010 as they planned for domestic dominance. In five years with Man City, Milner won two league titles, an FA Cup and the League Cup before moving with Liverpool – enjoying even more success. Another Premier League title, the Champions League and World World Cup have been added to Milner’s trophy case in six years at Anfield.

Striker: Michael Owen

Newcastle appearances: 79

The game against Watford was one to forget for Michael Owen as he had to come off injured in the 67th minute (having only just returned from a cruciate ligament injury that had ruled him out for all but three league games of the 2006/07 season).

“Then Michael Owen ended up getting stretchered off because he ran into his own team-mate Matty Pattison,” as Solano put it.

This injury wasn’t too bad and Owen was able to feature the next campaign but he would eventually leave Newcastle for Man Utd in 2009 after 30 goals in 79 games. Owen spent three years in Manchester, winning the Premier League and eventually retired in 2013 after a season with Stoke City, turning to punditry.

Striker: Shola Ameobi

Newcastle appearances: 398

Partnering Owen on that day was a Newcastle cult hero, with Shola Ameobi coming through the club’s academy to lead the line. Ameobi would remain with Newcastle until 2014, falling just shy of the 400 appearance mark while scoring 79 goals. After leaving Newcastle, Ameobi spent a brief period of time in Turkey with Gaziantep but returned to England. Spells at Crystal Palace, Bolton, Fleetwood and Notts County followed before Ameobi retired in 2018. Ameobi is now back at Newcastle as Loan Coordinator.

Substitute: Oguchi Onyewu

Newcastle appearances: 11

Oguchi Onyewu was a loan signing for Newcastle in the second half of the 2006/07 season so you can be forgiven for not recognising his name, though he did play 11 times. At the end of the campaign, Onyewu returned to Standard Liege but that was just the start of a long journey which saw the 67-cap American international represent the likes of AC Milan (one appearance), FC Twente, Sporting CP, QPR, Charlton and Philadelphia Union. Onyewu is now sporting director of Orlando City B.

Substitute: Andy Carroll

Newcastle appearances: 134

Yes, Andy Carroll pre-dates the Ashley era at Newcastle, making his first-team debut in the 2006/07 campaign. The English striker would take some time to fully break into the Newcastle first-team, finding his feet in the Championship, and after scoring 11 goals in 19 Premier League games at the start of 2010/11 he had a big money move to Liverpool. Things, unfortunately, haven’t worked out for Carroll since that move as he has struggled to get going at West Ham and on his return to Newcastle. Carroll is currently without a club having left Newcastle in the summer.

Substitute: Alan O’Brien

Newcastle appearances:

Michael Owen’s replacement, Alan O’Brien was making his final appearance for Newcastle before leaving for Hibernian in the summer of 2007. He spent two years in Scotland before returning to England, representing Swindon Town, Yeovil Town, Gateshead, Hungerford and Wealdstone. O’Brien retired in 2018.


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