Picking up where we left off, our
third episode deals with two more of our baker’s dozen-worth of imports
through the Tunnel, who are both due back on Tyneside in November with their
Getting us underway this
time out, we’ll start with another of the flock now plying his trade
elsewhere in a rather different arrangement of black and white from that which
we first saw him in.
most of his fellow countrymen, Alain Goma arrived on Tyneside in 1999
amid high expectations, having been acquired from our unofficial French feeder
club Paris St.Germain at a cost of £4.7m by Ruud Gullit, to form half of a
new £10m centre back pairing with Elena Marcelino.
Unfortunately, by the time Goma had decided that life in the region didn’t
match the description provided to him by a certain Dutchman (who proved to be
somewhat lacking in understanding himself) we were in dire need of decent
defensive reinforcements, Marcelino having wimped out in spectacular fashion.
A great time then for Goma to start whinging about life not being very nice
round these parts, while plaguing the club’s medical staff with numerous
minor strains, pulls and ailments that combined to make him unavailable for
active service on a regular basis.
after struggling to the 40 game mark for us, he flounced off to join Fulham,
who apparently matched his desire, hunger and ambition. Or maybe just offered
him more money.
Annoyingly, he’d belatedly started to play to the potential shown in his
early days, with one pre-Xmas display at Filbert Street particularly
noteworthy for his part in a gutsy team performance that even included worthy
contributions from Dyer and Bassedas.
However, at almost the same time as the first recorded Alain Goma song was
being aired by the travelling United supporters, he contrived to strain a calf
muscle and limped from the fray to great applause. Bloody typical.
end came some four months later within days of an away game at Goodison Park.
Goma returned to the squad after injury, having played the previous week in a
home defeat to Manchester City, which came hard on the heels of a desperate
collapse at Charlton which brought about some savage criticism of the players
from pressmen, manager and punters alike.
The players grouped together for their meal and amongst the older members of
the squad, talk turned to the possibility that ex-Mag Duncan Ferguson could
make a comeback from yet another injury setback and that if he did, that
whoever made up the Newcastle defence would be in for a bruising afternoon.
What happened next is uncertain, but it seems that in straining to reach a
bottle of mineral water or twisting awkwardly when slicing into a baguette,
Goma inexplicably incurred an injury, which tragically was to rule him out of
contention for the game.
In his place came Steve Caldwell, who endured something of a torrid afternoon
and conceded a dubious late penalty to earn Everton a point in a 1-1 draw, but
didn’t have to face the feared Ferguson – who had failed a fitness test.
By the time we faced Bradford City in our next away game, Goma was a Cottager
and in his place was Andy O’Brien, arriving from Valley Parade for a million
quid – a fifth of the cost of Goma and with five times as many guts and as
Almost inevitably, once safely out of the area, Goma allowed a gust from the
mistral to waft though his slack jaw as he rubbished his former employers in a
style similar to Domi a few weeks before him and Distin the following year.
While others complained that training at United under Robson wasn’t tough
enough, Goma compared it to an army camp, suggesting he’d been spending
those days when he wasn’t fit enough to train with his toon team mates by
watching re-runs of Bilko on satellite TV…..
His bellyaching hit a raw nerve with the Newcastle chairman though and Fredy
Shepherd responded in kind with some vitriol of his own:
"Goma accuses us of
lacking motivation and ambition. Well, that's rich coming from a player who
played only 39 out of 85 possible games for us.
know the figures because I've had them looked up. He played less than 50 per
cent of our games through injuries. That meant he cost us twice as much in
Goma think Fulham are a bigger club than Newcastle United? Well, if he can't
hack it up here he can go. If he can't play for a manager like Bobby Robson
and fans like ours, he's got a problem."
don't know if it's a coincidence but Goma, Domi, Dumas and even Ginola at the
end couldn't stick it up here. Maybe that tells us something."
words - from a man who signed Laurent Robert 5 months later…..
his defence and unlike Distin, Goma at least had the partial excuse of wanting
to live his life in the bright lights of the South East, rubbing shoulders in
over-priced clubs with his Highbury compatriots as opposed to fighting to get
served in Julies.
once again, we were entitled to feel
short-changed by another player now assured of abuse whenever he faces us.
It’ll be many, many years before the half time hero is this deserter – and
if he was invited, he’d probably not make it past the Milburn reception
without pulling something.
Goma and Distin continue to appear regularly against us and get le bird,
there’s another ex-toon player who plies his trade in our league and has
scored regularly against us, but whose presence provokes no reaction at all
from the toon fans – Louis Saha.
Some more recent converts to the black and white cause may not be aware that
the Manchester United striker was once a Magpie, but his six starts, six sub
appearances and two goals are now the stuff of legend in some circles,
provoking fierce debate whenever his name is mentioned.
In the early months of 1999, we were in the lower half of the league, with
only an FA Cup run to alleviate the tedium of some shockingly average matches
both home and away. The side was riddled with inconsistent players who failed
to live up to their billing, as the likes of Andersson, Maric, Georgiadis and
Ketsbaia were all occasionally inspired (well, perhaps not that Greek arse)
but flattered to deceive and regularly went AWOL on the field in away games
– most notably within the M25 area when a tin pot was at stake.
So, when an unknown 21 year-old Frenchman arrived on loan from Metz with
undoubted potential but a diminutive frame that didn’t appear to lend itself
to the domestic rough and tumble, only those with 20/20 hindsight can now
claim to have seen signs of the player that went for almost £13m five years
Certainly Ruud Gullit didn’t – and when Saha went back to his native
France that summer, his departure wasn’t mourned and only the inclusion of a
belting goal at Blackburn in the cup ensured his name didn’t fade completely
into the ether.
But while we may have missed out on a goalscorer at the time when we were
desperate for someone to assist Shearer, the hissy fit that Saha pulled in
conjunction with his agent when the call came from Old Trafford have ensured
that his return visits to Fulham are greeted with as much derision as respect
from the Craven Cottage faithful.
we signed him on, we’d no doubt have much the same opinion of him – only
Newcastle would have been a few million quid better off; money we’d
doubtless have squandered on more exotic talents….
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