Mon 4 Mar 2024, 17:59 · Mark Davis

The Mike Ashley Era: Every Newcastle United Signing Ranked (Part 2)

The Mike Ashley Era: Every Newcastle United Signing Ranked (Part 2)
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The worst is over… but the best is yet to come… join us on this remarkably underwhelming second stint of covering every single Mike Ashley signing. Seeing as many of these lot were the definition of 5/10… let us know how many you’ve forgotten about in the comments. And if there are any striking mistakes (Should Jeff Hendrick have cracked the top 10? Should turncoat Cabaye be stuck in between the likes of Joselu and Danny Simpson?) We’d love to hear from you.

But without further ado, enjoy the Ashley signings that are the footballing equivalent to a cucumber sandwich… or a lukewarm Costa coffee in a Tesco meal deal…


80 - Claudio Cacapa

Joined: 2007 (Free)

Left: 2009 (Released

League Apps (Goals): 25 (1)

Should he be lower? That 18-minute cameo v Portsmouth that saw him withdrawn at 3-0 down must surely go down as one of the worst showings for NUFC of all time. He did (somewhat) salvage his reputation though with notable displays against Fulham, Stoke and Tottenham, but in truth, he was one of many underwhelming Big Sam signings. At least he was free?

79 - Andy Carroll

Joined: 2019 (Free)

Left: 2021 (Released)

League Apps (Goals): 37 (1)

Oh, I really wanted to put him higher. Unfortunately for Wor Andy, we’re only counting signings in this list, which is why home-grown lads like Paul Dummett and Sean Longstaff are nowhere to be seen, and we have to judge our giant Geordie on his second spell at Newcastle only. Brought in to much fanfare in the late summer of 2019, Geordies were dreaming of more of the heroics that earned a raw young Carroll a £35 million move in 2011. Sadly - time, injuries, and a diet of vodka and McDonald’s had ravaged him by this point, and he scored just once (a consolation in a home loss to Leicester). A sad curtain call on one of Newcastle’s most famous sons of recent years.

78 - Dan Gosling

Joined: 2010 (Free)

Left: 2014 (Released)

League Apps (Goals): 24 (1)

What was all the hype about eh? Seen as something of a coup when Newcastle poached him for free off Everton’s books, Gosling never really had the chance to carve out a Premier League career at Newcastle due to a series of knee problems.

77 - Yoshinori Muto

Joined: 2018 (9.5M)

Left: 2021 (Contract Terminated)

League Apps (Goals): 25 (1)

I feel really bad for Yoshinori Muto. Signed for £9.5 million by Rafa Benitez, he humbly stated in his first interview that he was aiming to score ten goals in his debut campaign. Such lukewarm fighting talk didn’t really set Geordie imaginations alight; but in the few opportunities Rafa granted him, he looked lively, pacey and tricky to deal with. A stunner at Old Trafford was as good as it got though for the Japanese international, and he was sent on a remarkably unproductive loan at Eibar; scoring just once.

76 - Mapou Yanga Mbiwa

Joined: 2013 (8.5M)

Left: 2014 (Loan-To-Buy Clause - 4.8M - Roma)

League Apps (Goals): 37 (0)

Another case of misspent potential. Yanga-Mbiwa arrived for the princely sum of £8.5 million in 2013, but looked rudderless at the best of times. Shipped off to Roma just 18 months later, his career has sadly fizzled out; his last contract expired in 2020.

75 - Remy Cabella

Joined: 2014 (8M)

Left: 2016 (8M - Marseille)

League Apps (Goals): 31 (1)

The ball control of a circus juggler but the body frame of a toothpick; Remy Cabella was another costly French import that never really got going. Occasional influential performances such as in the 4-1 demolition of Hull (the one where Pardew head-butted an opposition player) saw Cabella threaten to come good, but he always looked a bit lightweight for the Prem, and 12 months after he was signed, he was sent packing back to France.

74 - Sylvain Marveaux

Joined: 2011 (Free)

Left: 2016 (Released)

League Apps (Goals): 38 (1)

Once seen as a source of bragging rights by Geordies over Liverpool, Marveaux proved to be a bullet dodged by the Reds, as injuries restricted the winger to just 38 league games and one solitary goal (in the 7-3 capitulation at Arsenal).

73 - Mark Gillespie

Joined: 2020

Left: N/A (Still Under Contract)

League Apps (Goals): 0 (0)*

I mean, he was brought in as a fourth-choice goalkeeper and to keep childhood buddy Paul Dummett company on the bench. He’s done that role spectacularly, and even got a few cup games under his belt. He’s living the dream of every Newcastle fan, so fair play.

72 - Jeff Hendrick

Joined: 2020 (Free)

Left: N/A (Still Under Contract)

League Apps (Goals): 25 (3)

The unfortunate (and slightly unfairly) maligned poster-boy of the Steve Bruce years, Jeff Hendrick actually started off brightly in a Newcastle shirt, scoring on his league debut away at West Ham in a 2-0 win. Initially seen as decent business on a free transfer, things soon turned sour after a series of abject displays - and he became a regular source of humour online as an epitome of Newcastle’s lack of inventiveness on and off the pitch. He also has the dubious honour of scoring the final goal of the Mike Ashley era. Quite poetic in a way.

71 - Chancel Mbemba

Joined: 2015 (8.5M)

Left: 2018 (7M - Porto)

League Apps (Goals): 54 (1)

Looked okay, but like many players, he felt the Rafa wrath (allegedly due to a reluctance to learn the language) and was sold to Porto; where he did pretty well to be fair.

70 - Massadio Haidara

Joined: 2013 (2M)

Left: 2018 (Released)

League Apps (Goals): 39 (0)

Was just starting to look good in a Newcastle shirt when he was scythed down by Callum McManaman in what can only be described as one of the worst Premier League ‘tackles’ ever. McManaman got away without a booking. Haidara got a broken leg. Newcastle got another promising youngster’s Premier League career ended prematurely.

69 - Nile Ranger

Joined: 2008 (Free)

Left: 2013 (Contract Terminated)

League Apps (Goals): 51 (2)

Possibly the most damning indictment of this list is that Nile Ranger finishes higher than over 50 other players. But he arrived for peanuts with a lot of potential, actually showed that potential in a handful of games, and scored three goals… which is precisely three more than some pretty high wage strikers in this list. Another gem on Football Manager 2010, he went about self-sabotaging his career in ways that make Ivan Toney seem like a saint. Still, he’s responsible for the birth of the True Geordie YouTube channel… I’m not sure if he gains or loses brownie points for that…

68 - Joselu

Joined: 2017 (5M)

Left: 2019 (2.5M - Alaves)

League Apps (Goals): 46 (6)

How can a player be a flop for Newcastle United yet achieve cult hero status at Real Madrid? Joselu managed it, maybe he will reveal his secrets in a few years when his ridiculous career has drawn to a close.

67 - Alan Smith

Joined: 2007 (6M)

Left: 2012 (Released)

League Apps (Goals): 84 (0)

This inclusion brought about much debate in the NUFC News office. On one hand, ‘Smudger’ stuck with us in the championship and enjoyed a period of longevity unmatched by many Ashley signings. On the other hand, if you’d said to Newcastle fans that their £6 million purchase of a Manchester United striker would enjoy his best Newcastle performances in a midfield role… while in the Championship… they’d probably tell the club not to bother.

66 - Geremi

Joined: 2007 (Free)

Left: 2010 (Undisclosed - Ankaragucu)

League Apps (Goals): 49 (2)

Another ‘meh’ Big Sam signing that marginally improved under KK. That free kick against Spurs was also tasty.

65 - Danny Simpson

Joined: 2010 (750K)

Left: 2013 (Released)

League Apps (Goals): 123 (1)

Similar to Joselu, how could a player be so underwhelming at Newcastle yet win a Premier League title at Leicester?! This one just felt like the Footballing Gods of Fate were trolling us.

64 - Abdoulaye Faye

Joined: 2007 (2M)

Left: 2008 (2.25M - Stoke)

League Apps (Goals): 22 (1)

Another one that brought up much debate in the office. And another one who saw a marked improvement under KK. Shame he didn’t stick around because he’s stuck in mid-table in this list.

63 - Patrick van Aanholt

Joined: 2010 (Loan)

Left: 2010 (Loan Expiry)

League Apps (Goals): 7 (0)

Lively and spritely for us as a wee spring chicken in the Championship, it’s just unfortunate we couldn’t hold onto him longer, or he’d be higher.

62 - Gabriel Obertan

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Sky Sports

Joined: 2011 (3M)

Left: 2016 (Released)

League Apps (Goals): 58 (2)

The much-maligned, much-mocked winger was a definite victim of expectation at Old Trafford. The standards were much lower at Saint James’ Park though, but besides a couple of important Premier league goals, he more than proved that the pre-Man Utd hype was indeed undeserved.

61 - Mark Viduka

Joined: 2007 (Free)

Left: 2009 (Retired)

League Apps (Goals): 38 (7)

Started in impressive fashion, saved us from further embarrassment against Derby County, and formed an impressive part of KK’s three-pronged attack with Michael Owen and Obafemi Martins to stave off relegation. Sadly, he appeared to lose all interest after his first campaign on Tyneside, and perfectly embodied the Newcastle squad that was deemed ‘too good to go down’ on mega wages… yet did just that.

60 - Daryl Janmaat

Joined: 2014 (5M)

Left: 2016 (7.5M - Watford)

League Apps (Goals): 71 (3)

Curious similarities with the previous entry on this list, Janmaat was far too good for the championship in terms of talent, but severely lacking in terms of commitment and heart. He finished his Newcastle career under a cloud; arguing with fans, breaking two fingers after punching a wall, and with relegation confirmed, put himself in the shop window with a goal and assist in his final appearance.

59 - Kenedy

Joined: 2018 (First Loan)

Left: 2019 - (Expiry of Second Loan)

League Apps (Goals): 38 (3)

If this list only took into account Kenedy’s first loan spell at Newcastle, he’d be much higher; after helping cement Newcastle’s Premier League status with a couple of match-winning performances. Chelsea wanted to charge the earth to make the transfer permanent though, meaning a second loan spell happened instead, in which Kenedy turned in one of the worst Premier League performances of all time versus Cardiff… failing to make a successful pass for the first half of the match and then missing a late penalty to win the game.

58 - Danny Guthrie

Joined: 2008 (2.5M)

Left: 2012 (Released)

League Apps (Goals): 92 (7)

Perhaps unlucky not to feature more regularly for United, Guthrie showed decent promise (particularly in the Championship, where he regularly orchestrated Newcastle’s set plays from corners). Ultimately though, he couldn’t dislodge the likes of Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton from the side, and his career fizzled out after departing. He even chanced his hand at playing in Indonesia… life is about new experiences after all…

57 - Ryan Fraser

Joined: 2020 (Free)

Left: N/A (Still Under Contract)

League Apps (Goals): 53 (2)*

One half of Newcastle’s ‘little-and-large’ comedy act alongside Dan Burn, Ryan Fraser’s career has seen him fall out not once, but twice, with Eddie Howe. The second time seemed to prematurely end his Newcastle career before it could fully take off. A couple of important goals in the 2022 resurgence aside, he won’t be a big miss. (Pun intended).

56 - Vurnon Anita

Joined: 2012 (6.7M)

Left: 2017 (Released)

League Apps (Goals): 133 (2)

Summer 2012… Newcastle had just finished fifth and were gearing up for their first foray into Europe for five years. How did they prepare for that in the transfer market? By buying Vurnon Anita and… no one else. Of course, the downturn following that fifth place finish can’t be solely placed at Anita’s door, but he was never the sort of player to dramatically enhance the side. So, despite managing over 130 league appearances for Newcastle, his time there is a big reminder of the missed opportunities and lack of ambition from Ashley during that crucial summer, and Ashley’s time as a whole.

55 - Jack Colback

Joined: 2014 (Free)

Left: 2020 (Released)

League Apps (Goals): 93 (5)

Ahhh, the ‘Ginger Pirlo’ as he was affectionately called. Jack Colback turned from foe to friend with the Geordie Faithful, even earning an England call up in recognition of his impressive early form. However, injury caused him to withdraw from the England squad, and - the odd belter aside - showed little to convince anyone that he was of England standard after that. Languishing in the reserves on a huge salary, he eventually went to Forest.

54 - DeAndre Yedlin

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Getty Images

Joined: 2016 (5M)

Left: 2021 (Mutual Termination - Galatasaray)

League Apps (Goals): 112 (3)

I must admit, I had a soft spot for DeAndre Yedlin. I think it was the mixture of outrageous fashion choices, unpredictably crazy charges down the right flank into nowhere, and his larger than life personality on social media. It’s genuinely nice to see footballers show their personalities off, without going full-on ‘Jesse Lingard’. Sadly, Yedlin became a bit of a scapegoat for the team’s defensive frailties, and he was much more confident bombing forward than keeping his concentration at the back. I particularly enjoyed the goal where the five-foot six Yedlin appears to rain down from the sky like a flying squirrel to meet Allan Saint Maximin’s wayward cross. Oh, and fun fact, he currently captains Lionel Messi in the MLS.

53 - Ciaran Clark

Joined: 2016 (5M)

Left: 2023 (Released)

League Apps (Goals): 114 (11)

My main memories of Ciaran Clark include him scoring a last-minute equaliser in his own net while sporting a heavily bandaged head… popping up with unexpected goals at the right end when we got promoted… and of course, receiving the red card that set events in motion for Joelinton to become the best midfield enforcer Saint James’ Park had seen in the Premier league era, but more on that later.

52 - Javier Manquillo

Joined: 2017 (4.5M)

Left: 2024 (Mutual Termination - Celta Vigo)

League Apps (Goals): 96 (1)

Came in to give us that extra option on the right side of defence, and marginally shades my beloved Yedlin in this list (sadly no flying squirrel goals to contend with though). He did do the defensive side of things better than his Right-Back rival and his mazy run to win the free kick that kickstarted our revival under Howe won’t be forgotten. He’s now reunited with Rafa at Celta Vigo.

51 - Marlon Harewood

Joined: 2009 (Loan)

Left: 2009 (Loan Expiry)

League Apps (Goals): 15 (5)

You might be surprised to see a bang average Villa striker so high on this list. You might have forgotten that Marlon Harewood ever played for Newcastle at all. But he came on loan for three months, scored five goals, and off he went. Cheers, Marlon.

50 - Emil Krafth

Joined: 2019 (5M)

Left: N/A (Still Under Contract)

League Apps (Goals): 60 (1)*

Probably described as the ‘uninspiring’ signing of the 2019 window, in which Joelinton, Allan Saint-Maximin and Andy Carroll also joined, Krafth didn’t enjoy the best of starts in a Newcastle shirt and looked set to follow the likes of Jamal Lewis and Jeff Hendrick onto the scrapheap… until he slowly started to turn things around under Eddie Howe, like many of his teammates. A new contract - and a place in the top 50 - reflects his place as a useful squad option.

49 - Sebastien Bassong

Joined: 2008 (500K)

Left: 2009 (8M - Tottenham)

League Apps (Goals): 30 (0)

A rare glimmer of positivity in a rotten relegation campaign, Seb Bassong was one of the few players to come out of that season with any credit. And it showed, as he was swiftly snapped up by Spurs. Shame we didn’t see more of him in better circumstances.

48 - Habib Beye

Joined: 2007 (2M)

Left: 2009 (2.5M - Aston Villa)

League Apps (Goals): 52 (1)

“Sunday… Monday… Habib Beye!” Similar to Bassong, Beye was on the way to becoming an unlikely cult hero on Tyneside… until relegation struck and he deserted us at the earliest opportunity.

47 - Wayne Routledge

Routledge Newcastle

Joined: 2010 (1M)

Left: 2011 (2M - Swansea)

League Apps (Goals): 34 (3)

Signed for our 09-10 Championship campaign, Routledge proved his effectiveness at that level; but unfortunately didn’t get many opportunities at the higher standards of the Premier League.

46 - Mathieu Debuchy

Joined: 2013 (5.5M)

Left: 2014 (12M - Arsenal)

League Apps (Goals): 43 (1)

Maybe it was his striking good looks… maybe it was because he was Yohan Cabaye’s best mate… maybe it was because he had caps for France… but Mathieu Debuchy always seemed to get away with flattering to deceive in a Newcastle shirt. Of course, you don’t go on to sign for Arsenal if you’re a bad player, but… I dunno… he didn’t seem to stick around long enough to make too much of a positive impact.

45 - Mohamed Diame

Joined: 2016 (4.5M)

Left: 2019 (Released)

League Apps (Goals): 97 (5)

Eyebrows were raised by some when Mo Diame swapped the bright lights and the promised land of the Premier League after a successful promotion campaign with Hull… to just do it all again with Newcastle. But he was a key component in that second successful promotion campaign; and while he didn’t set the world alight back in the Premier League, he more than deserves his spot in the better half of this list.

44 - Yoan Gouffran

Joined: 2013 (500K)

Left: 2017 (Released)

League Apps (Goals): 119 (16)

They say you get what you pay for… but when Yoan Gouffran signed on the dotted line for just £500K… and followed that up with some eye-catching displays… Newcastle fans were left thinking they’d poached a bargain. That assumption was brought back down to Earth slightly in the seasons that followed, especially as the side plummeted into the Championship again. But Gouffran restored some warmth in Geordie hearts with some great goals, including a zinger of a volley against Derby County.

43 - Mikel Merino

Joined: 2017 (8.5M)

Left: 2018 (10M - Real Sociedad)

League Apps (Goals): 24 (1)

After a season of blood, sweat and tears in the championship, the cultured technique of Mikel Merino was a welcome sight at Newcastle. Earning early plaudits from Rafa and fans alike, it looked like we’d snapped up a gem of a player… only for him to get homesick and set sail back to Spain. Oh, what could have been…

42 - Davide Santon

Joined: 2011 (5M)

Left: 2015 (2.8M - Inter Milan)

League Apps (Goals): 82 (1)

Another instance of a signing that was too good to be true. Santon arrived with massive pedigree from Milan (and a cult following as a wonderkid on Football Manager). He wasn’t bad… but he wasn’t particularly good either - and it says a lot that the defining image of him in a Newcastle shirt is him apologising to fans after a mistake cost Newcastle in their crucial Europa League tie with Benfica. Ultimately, he never seemed to build on that early promise, and made just eight senior caps for Italy, after heavy involvement in the U21s setup.

41 - James Perch

Joined: 2010 (1M)

Left: 2013 (750K - Wigan)

League Apps (Goals): 65 (1)

Finishing this middle section on a bright note. James Perch is about as unglamorous as you can get as a footballer; but Chris Hughton really wanted him. And although he took his time to get going, James slowly but surely started to win over the hearts of many fans due to his work rate and willingness to play wherever the manager needed him to. He even earned the endearing nickname of ‘Perchinho’ by the end of his Newcastle career… not bad, James… not bad.

Well done, you’ve braved 80 footballers… and suffered varying levels of PTSD with each… join us soon for the final 40, otherwise known as ‘The Ones That Were actually OK’…

The other parts of this series: