I'm generally very wary of overstating the effects of the intangible qualities of any player. I'm just not sure to what degree any of it contributes to goal scoring or prevention. Since sports media is by its very nature narrative-driven, we can easily fall in love with words like Leadership and Demeanor and Influence, when in fact those things don't come close to affecting the outcomes of matches on most days.
All the same, I find it very difficult to reconcile that rational side of my brain with the part of me that watches Fabricio Coloccini have a visible impact on his team as a leader week in and week out. The other players respect him. The referee actually listens when he talks (compare that with certain NUFC captains of days gone by). Alan Pardew trusts him absolutely. I find captain controversies silly, but I don't want anybody else on this team wearing the armband. I think he brings that much to the table.
Physically, Coloccini is an animal. I've always thought the El Toro nickname fit him better than it did Jose Enrique. He's strong, he takes the right amount of necessary risks, and his awareness is off the charts. That he was credited with 67 tackles last season is sort of amazing, since almost every team the Toon faced made a point to stay away from him as much as possible. He's just about the perfect center back for this team. That's not to say he's a perfect player, just a great fit for a team that prides itself on strength up the middle. I do get nervous when Pardew plays a high line, as Colo lacks the pace to keep up with the more speedy forwards, and there have been times when he's been beaten in the air, but one could make the argument that he's the most important player in the squad, independent of his status as captain.
We've mentioned this elsewhere, but it bears repeating: Coloccini deserves a lot of credit for stepping up and covering up the deficiencies in the squad on either side of him. There were several problems that contributed to the team's dip in form in December, but a big part of it was that Steven Taylor had been injured and Davide Santon hadn't been fully integrated into the Starting XI just yet. When Ryan Taylor was struggling at left back, Colo provided cover. Once the team upgraded that position and Taylor was ruled out, he was able to help in a similar fashion in the middle. That ability to lock down his own space on the field of play and also clean up after his teammates was a huge part of the success Newcastle enjoyed in 2011-12. If they are to replicate their performance, they are going to need another magnificent season from their captain. I can't think of a player that is more equal to the task.