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The Ones That Got Away

Our staff takes a look at which departures in the Ashley era hurt them the most

Newcastle United v West Ham United - Premier League
yes we will talk about THAT player
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

In an effort to continue to talk about anything other than the potential takeover of Newcastle United the staff of Coming Home Newcastle has banded together to give you our most heartbreaking departures of the Ashley era.

This is a collection of the outgoing transfers that hurt us the most during the Ashley regime, and they have happened in a number of ways. From players moving on to greener pastures, not fitting in the manager’s plans, to being unfairly pushed out... we have it all folks! So... check it out below, and give us your thoughts on the players we chose. Who did we leave out? Is their a player you read on this list and you immediatly went “Same bro, sameeeeee” Let us know in the comment section!

Hatem Ben Arfa - Bryan Nelson

I’ve always loved Newcastle United, but when I began watching games as a full-fledged fan in 2011 one player stood out among the rest to me, and that was Hatem Ben Arfa. In my opinion, he surpasses any player that has played for the club since he left in 2015, and the circumstances of his departure are just as infuriating to me now as they were then. The whole argument over Ben Arfa’s fitness and how Alan Pardew thought that Ben Arfa was overweight completely ignored the impact that Ben Arfa had on Newcastle United’s midfield. I was heartbroken when Demba Ba was unceremoniously sold to Chelsea, and disappointed when Papiss Demba Cisse was allowed to leave. But the release, yes, the RELEASE, of Hatem Ben Arfa from his contract was a slap in the face. It was at that moment that when I saw a talented player make their way to Newcastle, I would know they weren’t here for the long haul. And that killed me.

Stade Rennais vs Paris Saint-Germain - Coupe de France Final
Hatem got some silverware after all
Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Hatem Ben Arfa had speed, technical ability, and a natural way about him that made him lethal on the pitch. He wasn’t perfect, but he was the most talented player on that pitch, and when he departed Newcastle forcefully by being loaned to Hull City and then released, there was a part of me that felt like I’d never see a player that I truly loved watching play for the club again.

Ayoze Perez - Mirza Usman Baig

The summer of 2019 saw three Spaniards depart from Tyneside. While Joselu’s departure was welcomed, the exit of the other two Spaniards stung a considerable amount. Rafa Benitez was and always will be adored by Newcastle fans for steadying the ship and saving the club from free-falling out of the Premier League Sunderland-style. With all the interviews Ayoze was doing, it seemed that he too had long made up his mind about leaving the club. His interviews and glaring inconsistencies on the field never sat well with the Newcastle faithful, but nonetheless, his awkward departure stung quite a bit. Regardless of how polarizing Ayoze had grown to be, he scored critical goals when we least expected him to, often saving the club from trouble. He had arrived at Newcastle almost anonymously and immediately flashed his potential in those dire Newcastle sides. Through all the turmoil that surrounded the club during his stay here, Ayoze and his potential for greatness always offered a glimmer of hope.

Newcastle United v Leicester City - Premier League
our sweet prince, gone to leicester
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

How much of that potential Ayoze actually fulfilled in his time here will vary on who you ask. As Rafa famously said in an interview after a match against *checks notes* Leicester City, if Ayoze Perez was a bit “more consistent... he’d be playing for Manchester City already.” Seeing Perez and his largely unfulfilled potential then leave for Leicester City stung. Though Leicester City has proven itself to be paces ahead of Newcastle United in the season since, at the time his transfer to Leicester City didn’t feel like the step up that we expected Ayoze to one day take. More than anything, it felt like the universe was banishing Newcastle fans to the deepest pit of despair by removing the one last glimmer of hope, flawed already in nature, from Newcastle United.

Loïc Remy - Christopher Lovell

For me, Loïc Rémy is the ‘one that got away’ during the Mike Ashley era. We almost signed the Frenchman in January 2013, but he eventually chose QPR at the last minute. It was a game of FIFA 12 with the QPR owner Tony Fernandes that convinced him to sign. Rémy later said: “He showed his human side to me as an owner of the club I wanted to join”. Not something you can imagine being said about Ashley!

We did manage to agree a season-long loan deal for Rémy in the summer of the same year, after QPR were relegated. He was Joe Kinnear’s first (and only) signing as Director of Football. He was an instant success, scoring five goals in his first five game.

I was at SJP in the November for Newcastle’s 2-0 win over Mourinho’s 2nd place Chelsea. I had a perfect view of Rémy’s 89th minute header which sealed the 3 points. This moved us into 9th and was our 3rd win in 4 games. It was the pinnacle of Pardew’s ‘purple patch’ that season.

Chelsea v Newcastle United - Premier League
Loic left us for THIS????
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Rémy finished the campaign with 14 goals in 26 games. No Newcastle player has scored more goals per game in the Premier League since.

His stay on Tyneside was short but sweet as he decided to follow in Ba’s footsteps and join Chelsea to become a bit-part player. Rémy had all the ingredients to become a hero at Newcastle, it’s a shame we didn’t get to see that play out.

Yohan Cabaye - Cameron Johnson

Yohan Cabaye
Cabaye in a PSG kit is still so so so so so weird

Yohan Cabaye leaving was tough to see. He was having an incredible season and he was easily my favorite player. It was devastating to see him leave, but it was especially frustrating to know that Paris Saint Germain was not going to use him right (spent one season there and ended up at Crystal Palace). His production was great for a central midfielder in his 19 appearances and he would have posted some beautiful numbers at the end of the season if he hadn’t left halfway through.

James Milner - Graeme Bell

James Milner leaving was a huge blow for me. A fantastic player who gave everything, if you look at where his career has gone since, from his point of view it was probably right to move on.

Leicester City v Liverpool - Premier League
not one but TWO former Newcastle players!
Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

The reason I was and still am gutted about the Milner transfer, is because of just how good he is. Newcastle had actually pulled the plug on Milner leaving for Aston Villa while Glenn Roeder was in charge. Roeder assured Milner that he was a part of his plans, though Milner was not a part of the match days squads that followed. Milner got his head down and worked hard to force his way back into the side (A sign of his professionalism).

When Milner eventually left for Aston Villa, Kevin Keegan was in charge. Keegan didn’t want to sell Milner but the story goes that Bastian Schweinsteiger was in line to replace Milner. Newcastle accepted the £15M bid from Villa under the impression they could replace Milner with Schweinsteiger for the same price.

Assistant manager at the time, Terry McDermott revealed:

The day after – we’re trying to sign Schweinsteiger and the answer was ‘absolutely no chance, it will cost you £50 million if you wanted to buy Schweinsteiger’.

“So we had no one to replace him. But he was irreplaceable anyway because he could play anywhere.”

To say it was a disastrous transfer is being extremely kind. It’s a case of “What if” with Milner. Had he and Keegan stayed who knows what might have happened.

Jonás Gutiérrez - Zack Pensak

The player departure that really affected me in a profound way was the disgraceful release of Jonás Gutiérrez, for a number of reasons. First, the way in which he was notified, allegedly by overhearing a conversation between teammate Ryan Taylor and interim manager John Carver. This was not only an obviously unprofessional gaffe, but blatantly disrespectful to a man who, at the time in mid-2015, was the 9th highest capped player at the club since the turn of the century.

Newcastle United v West Ham United- Barclays Premier League
our prince
Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

Second, the context in which the release occurred. As many people know, Gutiérrez had just come back from an 18-month absence after being diagnosed with testicular cancer in October 2013. However, additionally, according to an April 2016 BBC article, after being discharged from the hospital in late 2014, “Midfielder Jonás Gutiérrez was dropped by Newcastle United because of his cancer diagnosis... The tribunal also ruled the club made it impossible for Gutierrez to trigger an appearance-based contract extension.” This manipulation of Jonás’s contract in order for the club to save an incrementally small sum of money, especially considering the medical severity of his absence, was beyond appalling.

Finally, Jonás was one of my favorite players during his time at Newcastle. Never the flashy winger a la ASM, he epitomized the grit and grind of an hybrid old/new school Premier League spirit. Plus, his signature Spider-Man mask donning sets the bar in terms of Newcastle goal celebrations. For all these reasons, for me, the hardest player to see leave the club.

Andy Carroll - Andy Hayes

I was 12 years old when Newcastle United signed Alan Shearer and grew up idolising him. A Geordie wearing the number nine for his boyhood club! Every local lad’s dream! Having scored 17 goals in The Championship promotion season, in 2010-11 Newcastle’s new local hero took on the number nine shirt and even though I was 26 years old, that same feeling stirred in me. Carroll 9 was the first ‘name and number’ shirt I’d bought since Shearer 9. I saw in his passion, fight, effort and goals the qualities I longed for in the wearer of that famous Newcastle shirt. I saw in his face when he scored a goal, the face of every fan in the stands. He was one of us.

Newcastle United v Cardiff City
the GOAT local boy?
Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Having started the season with an impressive 11 goals in 19 Premier League games, including a hat-trick against Villa, on January 31st word got around that he was leaving. Carroll has since made it very clear that he did not want to leave Newcastle for what was a British transfer record but Mike Ashley saw 35 million reasons to part with him. Word has it that he had only recently bought a house in the area but was told, ‘You’re going’, and that was that. Ironically, after an injury-hit career, Carroll later revealed that as he was travelling to Liverpool via Mike Ashley’s helicopter on transfer deadline day all he was thinking was, ‘Please, just let me fail the medical.’ You couldn’t make it up.

Aleksandar Mitrović - Greg Troxell

There was a certain excitement when Mitro came on board. He was an absolute lunatic Serbian that would put his whole body on the line for a goal. I still miss his machine gun celebration. We never got the full taste of Premier League Mitro at Newcastle due to the relegation, but he stayed on.

Fulham FC v Newcastle United - Premier League
mitro with the man who betrayed him lol
Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United

He didn't have to stay. He was a young promising striker with everything to play for. But decided he wanted to fight for Newcastle and bring us back up to the prem. We saw 25 Championship matches from him in the 2016-17 season and he scored only 4 times. It was Dwight Gayle getting most of it done.

But after seeing a £40M Joelinton come in and just last season, Mitro scored 11 goals in the prem, which is quite the achievement if it were a Newcastle player, you cant help but think, what if the mad Serb stayed on? 46 goals for Fulham since.

Joselu - Elijah Newsome

Real Madrid v UD Almeria - La Liga
our KING
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

I mean seriously you thought I would not say the best striker to ever grace Newcastle wit his presence? Come on it’s me! This is my brand. This is what I do. Loving Joselu for who he is just a part of my DNA.

He is one of the greatest strikers to ever play for Real Madrid. He literally has one of the best goal scoring records in Real Madrid history and his talent was WASTED at Newcastle. Rafa was smart to bring him in, but unfortunately could not get the best out of the former Madridsta. It has still been less than a year since his departure and I already miss certain things like him shooting a shot that went out for a throw in, or missing tap ins.

Now I watch in jealousy as Joselu continues to tear it up in La Liga. His success serves as a constant reminder of my mantra: Joselu is love. Joselu is life.