TFN debutant and Newcastle fan Andy Booth remembers Patrick Kluivert’s season on Tyneside…
Patrick Kluivert’s arrival on Tyneside in July 2004 was met with cautious optimism from the Newcastle United supporters. Manager Bobby Robson had compared the capture to that of the revered Alan Shearer in 1996, such was the reputation of the Dutch striker.
He had left Barcelona earlier that summer as the fourth top La Liga goalscorer in the club’s history and was top of the chart for the Netherlands with 40 goals in 79 internationals. Yet he had been released on a free transfer after failing to fit into Frank Rijkaard’s side for the second half of the previous season and had not played a single minute in Euro 2004, in which the Oranje had reached the Semi-Finals. Having just turned 28, he was, theoretically, still in his prime and after a disappointing 5th-place finish the year before, Kluivert was recruited to return Champions League football to St James’ Park.
However it certainly did not work out like that. His one season on Tyneside ended in a 14th place finish and there were few tears shed when he returned to Spain the following summer. But should we be surprised that the move did not work out as the club had hoped (rather than expected)? Even at the time the signing always felt slightly nostalgic. A former star, past his peak, plying his trade in a place he’d rather not be and probably wishing it was 1995. So what went wrong?
Well from a purely tactical sense you have to question whether his style of play fitted with the dynamics of the squad. At Ajax and Barcelona he had excelled playing as a classic number 9. Good with his feet, exceptional in the air, always eager to shoot, he was your stereotypical penalty box striker; a role already filled by the talismanic local hero Shearer. Even at 34 Shearer expected to start every game, and failure to fulfil these demands risked a backlash from the Toon Army, as Ruud Gullit had found out five years earlier. Continue reading