At the end of the 2011/2012 Premier League season, Newcastle United’s Argentinian captain Fabricio Coloccini was named in the Team of the Year by his peers, sitting alongside Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany. Few football fans argued with the inclusion of Coloccini, Newcastle had just finished the season in a shock fifth position and he had been lauded for his contribution to a team that only finished five points off third place and qualification to the Champions League.
Arguably, this was the last season that Geordie faithful saw a decent performance out of their talisman. Since, rash challenges that saw the team down to 10 men in key games, bad decisions at set pieces which saw the opposition score, and his failure to learn sufficient English have seen the last three seasons be a struggle for Newcastle. Couple this with the January 2013 revelation that Coloccini wished to return to Argentina; to his former club San Lorenzo, it is a surprise to most people that the centre-back was allowed to remain as captain of Newcastle United. This current season started off in the same form but a recent purple patch has seen pundits running out of superlatives once again.
In the Tyne-Wear derby at the Stadium of Light in October, Newcastle lost 3-0 to their local rivals Sunderland. The first of these goals was a penalty despatched by Adam Johnson which was given away by Coloccini, and as a result the skipper was sent to the stands moments before half-time. The challenge was a silly one, Coloccini and Steven Fletcher both running to a through ball which was likely to run into the hands of Rob Elliott in the Newcastle goal. The club captain decided to make sure that Fletcher would not get to the ball and shoved the Scotsman in the back. This was a turning point in the match as Newcastle were well on top of their opponents but unable to keep this up when they had a one man disadvantage. The red card was rescinded by the FA after a subsequent appeal, however that does not change the match result or the fact that the Argentinian had badly let his side down.
Newcastle appeared to back their chief central defender as Mike Williamson was sent on loan to Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers. However, the Englishman was recalled on 1st December when Newcastle’s form continued to decline. Coloccini and partner Chancel Mbemba seemed to see this as a threat and then managed to get a rare win and clean sheet at home to Liverpool and then an even rarer away win at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur. Though the wins would not last, the performances would and Newcastle would only concede three goals in a trio of games over Christmas and although they were all 1-0 losses, many pundits agreed that the Toon were unfortunate to come away from each game with nothing. The partnership that was blooming between Mbemba and Coloccini was believed to be the main reason behind these improved performances and results.
In the summer, ex-Newcastle boss Alan Pardew was credited with an interest in bringing Coloccini to Crystal Palace but the Selhurst Park club were unable to match his wages. It would have been of little dismay to Geordie fans if he had left the club but in the end, he signed a new one year extension to his deal at the club to see him through to the end of the 2016/2017 season. It is believed that Newcastle United will attempt to find a long term replacement in the summer if current back up Jamaal Lascelles does not fulfil his potential in the long term. Coloccini will then have a phased withdrawal of his first team minutes ahead of a return to his homeland at the end of his contract.
If Coloccini remains playing in the same form as shown in December and January, then it will be seen as a mini master-stroke from boss Steve McClaren to hand the much maligned skipper a new contract. It remains to be seen whether Coloccini’s last year at St James Park will take place in the second tier of the English Football League pyramid however.
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