Who will lead Newcastle out at Old Trafford against Manchester United on the 16th August on the Toon’s return to the Premier League? That’s a question that Newcastle manager Chris Hughton is still yet to answer following the departure of last season’s club captain Nicky Butt. There are a few players who may well be up to the task, however there appears to be a stand-out candidate for the role, a certain Alan Smith. Is the combative midfielder the right man to wear the armband for the Magpies and lead them into the tough challenges that lie ahead?
You know exactly what you’re going to get from Alan Smith – a fully committed performance in which he’ll put in nothing less than 100% effort. The no-nonsense Yorkshire lad brought steel to the Newcastle midfield last season, something they’ll need in abundance for the upcoming campaign, and the hard-tackling Smith certainly leads by example – an essential attribute for any captain. Smith had the honour of being captain for the majority of last season, and he certainly says the right things. When asked by BBC Newcastle about the captaincy Smith said: “you won’t get any more or any less from me if I am captain or not” – just the attitude you look for in a captain. Smith also stated that: “we’ve got quality players and quality leaders”, but who are they?
Steve Harper is one player who would be would be up to the task. The Newcastle number one is an automatic starter, but perhaps the fact that he is the ‘keeper works against him as goalkeeper is not an ideal position for a captain. Harper does have plenty of things going for him though; he has a wealth of experience, knows the club inside out having been there for 17 years and is a local lad from Easington. He’s definitely a contender but not the frontrunner.
If it’s experience that Hughton is after then Kevin Nolan fits the bill. Like Smith and Harper, Nolan is part of the players’ committee and the Championship Player of the Year quickly put his disappointing start in the north-east behind him. One outsider is Steven Taylor, someone who has suffered an uncertain time at the club recently due to injury and incidents off the pitch. Taylor though is a player bursting with passion and is a Newcastle supporter. He has also done an admirable job for the England U21s in the past, with footage of him stepping up to successfully slot home a penalty whilst carrying an injury sticking in my mind.
Of the candidates mentioned here, you feel that 24-year-old Taylor is the only one who could go on to become Newcastle captain for many years. However, Smith took the armband for Newcastle’s first pre-season match against Carlisle and looks a dead-on cert to be given the captaincy by Hughton for the season. Who do you think should be Newcastle captain? Should it be Smith, Harper, Nolan or Taylor? Maybe someone else deserves the honour, Hughton isn’t known for surprise decisions but you never know he might just spring one!