IN YEARS to come, they may well be asking in the pubs and clubs of Tyneside: whatever happened to the unlikely lads?
Big Dunc and the not quite so big Al may yet emerge as the Terry and Bob of the new millennium in Newcastle. But Andreas Andersson and Temur Ketsbaia could only be described as a striking partnership in one respect. A more strikingly indifferent pairing would be difficult to imagine.
Ruud Gullit might have ventured that the mop-topped Swede and the polished- pated Georgian both "played well" at St James' Park on Saturday. But then Newcastle's manager also suggested that "every club should have a Warren Barton".
Ketsbaia, it must be said, is simply an erratic variation on the theme of footballing enigmas. He is just as liable to score the goal of the season as fall flat on his face in front of goal.
Andersson is just... well, just dreadful. The Toon Army overfloweth with dread every time he gets the ball. They even cheered when he stayed down injured after attempting to tackle Neil Lennon, then jeered when Gullit decided to keep him on and withdraw Ketsbaia instead to accommodate Shearer's return as a substitute 10 minutes into the second half.
Not everybody on the Tyne is against the Swede, however. Defender Steve Howey was quick to defend his colleague. "You can hear the crowd getting their point across that they're not quite happy with Andreas, and the boys feel a little bit sorry for him because sometimes he might lack a little bit of confidence," he admitted.
"But you watch him when he plays for Sweden and he's a totally different player. I think all he needs is maybe a good run in the team and a couple of goals and people will see the best of him. I think he knows the fans are expressing their disappointment at times, but he digs in and works his socks off."
It is just as well for Newcastle that Shearer survived a crunching challenge from Matt Elliott with only minor cuts, and that the flu-ridden Ferguson is expected to be out of his sick bed before Leeds come on Boxing Day. By then the Magpies might even have a new man on their wings to feed their cross-craving target man and their goal-hungry poacher-in-chief.
Ibrahim Ba was nowhere to be seen on Saturday, sheepishly delaying his proposed pounds 5.25m transfer from Milan. It had once cost Newcastle pounds 5.1m less to secure the services of the wide boy who is, according to the Carling Opta statistics, top of the Premiership's crossers. But Kevin Keegan chose to give Steve Guppy just 20 minutes of first-team action before selling him on to Port Vale.
Defensive duties and a dearth of possession meant Guppy did not bear many crosses on his return to Tyneside. Leicester, in fact, only fashioned one chance of note and Emile Heskey fluffed it, dragging his shot across the face of Shay Given's goal and wide when Frank Sinclair put him clear on the half hour.
Newcastle were not much better, though Stephen Glass had a smashing enough game to warrant the match-winning reward of his side-footed goal from the left edge of the Leicester penalty area 20 minutes into the second half.
The young Scot is not so much a winger as a midfielder with a sense of forward direction. This Saturday he will renew his acquaintance with David Batty, who, according to the Talk of the Toon, passed his recent medical sideways.
Goal: Glass (65) 1-0.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Charvet, Dabizas, Howey, Barton; Georgiadis, Lee, Speed, Glass; Andersson, Ketsbaia (Shearer, 55). Substitutes not used: Hamann, Hughes, Solano, Harper (gk).
Leicester City (4-4-2): Keller; Sinclair (Kaamark, 62), Elliott, Taggart, Ullathorne; Impey, Lennon, Izzet (Savage, 48), Guppy; Cottee (Fenton, 66), Heskey. Substitutes not used: Zagorakis, Arphexad (gk).
Referee: J Winter (Ingleby Barwick).
Booking: Leicester: Elliott.
Man of the match: Glass.
Attendance: 36,718.Reuse content