Newcastle will play Champions League football next season for the first time in more than two decades, after Eddie Howe’s team upset the odds to secure a top four finish in the Premier League.
The Magpies last took on Europe’s elite during the 2002/03 campaign, with the intervening years having seen no shortage of heartache with two relegations among the dramas to have unfolded at St James’ Park.
The Toon Army can now look forward to better days however, as Champions League football returns to the North East. Things will look a little different from their last visit to this stage however, when Newcastle bowed out of the competition in the now defunct second group stage after a 2-0 defeat at home to Barcelona.
We look back at the last Newcastle XI to play Champions League football.
Goalkeeper: Shay Given
Shay Given spent the best seasons of his career at Newcastle after signing for the club from Blackburn in the late nineties. The Irishman was the Magpies number one for more than a decade and was twice named in the PFA Team of the Year during his time at the club, a Newcastle career which saw Given make 462 appearances in all competitions.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) March 17, 2020
Given was a key figure as Sir Bobby Robson’s side competed in Europe and at the top end of the Premier League, before departing to sign for big-spending Manchester City in 2009. He is the second-most capped player in the Republic of Ireland’s history with 134 appearances for The Boys in Green.
Right-back: Andy Griffin
Andy Griffin spent six seasons at Newcastle with the 2002/03 campaign the best of an injury-hit spell at St James’ Park.
The right-back made 40 appearances in all competitions and scored a memorable Champions League winner against Juventus at St James’ Park. That win kickstarted a remarkable recovery for Newcastle, who progressed from the first group stage despite losing their opening three games.
📆 #OnThisDay 20 years ago…
Andy Griffin scored the only goal of the game as #NUFC defeated Juventus 1-0 at St. James’ Park.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) October 23, 2022
Centre-back: Andy O’Brien
Andy O’Brien was a fixture in the Newcastle side at centre-back under Sir Bobby Robson, with the defender turning out 172 times for the Magpies after arriving from Bradford in a £2m deal.
O’Brien’s first full season saw him help Newcastle to Champions League qualification and he retained his place in the side despite the arrivals of Titus Bramble and Jonathan Woodgate.
The central defender won 26 caps for the Republic of Ireland at international level and later had spells at Portsmouth, Bolton and Leeds.
Centre-back: Titus Bramble
Newcastle secured the signing of Titus Bramble following Ipswich’s relegation from the Premier League, as Sir Bobby Robson sanctioned the signing of the promising centre-back from his former club.
Bramble struggled to convince across five seasons at Newcastle that saw the defender make 156 appearances. He fared better after a move to Wigan Athletic and was named as the club’s Player of the Season in 2008/09, before crossing the Tyne-Wear rivalry to spend three seasons at Sunderland.
Left-back: Olivier Bernard
Olivier Bernard’s free transfer move to Newcastle proved an astute addition as the left-back impressed with marauding runs forward for the Magpies. The Frenchman spent five seasons with the club and formed a strong partnership with compatriot Laurent Robert down the left, as Newcastle challenged the best in England and Europe.
Bernard later had a second stint at Newcastle, via spells at Southampton and Rangers, and has retained roots in the North East. He owns a pub in Blyth – 15 miles north of Newcastle – and purchased non-league Durham City in 2013 with the aim of turning the team into a feeder club for the North East’s professional sides.
Right-midfield: Nolberto Solano
Nolberto Solano was a firm fan favourite at Newcastle with the Peruvian capable of producing special moments.
Solano signed for Newcastle from Boca Juniors and made 314 appearances across two spells at St James’ Park. The winger’s wonderful right foot saw him create and score some brilliant goals, developing a reputation as a set-piece specialist and leading the Premier League for assists in 1999/2000.
— Premier League (@premierleague) October 24, 2020
An automatic selection in the Magpies’ early 2000s side that secured consecutive top-four finishes, the South American often receives a warm ovation when revisiting St James’ Park.
Midfield: Kieron Dyer
Kieron Dyer’s best seasons came in eight years at Newcastle, having arrived from Ipswich rich in promise and potential. Full of energy, pace and an ability to jink past players in central positions, Dyer broke into the England set-up aged 21 but never fulfilled his early potential.
The 2002/03 campaign was, however, his best for the Magpies. He made 48 appearances in all competitions and was included in the PFA Team of the Year.
He made 250 appearances in total for Newcastle and scored 36 goals, while he was memorably involved in a punch-up with team-mate Lee Bowyer during a defeat to Aston Villa. Dyer signed for West Ham in a £6m deal in 2007, but injuries restricted him to just 30 league appearances in four seasons.
Midfield: Jermaine Jenas
Jermaine Jenas was another promising midfielder signed from the second tier, but another who failed to reach the level expected. Jenas arrived from Nottingham Forest and made an immediate impression, earning his England debut as a teenager and winning the PFA Young Player of the Year award in 2002/03.
He made 152 appearances for the Magpies, but departed in a £7m deal for Tottenham after comparing life at Newcastle to living “in a goldfish bowl”. Jenas won 21 caps for England, but failed to cement a place as a regular due to the presence of Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes and Frank Lampard at international level.
Left-midfield: Laurent Robert
Laurent Robert was the flamboyant crowd favourite who delighted and frustrated across four seasons at Newcastle.
The Frenchman signed from Paris Saint-Germain and wasted little time in introducing himself to the Newcastle fans, scoring a series of spectacular goals. Robert was capable of the truly inexplicable at times, producing jaw-dropping moments with a thunderous left foot.
Laurent Robert. Sublime. 🚀
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) April 19, 2023
Robert’s repertoire of fantastic free-kicks and stunning strikes from distance made him a key figure for the Magpies, for who he scored 32 goals in 182 games.
Forward: Alan Shearer
Newcastle’s favourite son, there are few players – anywhere – idolised quite like Alan Shearer in his native North East.
Shearer signed for Newcastle in a £15m world-record deal after scoring at an astonishing rate of goals for Blackburn and went on to become the Magpies’ all-time record goalscorer. The Geordie goal-machine plundered home a record-breaking 206 goals in all competitions for Newcastle and while silverware proved elusive, he won both the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and Golden Boot during his debut campaign in black and white.
Shearer’s record return came despite injuries that diluted the powers shown at Blackburn, but he remained a prolific presence and scored seven goals in 12 games during the club’s 2002/03 Champions League campaign.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 26, 2021
He remains the record goalscorer in Premier League history with 260 goals in the division.
Forward: Craig Bellamy
Craig Bellamy formed an effective partnership with Shearer in attack, a combination which provided goals, pace, power and more than a little needle.
Bellamy bounced around clubs during his career but was brilliant in periods, including during his four seasons at St James’ Park. He scored 43 goals in 128 appearances for the Magpies and earned the PFA Young Player of the Year Award during his debut season as Newcastle secured Champions League qualification in 2001/02.
The following season, Bellamy’s brace – including a last-gasp winner – secured an unforgettable 3-2 win at Feyenoord as Newcastle recovered from three consecutive losses to win their next three games and progress from the first group stage in Rotterdam.