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Rewind to Boxing Day 1963

Barclays Premier League
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Goodbye Nobby, good riddance Kieron

It is commonly agreed that the best thing about Ruud Gullit's ill-fated stint in charge of Newcastle United was his purchase of a dynamic young starlet from Ipswich Town.

Kieron Dyer's arrival for £6.5m is the only nugget worth remembering about a nightmare spell in which 'sexy football' evaporated to be replaced by warring factions, questionable tactics and relegation form.

However, few Toon fans will shed a tear if and when the pint-sized midfielder finally heads back down the M1.

In his eight years Dyer regularly sulked; refusing to play on the right wing, famously treating the captain's armband like a hot potato when brought on as a sub against Middlesbrough in the 2004/05 season, and making more headlines for his off-the-field antics than those he achieved on it.

In stark contrast, the vast majority of black-and-white followers will be distraught that Nolberto Solano is following Dyer out of the exit door.

The only thing the two players share is a lack of height. There the similarity ends.

With the exception of Shay Given, the Peruvian winger was unquestionably Kenny Dalglish's best acquisition. His immaculate touch and vision, a willingness to play anywhere to help the team, plus restricting his off-field activities to the odd blow on a trumpet, means Nobby leaves as an undoubted cult hero.

In his eight-years at St James' Park Dyer threatened. He threatened to stay fit, threatened to establish himself as an England regular, and once every blue moon he threatened the odd defence.

Most outside observers will point to his fitness problems as the major factor in his supposed failure at St James Park, but as anyone who saw him play regularly will agree, his form was never consistent when he was fit.

And his finishing was anything but Premier League.

Dyer's best spell was during Sir Bobby Robson's tenure, when he and Gary Speed formed a strong partnership in central midfield. If the ageing Speed was the holding midfield battler, desperately trying to protect a fragile and leaky defence, Dyer was the creative mind behind a lot of the Toon's forward moves.

But for an attacking player a goal tally of just 36 goals in 222 games - despite playing many of those games as a striker - speaks for itself.

As do his disciplinary problems, most notably when he and then team mate Lee Bowyer traded blows in front of a stunned St James' in April 2005.

There were also frequent driving bans, a notorious 'sex video' filmed while the star was on holiday and a hefty fine after being sent home from a club trip to Spain when he swerved an official club dinner to go drinking.

Dyer fell out with Sir Bobby when he refused to play on the right-wing against Boro at the Riverside in August 2004, and then compounded the fans' misery when he gingerly handed on the captain's armband after replacing then-skipper Alan Shearer in the same game.

He looked to be heading out of St James' after that when his every touch was booed by his own supporters during an England friendly by those in the Gallowgate End, but somehow, after a grovelling apology to the manager and fans, he clung on.

When Graeme Souness arrived he instilled the sort of discipline many said had been lacking at Newcastle under Sir Bobby.

The fiery Scot warned Dyer he was only one more mistake away from a swift departure after the player was forced to visit the local police station having been caught relieving himself down a side-alley in the city's infamous Bigg Market party-district.

After that he actually buckled down and produced occasional flashes of the form which persuaded former England boss Sven Goran Eriksson to pick him whenever he was fit.

Certainly, the Scot saw him as key to his plans for the Toon. But it was not long after this purple patch that his injury jinx struck again, and he spent another seven months on the treatment table before coming back into contention, by which time Souness had been sacked and Glenn Roeder was in charge.

Certainly some fans felt sympathy for him at the pit of his injury despair - when he admitted to suffering bouts of deep depression - but many more had already lost patience with him prior to his hamstring troubles, not to mention the galling fact he was still pocketing a cool £80,000 a week during his time on the sidelines.

Both Roeder and even new Newcastle manager Allardyce extolled the virtues of a player, who always offered pace and a neat touch, but who never displayed the clinical finishing needed for someone who so often found himself in front of goal.

It was Michael Owen who the Geordies turned to for that, and during his unveiling on Tyneside the 20,000 fans who turned up to greet the England hitman also chanted Nobby Solano's name, forcing chairman Freddy Shepherd to bring him back to Tyneside.

And in his most recent stint Solano has exhibited all the characteristics that made such a hit first time round.

A sublime touch, an ability to pick out delicious passes at will, and a mentality that meant he put the team above his own personal desires. Last season he operated for many games as an emergency right-back.

Not only did he refuse to complain, but he worked hard and proved that he was a far better defender than Stephen Carr had ever been for the club.

It wasn't just his footballing skills that endeared him to the loyal ranks of the Toon Army, but he demonstrated more than enough eccentricity to be embraced as an adopted Geordie.

In Robson's days Solano used to call him to play trumpet down the telephone, and latterly, he joined a salsa band where his gigs attracted a loyal crowd of Magpie fans. He was also a very approachable man off the field and always had time to sign autographs, pose for pictures or shake hands with his adoring public.

Ironically, Dyer and Solano often played well together on the field - again under Robson - when the Peruvian's range of passing complemented Dyer's darting runs.

They are reportedly both leaving for family reasons, and though their destination may ultimately be the same, their goodbyes will not.

Solano has etched his name in Geordie folklore.

Dyer's will be erased from memory as soon as he drives over the Tyne Bridge for the final time.


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