Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand were two of Newcastle United’s most effective number nines in recent years | Getty Images/Getty Images
Hughie Gallacher, Jackie Milburn, Malcolm Macdonald. Revered names written into the fabric of Newcastle United’s history after wearing (and scoring in) the number nine shirt.
Few clubs are as synonymous with that particular digit as Newcastle but in recent years the shirt has seemingly become more of a burden than honour.
£20m arrival Callum Wilson was tipped to be the latest recipient of the famous jersey but manager Steve Bruce has confirmed that its current incumbent – the much maligned Joelinton – will keep his squad number. Based on the record of the shirt’s recent wearers, Wilson may be breathing a sigh of relief.
Joelinton’s £40m arrival from Hoffenheim in 2019 was Newcastle United’s record signing | Pool/Getty Images
Goals per game: 0.09
Upon the arrival of record signing Joelinton, Bruce boldly declared: “He’s learned the history and wanted [the number nine shirt]…in his eyes, it was ‘bring it on – it’s what I’m here for.’”
After going more than 2,000 Premier League minutes without finding the net, Bruce had to later admit that the 24-year-old Brazilian was not a natural goalscorer and ‘more a team player’.
Yet, in spite of all this, Joelinton will turn out for Newcastle in the 2020/21 campaign decked in that famous number nine. On the bright side, he can hardly endure a worse campaign the second time around.
Papiss Cissé’s Newcastle career started in emphatic fashion which somewhat tailed off throughout his tenure at the club | Clive Rose/Getty Images
Goals per game: 0.34
In the very specific period between February and May 2012, few strikers in the world could surpass the heights Papiss Cissé hit for Newcastle. The Senegal international arrived mid-way through the season and ripped in 13 (often spectacular) goals in 14 Premier League outings as Alan Pardew’s side finished fifth.
Inevitably, Cissé (and Newcastle) couldn’t continue this remarkable hot streak, but no one can ever take away that sensational first four months on Tyneside.
Obafemi Martins was the player who inherited the famous number nine shirt from Newcastle icon Alan Shearer in 2006 | Ian T. Horrocks/Getty Images
Goals per game: 0.34
Obafemi Martins was given the unenviable task of inheriting the number nine shirt from Newcastle’s favourite son (we’ll get to him) after arriving from Inter in 2006 for a hefty fee of €15m.
Yet, the pressure didn’t seem to affect Martins in the slightest during his debut campaign. The Nigeria international topped the club’s scoring charts with 17 goals – all of which were inevitably followed by a spectacular acrobatic celebration – including six in Newcastle’s UEFA Cup run to the round of 16.
However, Martins – much like Cissé, who shares a remarkably similar goal scoring record – couldn’t replicate this form in the rest of his career spent at St James’ Park.
In Salomón Rondón’s only season at Newcastle United he ended the campaign as the club’s Player of the Year | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Goals per game: 0.36
11 games into the 2018/19 season, Rafa Benítez’s Newcastle United had just one win under their belts and Salomón Rondón was goalless. However, in the club’s 12th league game of the campaign, Rondón scored both goals (each coming from crosses) in a 2-1 win over Bournemouth.
The Venezuela international expertly buffeted Premier League backlines for the rest of the campaign as Newcastle avoiding the drop with some room to spare.
Dwight Gayle’s first two seasons at Newcastle were spent wearing the number nine shirt | Julian Finney/Getty Images
Goals per game: 0.41
Dwight Gayle joined Newcastle in the Championship before netting 23 league goals as Benítez’s side secured automatic promotion in 2017.
Gayle’s scoring return somewhat crashed back down to earth after six goals in the top flight the following campaign. The former Arsenal youth team player then lost his number after being sent out on loan in 2018/19.
Now back at the club, Gayle had begun to show glimpses of his finishing ability only to pick up a nasty knee injury in preseason.
? On This Day in 1996, Alan Shearer signed for Newcastle United and became the world’s most expensive player at £15million.
Worth. Every. Penny. ⚫️⚪️ pic.twitter.com/yExiEhcsHH
— 90min (@90min_Football) July 30, 2019
Goals per game: 0.51
Having grown up idolising Newcastle’s number nines, Alan Shearer became the club’s all-time top goalscorer wearing that famous shirt (after persuading Les Ferdinand to give it up).
Shearer’s style of play changed radically throughout the decade he spent at the tip of Newcastle’s attack – as he adapted to a loss of pace following injury – but his goalscoring ability never wavered.
Andy Carroll’s form in the number nine shirt for Newcastle was enough to tempt Liverpool to sign him for £35m | Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Goals per game: 0.55
After getting relegated in 2009, Newcastle manager Chris Hughton deemed that ‘nobody at the club is worthy of’ the number nine shirt. That season Andy Carroll’s 19 goals not only fired his boyhood side back into the top flight, but persuaded Hughton to dish out the jersey for the following campaign.
The academy graduate thrived to life in the top flight netting 11 goals by Boxing Day. Carroll’s performances were so impressive, Liverpool made him their record signing that January.
Having returned to Tyneside in 2019 with the number seven shirt, Carroll is yet to score.
Les Ferdinand arrived at Newcastle as the club’s latest number nine | Getty Images/Getty Images
Goals per game: 0.66
Les Ferdinand – affectionately known as ‘Sir Les’ – was deserving crowned as the PFA Players’ Player of the Year after a sensational debut campaign at St. James’ Park in 1995/96 (wearing the number nine).
That season Ferdinand was the focal point of Newcastle’s famously cavalier attack dubbed ‘the Entertainers’. Manager Kevin Keegan took the Magpies 12 points clear of Manchester United at one point as Ferdinand netted 21 league goals by mid-February. Despite standing at less than 6′ tall, Ferdinand was a menace in the air, ruthlessly converting cross after cross from Newcastle’s wide men.
Ultimately, the club’s title tilt fell just short and Ferdinand – in typical magnanimous style – gave the incoming Shearer his number nine shirt in the summer of 1996 before leaving for Tottenham the following season.
Andrew Cole’s time at Newcastle was brief but prolific | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Goals per game: 0.80
Andrew Cole only spent one full season as a Newcastle player but what a season it was. In 1993/94 Cole netted an outrageous 41 goals across all competitions – including 34 in the Premier League, a single season tally which is yet to be surpassed.
Yet, by January of the following campaign, Cole was wearing the red of Manchester United. His time in Newcastle may have been fleeting, but Cole was ruthlessly effective in those black and white stripes.