Curly captain Coloccini leading Newcastle to success
According to the old joke on Tyneside, Alan Shearer was so beloved that if you came home to find him in bed with your missus youÃ¢ÂÂd offer him a cup of tea. With ShearerÃ¢ÂÂs retirement in 2006, a vacancy opened in the hearts of Newcastle fans.
It seems that Fabricio Coloccini may have filled that void. Visitors to St James' Park this season have been treated to a verse of the ArgentineÃ¢ÂÂs song, a version of the Andy Williams crooner Can't Take My Eyes Off You in which Newcastle fans profess their love for Coloccini and his curly hair, even offering their wives for him to sleep with.
For his part, the Argentine admits to understanding the song even stating that he is flattered by their offer. But itÃ¢ÂÂs worth noting however that his career with Newcastle hasnÃ¢ÂÂt always been so light-hearted.
Signed by Kevin Keegan in August 2008 for just over ÃÂ£10m from Deportivo la CoruÃÂ±a, he made his debut at Old Trafford and a solid performance from player and team left fans optimistic for the year ahead. But within a month Keegan was gone, and by the end of the season Newcastle were relegated.
Daunting debut at Old Trafford
Few Newcastle players came out of that season with any credibility. Consistency was a rarity as the team played under four different managers (Keegan being followed by Chris Hughton, Joe Kinnear and Alan Shearer).
Coloccini wasnÃ¢ÂÂt helped by a smattering of costly mistakes. Struggling with the physicality of the league, he quickly became associated with former calamitous Newcastle defenders like Jean Alain-Boumsong, Marcelinho and David Rozehnal.
Upon Newcastle's relegation, Coloccini headed a list of players expected to leave. Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and clubs in his homeland were credited with an interest, but nothing came to fruition. The second-tier season was the making of the man. As he became more confident and settled in the new style of football, the cultured side to his game shone through.
And when Newcastle established themselves back in the top flight last season, he may not have been the media focus but he was a vital figure. It was no surprise that when Kevin Nolan left for West Ham last summer, Alan Pardew appointed the Argentine as his captain.
Two weeks into the season, Coloccini led the team to Sunderland. Derbies are a tempestuous affair at the best of times, requiring a cool head; the result was fantastic for those in black and white, and their captain came through unscathed despite a nasty challenge by Phil Bardsley.
Newcastle can never quite stay problem-free, and ColocciniÃ¢ÂÂs contract is the elephant in the room. He's a high earner in an age of parsimony, and you wonder if Mike Ashley would be willing to afford him the kind of contract he didn't see fit for the departed Nolan and Joey Barton.
Taking care of business with Steven Taylor
Coloccini's current form deserves a deal fit for a key Premier League player. With Steven Taylor also excellent alongside the captain, Newcastle currently posses the country's sternest defence. Credit must also go to Pardew: by apparently simple concepts like providing his defenders with extra sessions and being meticulous in his methodology, he has quickly enhanced NewcastleÃ¢ÂÂs backline.
Not known for giving interviews, the captain must now do so by proxy. He speaks winningly of his love for Newcastle, and fans are further enamoured to hear that his daughter speaks with a Geordie accent Ã¢ÂÂ meaning she isn't always understood by her father.
On the pitch he has European ambitions for Newcastle. What may have seemed to border on fantasy two seasons ago now seems realistic. No wonder the fans are enjoying their curly-haired captain leading from the back.