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Friday, 06 March 2009

Whatever Happened To?- Newcastle's FA Cup Finalists 1998 & 1999

The late 1990s were heady times for Newcastle United fans but also ones of bitter disappointment. The much-awaited trophy never came despite the Premiership near-miss and successive appearances at Wembley.

In their back -to-back Finals Newcastle actually used 23 players. Only five endured the agony of losing both matches- Nikos Dabizas, Gary Speed, Rob Lee, Temuri Ketsbaia and of course, Alan Shearer. On both occasions the Geordies had the misfortune to play a club in supreme form, going for the domestic 'Double'.

The two sides were;

1998 v Arsenal

Given; Pistone. Dabizas, Howey, Pearce (Andersson); Batty, Lee, Barton (Watson), Speed, Ketsbaia (Barnes); Shearer.

1999 v Manchester United

Harper; Griffin, Charvet, Dabizas, Domi; Lee, Hamann (Ferguson), Speed, Solano (Maric) Ketsbaia (Glass), Shearer.

Among the players still active, both keepers were still at the club until January. Shay Given is now at Manchester City leaving Steve Harper as custodian.

Andy Griffin is back in the Premiership with Stoke City. He was only just 20 when he played in the final and moved to Portsmouth in 2004. He's also played for Derby County and is club capatain with the Potters.

Gary Speed has shown remarkable longevity and is still playing for Sheffield United after a long stint with Bolton. Dietmar Hamann is another veteran still on the books at Manchester City after leaving Newcastle for Liverpool soon after the Cup Final defeat.

Didier Domi is with Olympiacos after spells with Paris St Germain, Espanyol and a brief loan spell at Leeds. Alessandro Pistone left for Everton in 2000 after some accusations from team mates that he lacked the heart for a battle.

The Italian under-21 cap had an unsettled career with the Blues marred by two serious injuries. He was released in 207 and talk of a move to Middlesbrough came to little. He had a few games for Mons in Belgium last season.

Nikos Dabizas almost gained spectacular compensation for his FA Cup Final defeats as he was part of Greece's Euro 2004 squad. Unfortunately injury kept him out of his country's amazing run to victory. Since 2005 he 's been with Larissa and won a Greek Cup winners medal in 2007.

The combustible Temuri Ketsbaia has enjoyed amazing success as player-coach and then manager of Anorthosis Famagusta. He has two Cypriot titles and made them competitive in Europe. This season they became the first Cypriot side to qualify for the Champions League group stages.

Popular Peruvian Nol Solano left the club to Aston Villa in 2004 but came back for a second stint before a move to West Ham. He had a brief stint at Larissa with Dabizas but is now playing in Peru with Universitario, where he reportedly also plays in a band called the Geordie Latinos.

Silvio Maric had just one season on Tyneside and he's one of those talented Dinamo Zagreb players who don't quite hit the heights outside their native land. He's had stints with Porto and Panathinaikos but each time he returned to Zagreb after moderate performances.

Stephen Glass is with Dunfermline Athletic. After three years on Tyneside, in 2001 he moved to Watford and then had four years back in Scotland with Hibernian where he helped settle an impressive crop of young talent under Tony Mowbray.

North Shields born Steve Watson's versatility produced a solid career with Aston Villa, Everton and West Bromwich Albion and at 34, he's still a steadying influence with Sheffield Wednesday. He left St James's Park in 1998 because a regular place was elusive.

The others are retired and some are still in the public eye as pundits like Alan Shearer and John Barnes, or in management like Stuart Pearce.

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