The glorious 2003 Newcastle United team. (Image- The Athletic)
The glorious 2003 Newcastle United team. (Image- The Athletic)

Last Newcastle XI to play in the UEFA Champions League in 2003

The bright lights of Europe's elite competition is about shine once again on St James Park after 20 years.

Newcastle United are on the verge of returning to the Champions League after a 20-year absence since 2003 but we wanted to know what became of the players that took part in the club's last match in the competition proper.

While Newcastle lost a qualifier to Partizan Belgrade in August 2003, they'd illuminated the Champions League during the previous season with their rollercoaster run to the last 16.

The likes of Bayer Leverkusen, Feyenoord and Juventus were all vanquished before a group with Barcelona and Internazionale proved insurmountable for Sir Bobby Robson's side in 2003.

With Eddie Howe's men on the verge of qualifying for next season's group stages of the Champions League, we've taken a look back at the players who turned out for the 2-0 home defeat to Barcelona that confirmed their elimination in March 2003.

GK: Shay Given

Given achieved hero status at Newcastle after making 462 appearances in all competitions and becoming one of the best Premier League goalkeepers of his era.

Now 47, the former Republic of Ireland international now works as a pundit. He left a coaching role at Derby in 2021 as the club's financial problems meant they couldn't afford to renew Given's contract.

RB: Andy Griffin

"Newcastle is an incredible club, a great fanbase, so to go play in the Champions League against Juventus and get the winner was and is quite surreal," Griffin said 20 years after his winner against Juventus in October 2002.

"We all know the goal wasn't a classic, aesthetically it wasn't great, but it was an important goal. A lot of people do talk about it, whenever I'm up there they put my name with that goal against Juventus. You've kind of cemented yourself in the history books.

"I've got two boys, one of them is madly into football, and I say I scored the winner against Juventus in the Champions League at home for Newcastle. That's pretty cool, it certainly goes down as one of the most incredible moments of my life."

After retiring in the summer of 2014, following spells with Portsmouth, Stoke, Derby, Reading, Doncaster and Chester, Griffin became a coach at Newcastle-under-Lyme College.

CB: Andy O'Brien

O'Brien was first choice defender at Newcastle in 2002-03, helping the club finish third in the Premier League and qualify for Europe's top competition once more.

The Republic of Ireland defender lost his place under Graeme Souness and moved to Portsmouth in the summer of 2005, where he was part of Harry Redknapp's relegation-dodging squad.

Spells at Bolton, Leeds and Vancouver Whitecaps followed before O'Brien retired in 2014.

CB: Titus Bramble

Since his Premier League days, where he went from promising youngster to nationwide punchline, Bramble has gone into coaching.

The former Ipswich defender reunited with former team-mate Kieron Dyer at Portman Road in 2019 and Bramble also assisted with the England under-20s side in 2018.

He now works as an ambassador for the Futurestars charity which delivers sports to underprivileged children in Africa. Fair play to him.

LB: Olivier Bernard

Bernard made 102 appearances in his first spell at the club between 2000 and 2005. He returned in 2006 but injury cut short his career and he never made an appearance during his second stint on Tyneside.

The full-back blamed former boss Graeme Souness for his early retirement and the ex-defender has since worked with Show Racism the Red Card, an anti-racism education charity.

He also runs The Mason Arms in Blyth and purchased non-league Durham City in 2013, making himself chairman.

RM: Nolberto Solano (Shola Ameobi, '67)

Solano is a cult hero in the North East, having enjoyed two spells at Newcastle between 1998 and 2004 and 2005 and 2007.

He made 314 appearances for Newcastle in total, scoring 48 goals and helping the side to a prestigious Intertoto Cup win in 2006.

The former Peru international is currently the assistant manager of the national team, as well as the manager of Peru's Olympic football team.

Ameobi was another popular figure at St James' Park, making 397 appearances for the club after progressing from the club's academy and scoring 79 goals.

He returned to Newcastle in 2019 as loan manager, a role the former Nigeria striker still holds.

Newcastle United striker Shola Ameobi celebrates scoring, St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2005 (Image- Getty Images)

CM: Kieron Dyer

Dyer is perhaps most well known for his infamous fight with former team-mate Lee Bowyer during a 3-0 loss to Aston Villa in 2005, but he also won 33 England caps and was considered an immensely talented midfielder back in 2003.

Since retiring Dyer has appeared on TV shows I'm a Celebrity and Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins and became manager of Ipswich Under-23s before resigning in March 2021 amid the announcement of his diagnosis with a liver condition.

He is now a first-team coach at National League side Chesterfield.

CM: Jermaine Jenas

Love him or (more likely) loathe him, Jenas has become one of Britain's foremost pundits and can regularly be found on the BBC.

The former England midfielder was co-commentator during the channel's coverage of the 2022 World Cup final and many expect him to replace Gary Lineker as host of Match of the Day.

He is also a permanent host of The One Show.

LM: Laurent Robert (Hugo Viana, '67)

Wilder than a box of p*ssed-off frogs, Robert seems to have settled down and is part of the coaching team at Ligue 1 side Montpellier.

Viana was a hugely rated prospect in 2003, but injuries ruined his time at Newcastle and he was limited to 39 Premier League appearances between 2002 and 2004.

After time in Spain, Portugal and the United Arab Emirates, Viana became Director of Football at Sporting Lisbon. In August 2021, he was suspended for 15 days and fined €2,295 for insulting the refereeing team during one match.

ST: Alan Shearer

The defeat to Barcelona was Shearer's last Champions League match and he retired in 2006. Can't think what he does now…

ST: Craig Bellamy

Despite being declared bankrupt earlier this year, an experience Bellamy is now using to warn young footballers about future financial issues, Bellamy is part of the coaching set-up at Burnley and helped the club make an immediate return to the Premier League in 2023.

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