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Jamie McClen: A statement - 25/05/2005

Jamie McClen: A statement
   Sir Bobby Robson
   Graeme Souness
   Newcastle United
   St James Park
 Leagues & Cups:
   Premier League

After being associated with Newcastle United as a player for over sixteen years, it's very disappointing to be leaving the club. I was a supporter before I was a player and now that I'm moving on, I'll still be a supporter. Newcastle is my city and Newcastle United will always be my team.

Three years ago I was offered a contract by Bobby Robson. After breaking into the first team under Ruud Gullit as a teenager, the offer came at a time when I felt I was beginning to make real progress at the club. I'd played a few games in the months leading up to the contract and had believed I was establishing myself as a regular member of the first team squad.

However, after signing the deal in 2002 my career has effectively gone backwards. If I was to choose one word to sum up recent seasons, it would be frustration. As I've said many times before, all I want to do is play first team football.

Newcastle United are a massive club and when I signed the contract I know that I'd be fighting to keep my place in the first team squad. However I gave it my best shot and kept my head down in training. I found my route to the first team blocked by big name players, but that's football and being realistic, I do understand that a manager can only select eleven players to run out on the pitch.

Saying that, I do look back and wonder what went wrong. From turning out against the likes of Viera in front of 52,000 fans at St.James, I became more used to facing young lads in front of a few hundred people at Gateshead Stadium or Kingston Park. The highlight of recent seasons was in captaining the reserves  - and as time went on I became more and more frustrated.

It was obvious that no matter what I did in training, my future looked to be away from the club. I wasn't getting any encouragement and looking back, it could even be argued that in playing reserve team football I was blocking the progress of younger lads.

As a result I decided it'd be a good move to go out on loan and after talking this through with my agent, he went to speak to the club. I'd previously been loaned to Motherwell and enjoyed the experience. In my view ' and my agents ' everyone benefited. I'd gain match fitness (and therefore would be in a stronger position if I should ever get the call from Newcastle), I'd also be in the shop window (therefore improving the chance of a transfer and saving the club my wage bill), and the club I'd be playing for would be contributing to my salary (again saving Newcastle money). It was an obvious move which offered club and player everything to gain and nothing to lose.

When I heard from my agent that they wouldn't allow me to go on loan I didn't know what to think. At first it raised my hopes ' perhaps I was closer to the first team than I thought' But as the days went on, I could tell that I was as far from Bobby Robson's plans than I'd ever been. It just didn't make any sense to me, and once again just added to the frustration. No one would talk to me, no one explained why they didn't want me to go on loan.

It was around this time that the gaffer had said to the press something about Newcastle United not wanting to subsidise other clubs through loaning players ' but this argument looked ridiculous because other lads such as Michael Chopra were out on loan. Can imagine how this made me feel' At this point my agent was calling the club almost daily to try and get things sorted out ' or even to just get an explanation. None of his calls were answered. Russell Cushing, who looks after this side of things, just wouldn't talk to us. And just to increase my sense of disbelief, other players were going out on loan; both of the Caldwell brothers for example.

This last season has simply been more of the same. Graeme Souness arrived at the club and I saw a chink of light. But all I heard from the coaching staff was that they sympathised with me but it was in the hands of the Chairman and they couldn't do anything to help. At Christmas there was a breakthrough. What had changed I don't know, but I was allowed to train with Port Vale for a couple of weeks. I went down there thinking that I'd finally get a chance to play first team football. I then heard that Newcastle had blocked a full loan move and I had to return to the North East!!

Some of you may say that I have no right to feel sorry for myself, that picking up decent wages for kicking a ball around training is a disgrace. I've had it said to me, I've seen what's been reported in the press. But what they fail to see is that I didn't choose to rot in the reserves. I desperately wanted to do so much more, and three years of banging your head against a brick wall takes it's toll. I understand that fans might be critical about me picking up wages and not playing first team football,but it was the club who wanted me to sign the contract and it was the club who didn't play me. In Premiership terms it wasn't a big contract ' a number of players are on over ten times my salary.  But of those people who criticise, are there many people who would have turned the contract down' I've heard that a piece in referred to me as 'the luckiest **** on Tyneside', well yes in financial terms I have been lucky and I am very thankful that I've been given a degree of financial security. However in professional terms I have suffered badly and only now ' after three wasted years - can I attempt to get my career back on track. This was my club, and having spent the last sixteen years of my playing life here, I leave with very mixed feelings. I'll be so glad to get a fresh start at another club wherever that club might be, but I'm still massively disappointed with the way the club have gone about their business.



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