Danny Guthrie has spent the best part of four years under the radar on Tyneside. As he prepares to fill in for Cheick Tiote, Mark Douglas hears how the midfielder plans to make his mark in the Ivorian’s absence
THE black and white agenda was dominated by fallen heroes returning to Tyneside, new signings and contract clauses.
It was ever thus in the January transfer window – a month that invariably whips itself into a tornado of hype and hot air that is powered by agent bluster.
In the midst of all that, Danny Guthrie returned to training for Newcastle United. Not, perhaps, the sexiest development of this month but potentially crucial if Alan Pardew’s side are to maintain the momentum they have rediscovered in the early days of 2012.
The assumption is that Guthrie likes being under the radar but perhaps it is time to recognise the classy midfielder as a player with a passing radar as sharp as anyone in the Newcastle squad.
In four years his performance levels have hardly ever dropped, even when deployed in a right-wing slot which was not his favoured position. And Alan Pardew believes that when he’s in the team, Newcastle are a much slicker passing unit.
Unlike Joey Barton – an absent friend as QPR come calling on Sunday thanks to a suspension – a yearning for the spotlight has never been in Guthrie’s DNA.
Perhaps it is time for that to change.
“I understand that if a new player signs then fans might latch onto them more than someone who has been here for a few years,” he tells The Journal.
“I don’t really mind, that but it’s nice to hear nice things and I think my form was getting recognised before I got injured. The manager has been really good with me and that’s important – he talks well about me and that’s pleasing and it gives me a lot of confidence.
“Everyone knows themselves what they can do but I think before I got injured I was playing really well and receiving a lot of plaudits. That was nice but I just want to get on with it and get back in the team and help us keep going.”
In a forthright interview with The Journal – his first since returning from injury – even he has to be reminded how many managers he has played under since Kevin Keegan signed him from Liverpool in 2008. The answer is five, and each one has rated him enough to give him a prolonged spell in the first-team.
Injuries have been the fly in the ointment preventing him from converting those runs into regular slot. “It has been a crazy four years when you think about everything that’s happened, but I don’t regret signing for one second,” he said.
“My only regret is I’ve had every injury under the sun. I hadn’t had one serious injury before I came and now I’ve had just about everything you can get.
“But it’s been a great time and I’d love it to continue. When I first came you could argue that player for player we had bigger names, but we didn’t do well as a team. Now we’re a good unit. There’s a lot of different nationalities in the dressing room but there’s a good feel about it, and sometimes that is what brings you success rather than all these individual players.”
The absence of one singular individual has prevented the run-up to the game from becoming a circus but Guthrie is disappointed Barton won’t be around. He had, he reveals, plans for the fiery former number seven.
“I think everyone is disappointed Joey isn’t playing – we’d have loved to kick him once or twice!” he said.
“I got on with Joey – most of the time. He had that mean streak about him on the pitch and in training sometimes. But sometimes teams need personalities like that in the dressing room.
“If you’ve got a quiet team sometimes you need that. He brought that and his quality to the squad last year.
“We’ve brought something else in this summer and we’re probably a different unit now; a different team.”
United are a different side when Guthrie replaces Cheick Tioté – a more accomplished passing team but perhaps without the physical presence that the Ivorian brings.
Luckily the Premier League seems to be more accommodating to players with a football brain these days. Unlike the era when Guthrie was battling through the Liverpool Academy, when height and strength were the first attributes sought by scouts, the rise of Barcelona’s tika-taka style means passing is back in vogue.
For Guthrie, that trend is heaven sent. “I guess my type of game has come back into fashion a bit,” he said.
“The direct, physical style where everyone had to be over 6ft and strong was very important a few years back. Maybe managers and others are looking to Barcelona and Spain now, who aren’t the biggest but pass the ball brilliantly.
“They just want to keep the ball and the evidence is there in the Premier League. Look at Swansea who’ve come up, they keep the ball and pass the ball very well. They’re a credit to the league.
“There has been a big change and for someone who likes to get his foot on the ball, that’s a good thing.”