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The French revolution at Newcastle

Modified 27 Jan 2013

Massadio Haidara Signs For Newcastle United

If you are French and if you happen to play football, there is a big chance that a certain team from the English Premier League comes knocking doors seeking your service. Of course you can turn them down, but again, there is a big chance you won’t. Why would you reject the chance to move to a club which is actually a home away from ‘home’? Newcastle United recently recruited four players, taking the tally of first team imports from across the English Channel to ten, just one short of fielding an entire French team in a match.

This statement only gains in value when you hear about the recent incident involving Reading’s Jimmy Kebe. Kebe, who initially announced on Twitter that he was joining the club in question, soon sought to explain his prank move. “Oups i thought if you’re french and play football u just pop in to Newcastle and sign a contract,” he tweeted. Winger Sammy Ameobi added to the debate by tweeting, “Need to brush up on my French because this is just getting ridiculous, lol.”

The January acquisitions of Moussa Sissoko (Toulouse), forward Yoan Gouffran (Bordeaux), centre-back Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Montpellier) , left-back Massadio Haidara (Nancy) and right-back Mathieu Debuchy (Lille) has added to the squad already loaded with French presence.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger recently advocated the restriction of the winter transfer window, citing the example of Newcastle to prove his point. With clubs bringing in wholesale changes to its squad, he said, “You do not face exactly the same team, so I believe the number of players you could buy should be limited.”

Wenger’s equation with Newcastle Manager Alan Pardew goes back in time. In 2006, while at West Ham, Pardew made a comment referring to the non-inclusion of even a single English player in Arsenal’s squad that faced Real Madrid in the Champions league. He said, “I saw a headline saying Arsenal are flying the flag for Britain. I kind of wondered where that British involvement actually was when I looked at their team.”

He further added, “It is important that top clubs don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s the English Premier League and English players should be involved.” Now, it seems like these statements are coming back to haunt him.

Naturally, a club with many players from one country will have questions to answer. How will the dressing room respond to the changing the demographic equation? Former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier echoed those concerns when he said, “You can’t stop the French speaking French. The dressing room will be unbalanced. There will be problems.”

Pardew however begs to differ by stressing that his squad harmony will remain intact. He said, “I don’t see it as any problem. It’s just about getting good players, and we need good players. Hopefully we have done that.”

There is no doubt that these players do bring in abundant talent. Among the names which ring familiar include established regulars like Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye. The growing presence of Cabaye, brought from Lille, has been felt by the Toon army for quite some time now. There is even speculation that the gifted playmaker is set to take the captain’s arm band from the unsettled Argentine Coloccini. On the other hand, Ben Arfa, who arrived in 2010 from Marseille, suffered a leg injury which kept him out of action for many months. Since his rehabilitation, he has made a significant contribution to his side’s fortunes last year.

With the club currently in 16th position, just two points above the relegation zone, Pardew would certainly need to have good players to bail him to safety. The fact that some of these players who are established internationals have come in cheap can’t be rued either. Whether he can be vindicated in the longer run or not remains to be seen. However in the meantime, Newcastle could pass off for a Ligue 1 side, with Alan Pardew being named the visa officer for all French wannabe players!

Published 27 Jan 2013, 19:14 IST
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