During the January transfer window madness, there has been a a noticeable trend occurring at Newcastle United.
With five French signings coming to St James’ Park, it appears that manager Alan Pardew has kick started a French Revolution in the North East, with fans and players alike welcoming the French invasion with open arms.
And yet amongst all the imports, Pardew insists that he wants to keep a British core of the team. The manager points to young, English talent such as Sammy Ameobi and Adam Campbell as the future of the side, and the players which he ultimately wants to build a team around.
But that’s in the future, and this is the present. Newcastle are at the wrong end of the table, and with a small squad it was clear that quality and quantity were needed, and France is where they hope to have found both.
In Mathieu Debuchy, Moussa Sissoko and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Newcastle have brought in international players, and have backed that up with French youth internationals Yoan Gouffran and Massadio Haidara. Clearly the scouts have been hard at work… Add that to current internationals Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa and there is a deep set French influence.
The signings will ease the loss of striker Demba Ba, who moved to Chelsea earlier in the transfer window for £7.5m, but only time will tell whether or not they can truly fill the void. Last weeks win over Aston Villa was an encouraging start, but today’s match against Ba’s new Chelsea team will be a sterner test for the new look Geordies.
Having gone through the hurt of relegation just a few years ago, it is pivotal that the French imports understand that a repeat of that is simply unacceptable. But getting that message across to a dressing room where 40% of its occupants are French speakers could be difficult. They will need to adopt the culture, passion and language of football on Tyneside very quickly, and the reception they receive at St James’ today will show them just how much it means. If that doesn’t translate across the language barrier, what will?
I hope that the Newcastle team gels quickly and can settle down this season, secure their position in the Premier League, and have a much better season next year. But the chance of a British core to the side is a long way off, and it simply won’t be the case that they ever have a team with 11 Geordies.
But as long as the players give their all and the team achieves success, the fans will adopt any player as an adoptive Geordie, and that same chance will be offered to all the French players in the team. Look out for berets and strings of onions today as the Newcastle faithful cheer, “Allez le Toon!”.