Newcastle’s French Revolution – C’est Magnifique!
We’re back with a bang. The Newcastle United of last season. That never-say-die attitude and fighting spirit, we’ve got it again.
February 14th, 2013
While many Toon fans would probably say that January’s spending spree was six-months late. I reckon it’s better late than never. The fans, the club, the city, we all needed it. A little bit of French flair and it looks like we’re on our way again. No more excuses. It’s time to save our season.
In my last Superblog, I said that Newcastle have to sign players in January with the lack of quality, poor confidence and general frustration in the terraces. The summer transfer window was a major disappointment, and so, owner Mike Ashley had to make a decision – he would either have to back Alan Pardew on a eight-year deal, or sack him as a sizable minority were suggesting. At the end of January, I got my answer. Fresh faces and legs, Ashley and co. raided the French football market like never before and with it, gave Pardew a much-needed vote of confidence.
As a squad, we now look stronger both on paper and on the pitch. The players we’ve signed have two key attributes. They are young and experienced. Thankfully, all the acquisitions were long-term targets too, which meant there was no panic buying on deadline day. Newcastle did their business early, effectively and efficiently, showing intent and tying up the deals swiftly.
The turning point was January 19 when Newcastle hosted Reading in a relegation “six-pointer.” We took a first half lead through Yohan Cabaye, only to be stunned by two second-half goals from Reading striker Adam Le Fondre. The defeat was the lowest point in a poor campaign, a realisation that we’re very much in the relegation dogfight. Two days later, we agreed a deal for Montpellier defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, on the third day (Tuesday) he completed his move. On Wednesday, it was Yoan Gouffran from Bordeaux and on Thursday, Massadio Haidara from Nancy. It was turning out to be a sensational week, Newcastle were aggressively targeting players and signing them. Fans on Twitter told me, ‘a Frenchman a day, keeps relegation away,’ and on Friday we signed perhaps the crown jewel in Toulouse midfielder Moussa Sissoko. He waived a signing-on fee to join the French revolution on Tyneside. He, like the others, wanted to be here.
As local pub The Strawberry renamed itself “La Fraise” the media asked – how long would the new players take to settle in? Is the club taking a risk signing too many players from Ligue 1? They got their answer. Last Tuesday, we won our first away game at Aston Villa. Moussa Sissoko got an assist. Yoan Gouffran was lively. At the weekend we beat European champions Chelsea 3-2 at St James’ Park. Sissoko scored two, including a 90th minute winner. Gouffran was superb again. All of a sudden, confident is flying, the team looks unbeatable and they are playing for each other again. The French contingent has settled right in. Youth and experience, that hallmark of chief scout Graham Carr’s signings looks to be working again. I can’t stop smiling. The buzz is back. The future, once again, looks bright. Onwards and upwards.