ALAN PARDEW rejects suggestions that Newcastle United's French revolution has gone a step too far with a flurry of cross-Channel arrivals. Chief sports writer Mark Douglas reports.
IT’S not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at. As Newcastle United peer nervously at the Premier League precipice, Alan Pardew would be forgiven for borrowing one of the most famous phrases uttered by Stone Roses front-man Ian Brown when asked to justify the Magpies’ flight to France.
Falling rapidly into relegation contention after the Reading debacle, he was well aware that a significant dose of quality needed to be injected into his ailing squad. The fact that these were all players that United had scouted extensively assuaged his fears about five more French internationals joining the Newcastle relegation fight.
Every single one of Newcastle’s five signings has come from over the Channel, and every single one of them has been playing in the French leagues. It is a remarkable way to recruit, but United were seeking to play down talk that it has been a French revolution.
Worries about the balance of the dressing room, the time they might require to integrate and what it might do to the club’s English core were met with defiant answers from Pardew.
The main thing he has asked for is good players – and on that front, the club’s transfer team have delivered.
“I don’t care if I’m honest, it doesn’t bother me,” he said of his new players’ shared nationality.
“The most important thing is good players because good players will find a way to be successful.”
Yet a few ground rules have been laid down for the new recruits.
Massadio Haïdara, Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Yoan Gouffran were all told the same thing when they signed: they must learn English, and they must always converse in that language on the pitch and in team situations.
The same will be required of Moussa Sissoko when he is introduced to his new team-mates on Monday, with at least a basic knowledge of English needed “pretty quickly”.
Pardew said: “I always do the same – I speak to my French players and say I will speak in English and they all need to learn English very quickly for their education and for the team.
“We talk in English on the pitch. French dialogue can go on among themselves, but they have to understand English and understand me. One or two of them are a bit limited and need to practise.”
As reported in The Journal last week, United’s French recruitment drive has not happened overnight.
Four years of hard work have gone into it, and Pardew admits that some of the players United have managed to poach would not have joined a few years ago.