Mathieu Debuchy says Newcastle United were top of the agenda when the French national team met up this week. Chief sports writer Mark Douglas reports
FOR Les Bleus, there is one topic creating ‘le buzz’ at the moment. Around the dinner tables at Clairefontaine, the talk crackled with intrigue about Newcastle United’s French colonisation.
With four national team squad members already ensconced at St James’ Park and the prospect of more joining them this summer, views and advice were being sought from the cream of France’s next generation about life in the North East of England.
For Mathieu Debuchy, being part of it was a proud moment. His desire to join Newcastle was partly fuelled by the rave reviews his close friend (and best man) Yohan Cabaye fed back from his time on Tyneside, and he is happy to be the one now feeding back information to intrigued international team-mates.
Just as they are at St James’ Park, Debuchy and Cabaye are an integral part of France’s future. Didier Deschamps’ team were beaten by Germany in Paris this week, but are neck-and-neck with World and European champions Spain in a treacherous qualifying group.
The hope back home is that playing together for the team dubbed “France in the Premier League” will have the added bonus of boosting the national team. Debuchy is just delighted to be part of the story everyone is talking about back home.
“Yes, I was away with France and there was a lot of interest in Newcastle,” he said.
“They all talked about it and asked what it was like. I think they were surprised there are so many (French players in Newcastle) and they were intrigued by that. I don’t know more of them will come now, we will have to wait and see, but my team-mates were asking about Newcastle.
“To be honest, Newcastle United were always well thought of in France. It is a famous club with a rich history, but there is even more now with so many French players. There is a lot of respect for the club in France.”
Having played in the 2-1 defeat by Germany, Debuchy jetted back from Paris with Cabaye on Thursday morning and straight into the side for the early kick-off at Tottenham today.
The hectic schedule means that he has not had much time to tour Tyneside, but he is enjoying life living with Cabaye and his wife Fiona in their Ponteland home at the moment. Debuchy intends to move out as soon as his own partner Ludivine heads over to the North East to join him but, in keeping with the prevailing view of Newcastle’s new arrivals as good professionals, he lists his favourite hobbies as training, shopping and resting up after games.
Even the blow of missing out on the Europa League squad – described as “disappointing but understandable” by the defender – is taken in his stride.
It is focus that will do Newcastle well in the coming weeks as they look to build on the momentum generated by the feel-good defeat of Chelsea.