“I did Spanish for GCSE but never French, so my dad got me some French CDs to
listen to in the car,” Taylor said. “I’ve had them on going to and from
training. Yohan Cabaye did the same when he first joined. I’ve been trying.
It’ll be nice to learn a bit of French just in case.”
Taylor Snr’s gift could hardly have been better timed. Quite apart from his
son now being able to deliver a few choice words into Ba’s ear in his native
language, his new hobby coincides with the arrival of five French players to
St James’ Park, none with a good grasp of English. While the new boys
grapple with their own intensive language lessons, Taylor, the only
Englishman on the club’s books who is likely to make Alan Pardew’s strongest
starting XI, has taken things into his own hands.
Ba’s return on Saturday will dominate the agenda on Tyneside, where the manner
of his departure to Chelsea
for £7 million, having scored 29 goals in 57 appearances, still smarts. But
there will also be fascination at observing the impact of the club’s new
French legion, who have already helped reverse the club’s damaging run of
form at Aston Villa last Tuesday, when Newcastle secured a precious 2-1
were able to plunder the French market so efficiently – Lille’s Mathieu
Debuchy, Toulouse’s Moussa Sissoko, Nancy’s Massadio Haïdara, Montpellier’s
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Bordeaux’s Yoan Gouffran all joined in the space of
two weeks – is down to their encyclopedic knowledge of French football.
When the club’s deal to sign Marseille striker Loïc Rémy collapsed, chief
scout Graham Carr swiftly came up with an alternative. A bid for St
Etienne’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was rejected, so Carr suggested
Gouffran. Out of contract in June, Newcastle knew Bordeaux were willing to
sell for less than £2 million. The talks were swift and Gouffran duly
swapped France’s top division for a relegation battle in England.