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How Newcastle United put the accent on French in their battle for Premier League survival
Published : 01 Feb 2013 23:59:07
“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 victory. That Newcastle 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.