Alan Pardew leaves Gallic legacy at St James` Park
By overseeing a `French Revolution` at Newcastle United, outgoing manager Alan Pardew has had a more far-reaching impact on the club`s heritage than almost any of his immediate predecessors.
London: By overseeing a `French Revolution` at Newcastle United, outgoing manager Alan Pardew has had a more far-reaching impact on the club`s heritage than almost any of his immediate predecessors.
While he failed to win over large sections of Newcastle`s support during his four-year tenure, the stockpiling of French players under Pardew radically changed the make-up of the success-starved club`s playing staff.
Of the 27 players signed by Newcastle during Pardew`s time at the helm, 13 were French -- a testament to the influence of chief scout Graham Carr, for whom Ligue 1 has proved richly fertile territory.
In October 2013, a sequence of 13 consecutive Gallic goals saw Newcastle establish a new record for the longest run of goals scored by foreign players from one country in the English top flight.
Earlier that year, the club had hosted a `French Day`, which saw fans turn up for a match against Southampton brandishing Tricolore flags and wearing berets, while the Marseillaise was played before kick-off.
Pardew was rechristened `Alain Pardieu` on social media and joked: "I think there`s a good chance I could win French manager of the year."
The heavy French presence in the changing room has had the added bonus of making it easier for Newcastle to attract Francophone players to the club.
Including Papiss Cisse (Senegal), Cheick Tiote (Ivory Coast), Mehdi Abeid (Algeria) and Kevin Mbabu (Switzerland), there are currently 13 French-speaking players on Newcastle`s books.
There have been French players at Newcastle before, such as the flamboyant wingers David Ginola and Laurent Robert, but for a club where the walls used to ring with the Geordie tones of home-grown heroes like Paul Gascoigne or Alan Shearer, it represents a cultural sea-change that has not been to everyone`s liking.
"I don`t think it`s a healthy thing to have too many French players in one dressing room," Shearer confided in 2013.Newcastle`s form oscillated continually under Pardew, with the club finishing 12th, fifth, 16th and 10th in the four Premier League seasons he completed and lying 10th in the table on the day he left.
But from a financial perspective, the French invasion has been a resounding success.
Yohan Cabaye arrived from Lille for £4.8 million ($7.5 million, 6.2 million euros) in July 2011 and was sold to Paris Saint-Germain for £19 million in January 2014.
Newcastle also made a £7 million profit on Mathieu Debuchy, who left for Arsenal, while winger Yoan Gouffran, now a first-team regular, cost only £1.4 million from Bordeaux.
In fact, Newcastle`s main problem with their French contingent has been keeping them at the club.
Loic Remy was snatched from Newcastle`s grasp by Chelsea after spending last season on loan at St James` Park, while Moussa Sissoko has become one of the most sought-after players in the country.
But despite Newcastle consistently failing to challenge for major honours, the allure of playing in front of 52,000 boisterous fans at St James` Park remains strong for players from across the Channel.
Given a tour of the stadium shortly before signing from Montpellier last July, Remy Cabella -- whose former club`s average crowd was 14,679 during his last season in France -- told L`Equipe: "My mouth was watering!"
Newcastle`s standing in France is now comparable to Arsene Wenger`s Arsenal and several French coaches have been identified as potential candidates to succeed Pardew by British bookmakers.
Allied to owner Mike Ashley`s preference for a `continental` management structure -- where Carr and managing director Lee Charnley preside over player recruitment -- the post-Pardew Newcastle is a much-changed club.
But as they say on the Gallowgate End: `Vive la difference!`