The feel-good factor is back at St James’ Park with a Gallic flavour, says Sylvain Marveaux.
The feel-good factor is back at St James’ Park with a Gallic flavour, says Sylvain Marveaux. Stuart Rayner on a transformed Newcastle United.
SYLVAIN Marveaux lost a friend in January, but gained a few more.
Demba Ba will find few friendly faces at St James’ Park this afternoon, but his old team-mate Marveaux will be one after the Newcastle United winger took the rather unfashionable approach in these parts of speaking well of him this week.
Football, though, is all about tomorrow, not yesterday. And as someone well placed to speak about the influx of players at St James’ Park, the Frenchman is excited about what the future holds.
“When I joined Newcastle, I could never have imagined having so many team-mates from my own country,” he admits. “It is a weird sensation with so many Frenchmen here. I know Yoan Gouffran from years ago, he is a good friend of mine so that is very good. I was not expecting anything like this.
“But what is most important is they are all good players and good guys.”
Gouffran and particularly Moussa Sissoko have already made big impacts, while there are high hopes for Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and further down the line Massadio Haïdara.
Mathieu Debuchy was the first arrival last month, having shown his talent at the European Championships.
With Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Romain Amalfitano, Gabriel Obertan and Marveaux already in situ, much has been made of the fact that, goalkeeper apart, the Magpies could field an all-French team. The early signs at Darsley Park have been somewhat less promising on that score. The Rest of the World won Thursday’s training-ground kickabout 5-0.
“Yes, it was a disaster!” says Marveaux. “We had Danny Simpson and Michael Richardson as well but we are not blaming them! I am very unhappy at the result. They were better than us but it was just a bit of fun because we all mix very well.
“The new guys have a very good mentality. They don’t just want to mix with their French team-mates. They want to get to know everyone, embrace everything here and learn the language. It is useful that some of us were already here so they can ask us questions and we can help them settle in. At first, we can act as translators for them.”
He added: “I first got to know Gouffran when we were young because we represented France in our teens at various age groups.
“This is a great opportunity for the new signings. They did not just come here because there are so many French at Newcastle. Like me, it was always their dream to play in England.
“They know this is a big club and although we have had problems this season, the future is bright.”
After a crazy week-and-a-half, it certainly feels that way. After a spell of French players being unveiled every day, les Magpies were able to follow it with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa which did more to lift the mood than even signing Zinedine Zidane could have.
“The mood is very good and confident,” Marveaux reflects. “We knew that was a game we had to win because of the position we are in. In previous games, we had played well but here we played well and also had a bit of luck which you need. Now we have two tough games coming up but we can go into them with a lot of optimism after what happened at Villa.”
Sissoko’s impressive debut at Villa Park was a big factor in putting the smile on Newcastle faces.
“He is a real talent, someone who can play in many positions,” says Marveaux. “I did not know a lot about him other than watching on telly. I think I played against him once or twice.
“He is very strong, powerful with or without the ball. He can run through a brick wall so that is good for us. He can pass the ball very well and create goals. He will be a big asset to this football club.”
Today’s game will be tougher because Chelsea have a striker with a point to prove. Whether he starts on the bench or the field, Ba will be booed by fans bitter at his departure. When good players get booed, they have a habit of producing stellar performances.
Chelsea will need one after the kick in the proverbials that was Adam Le Fondre’s two late goals to claim a Reading point on Wednesday.
“He is a good friend of mine,” Marveaux says of Ba. “We have been texting each other quite a lot.
“Perhaps they are now a bit worried about playing us? They need points as well so there is pressure on them too.
“We are at home and now I think the fans are very much with us. That will help.
“Everyone, whether he is a player or a fan, will be feeling more positive about the game now we have won such an important game (at Villa).
“Maybe this is not a good time for Chelsea to be playing us. You do not want to play a team that is feeling really good about itself.”