Xisco finally to earn his £50,000-a-week wages for Newcastle in Europa League
The utterance from Alan Pardew two weeks ago was just about as damning as anything he has said as Newcastle United manager. "For the first time since I have been here, he has shown signs of life."
Tonight, that player will sit at Pardew's side, most likely as a substitute in European competition, but then most parts of Francisco Jimenez Tejada's story have been remarkable, from the moment he was signed, as the transfer window closed in 2008.
Anarchy does not usually follow the £5.7m signing of a Spain Under-21 international, but that was Xisco's fate as he and Ignacio Maria Gonzalez Gatti flew into a Tyneside storm.
Dennis Wise in his role as executive director (football) had signed the pair, not the then manager Kevin Keegan. It was the final straw for Keegan, who felt unable to do his job and the parting of the ways saw demonstrations against owner Mike Ashley at the home game against Hull City. Xisco played and scored but he struggled and faded fairly quickly, and only eight appearances followed in the following four seasons, including loan spells at Racing Santander and Deportivo la Coruna. That he has not left has largely revolved around the contract he signed when he arrived, with a weekly salary reportedly around £50,000.
But then, last month, came the game that drew that comment from Pardew, a hat-trick for Newcastle's Under-21 side (as an over-age player, he is 26) against Stoke Under-21s. Xisco spoke to the Newcastle Evening Chronicle in the wake of that game. "Maybe there is a happy chapter still to come for me with Newcastle," he said. "In football, these things can happen – all I can do is try my best.
"It's difficult, and you get frustrated. That's why I tried to go back to Spain each season. When I came here in the first season, it was difficult. We had three or four managers, it was my first season and it wasn't good.
"When I came here I was happy to sign, I wanted to play for the first team. I haven't always had that chance. You train hard, do your best and you don't get your chance."
Tonight Xisco will be in the Newcastle squad for their Europa League tie at FC Bruges, under his fifth manager at the club, Pardew. He will recognise the situation at Bruges: the Belgian side sacked their manager George Leekens at the weekend.
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