It was different when Newcastle United signed their first French foreign legionnaire.
David Ginola arrived on Tyneside in the summer of 1995 to be greeted by the headline 'Frog on the Tyne', courtesy of the Daily Star. It was the start of a professional life in exile for the left winger from St Tropez, still vilified in his homeland for the stray last-minute pass against Bulgaria at the Parc des Princes that led to France losing a place at the 1994 World Cup.
At the Stade de France on Tuesday, Yohan Cabaye played his part in a 1-1 draw against Bosnia and Herzegovina that secured a place at Euro 2012 for a French national side who are on an unbeaten streak of 15 games under Laurent Blanc. As a Newcastle player following in the Gallic footsteps of Ginola, Laurent Robert, Charles N'Zogbia and company, Cabaye has yet to taste defeat.
Alan Pardew's side are unbeaten in seven Premier League matches and two Carling Cup ties so far this season. One of the reasons for that is the assured influence Cabaye has brought to bear as a workaholic replacement for Kevin Nolan in the black and white No 4 shirt. The central midfielder has hit the ground running since his £4.6m summer move from Lille, topping the Pro-Zone charts for the most ground covered by a Premier League player, almost 90km thus far.
"I only had to look at him in one game, Lille versus Lyons, and I knew we would be fortunate to sign him," Pardew said yesterday, ahead of tomorrow's pivotal test for Cabaye and the rest of the high-flying Magpies against Tottenham Hotspur at St James' Park. "He has taken a little bit of adjusting to the Premier League, especially against those teams that are in your face like Wolves and Sunderland. This is a different type of game and I think one he will do well in. Spurs will let you have possession, and if you give Yohan possession he is going to hurt you."
Cabaye showed his qualities last season at the hub of a Lille team that won their first French title since 1954. Newcastle have not won a domestic trophy since 1955 so perhaps the man from the northern French town of Tourcoing (close to the Belgian border, twinned with Rochdale) can help to end another 57-year hitch on the silverware front with his latest club.
"It's true the results of Newcastle have not corresponded to the size of the club in the last few years," Cabaye said after training yesterday, speaking through an interpreter. "Hopefully we can make the size of the club correspond to our achievement in the coming years. That is our aim. We want to take this club back into Europe."
Newcastle were on the continental stage in Ginola's time at the club. Indeed, few will forget the explosive left-foot volley he rifled into the top-right corner of the Gallowgate End against Ferencvaros on the run to the quarter-finals of the Uefa Cup in the 1996-97 season – in the same week that he smacked a similar stunner past Peter Schmeichel at the same end of St James' in the 5-0 demolition of Manchester United.
Ginola was back in Toon last weekend, strutting his stuff alongside Alan Shearer, Peter Beardsley and Co in a reunion of Kevin Keegan's black and white minstrels. "Yohan is going to be massive at Newcastle," he predicted.
As for Cabaye, he shrugged his shoulders when asked whether he had ever encountered Ginola. "I've never spoken to him," he said, "but I remember when he was playing here Newcastle were doing extremely well. That is a wonderful memory to try to emulate."Reuse content